Juliane Hammer, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Islamic Studies professor, interviews scholar and writer Michael Muhammad Knight about his research on the Five Percenters, Malcolm X’s special significance in the fashioning of the “American Muslims” construct, and the under-examined aspects of his legacy.
compiled by JULIE POUCHER HARBIN, EDITOR, ISLAMiCommentary on APRIL 6, 2015:
February 21, 2015 marked the 50th anniversary of the assassination of one of the most iconic leaders of the 20th century, Malcolm X El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz. His life — as a black figure, as a Muslim figure, and as an international figure — and legacy have gotten widespread media and scholarly attention.
On 2/20/15 and 2/21/15, a national conference on “The Legacy of Malcolm X: Afro-American Visionary, Muslim Activist” was held at Duke and UNC — co-organized by Omid Safi, UNC-Chapel Hill Islamic Studies professor Juliane Hammer, and African & African American Studies professor and host of Left of Black Mark Anthony Neal.
This semester ISLAMiCommentary has been featuring scholarly insight into Malcolm X and his legacy, which includes video coverage of the conference itself, separately produced video-taped conversations, photos and written features. (For links to these features, see the bottom of this page.)
Here is a written interview by Hammer with UNC-Chapel Hill PhD candidate in Religious Studies Michael Muhammad Knight, who presented at the conference (2/21/14) on “Representations of Malcolm X in the Ansaaru Allah Community.” Knight’s research focuses on representations of Muhammad’s body in the hadith and sira corpus. He is also the author of 9 books, including The Five Percenters: Islam, Hip-Hop, and the Gods of New York.
JH: How did Malcom X become relevant for your research?
MMK: I have been interested in how communities such as the Five Percenters and Ansaaru Allah Community/Nubian Islaamic Hebrews (AAC/NIH) engage Malcolm. I think that examining the diverse ways in which communities employ Malcolm as an authority figure challenges much of what we assume about American Muslims, “orthodoxy,” and Muslim internationalisms. Continue reading