Religion is love, white people can’t study with us

On Friday, I had to go behind a curtain and be trodden to enter the worship hall of the Nation of Islam study group. They said it’s a policy in place that no one can bring anything harmful into the worship space, and it applies to everyone. A member said she was not allowed to bring her cigarettes or her lighter.

Once seated a man asked me to cross to the other side of the aisle as they segregate the church by gender. After I moved, several other women sat on the “men’s” side.

Everyone I spoke to was always nice and polite. After the event, I complimented a woman’s bright blue heels and she hugged me.

Other than the pat down and the seats assigned to gender, it was much like any other church I have ever visited.

I was there because the Monroe-based NOI group held a press conference on Friday to challenge recent media coverage of their religion and its leader.

Otherwise, I, as a white person, would never have seen the inside of Monroe Center.

At a Dec. 15 meeting, Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo presented NOI Leader Louis Farrakhan with a key to the town of Monroe. The majority of his speech of about 30 minutes was positive. He referenced the need for unity and Christ-centered leadership, but he also said white people waited to put evil in power if a black leader made a mistake.

Continued: Mayo welcomes ‘hate group’ leader ‘home’ and invites him back

Several members of the study group spoke on Friday about how they are working to help the community with ongoing projects, such as meal sharing and coat drives. This work, they said, is neglected.

They said they had never been incited to violence in service or through religious studies and referred to Farrakhan’s positive works in their own lives and in the black community in the sense large.

Sonya Muhammad said Farrakhan served her personally. “He got up from his sickbed to talk to me. This is love,” she said.

She said he dedicated 62 years of his life to telling the truth and was persecuted because of it.

Longtime NOI member TJ Stevenson said hate is a toxic emotion and the word does not reflect his experience with his church. She talked about teaching women how to be housewives and providing guidance. She said NOI teaches members to practice love and work on caring. Too often, she says, NOI’s teachings are misinterpreted.

Verbon Muhammad also read a statement The News-Star posted online Thursday and published in Friday’s print edition.

Continued: Muhammad: Farrakhan is an example of ‘love personified’

He said the group plans to call a town hall meeting next week to encourage candid dialogue about race relations in the community. He said he wanted to see if those behind social media will come to the table.

Verbon Muhammad said NOI “fought against the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Anti-Defamation League and our own people – black and white” over the hate group designation.

“Our job is not a heinous job. Our job is an honorable job. We have an honorable man whom we follow, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, and that is why when we address him, we address him as Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan,” said Verbon Muhammad.

Farrakhan, leader of the NOI, is listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an extremist leader, and the NOI is designated as a hate group. This designation does not imply that the group incites violence, but simply that it vilifies others based on prejudice such as race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity. .

Continued: Listen to Farrakhan warn the leaders of the town of Monroe

NOI is classified as a hate group because of its stances on whites, Jews, Catholics, and the LGBT community.

Stevenson said years ago his church was known as “Black Muslims,” but no one is accusing “Brown Muslims” in US 165 of being a hate group.

Some of NOI’s core beliefs vary widely from mainstream Islam. NOI was started in 1930 by Wallace D. Fard Muhammad.

The Yakub myth and NOI services

NOI leader Farrakhan teaches that the Whites were created 6,600 years ago by Yakub, so this is a scientific experiment to determine the power of good and evil. He says a 600-year-old eugenics project created Caucasians from blacks.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gMhdFswHcNM

When I asked Verbon Muhammad how the local study group deals with the Yakub myth, the following exchange occurred:

Verbon Muhammad: “Well, you should come to one of our services. Well, not you, but we can talk about it, but Southern Poverty Leadership, again, is taking everything out of context and trying to misrepresent it But we have a way to defend what you ask of us.This is not the forum to talk about it.

The News-Star: “Yes sir, I believe it is when you say this is a group for love and unity, and I ask a specific question about an issue that marks your church as a anti-white group. This is, truly, your most public and best opportunity – to do so.”

Verbon Muhammad: “We don’t allow white people in our meetings on Sundays, but you are at our meeting today.”

Gwendolyn Ducre from KNOE TV: “And why?

Verbon Muhammad: “And why is what?”

Ducre: “That she wouldn’t be allowed?”

Verbon Muhammad: “Because this message is for our people.”

The News-Star: “So you’re intentionally excluding white people but saying it’s a unity band?”

Verbon Muhammad: “Again, ma’am, we’ll stop there. We don’t want to get into a back and forth conversation. We don’t allow white people in our meetings, period.”

The News-Star: ‘No sir, you don’t want to get into a back-and-forth conversation because you’re not justifying your -‘

Verbon Muhammad: “Next question.”

After the event, Sonya Muhammad suggested those interested in NOI check out www.noi.org/webcast.

“And that’s how strangers, white people, will be able to connect and listen to what we’re saying,” she said.

Follow Bonnie Bolden on Twitter @Bonnie_Bolden_ and on Facebook at http://on.fb.me/1RtsEEP.

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Listen to an excerpt from Farrakhan’s interview with Monroe city leaders

Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan addressed Monroe leaders Dec. 15. Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo presented him with a second key to the city. This portion of Farrakhan’s approximately 30-minute talk was provided to us courtesy of the Monroe Free Press.

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Valerie E. Frazier