Thanks for covering an important topic. A couple of additional points should be made. Orthodox Islam as well as the fake Islam of the Nation of Islam has enjoyed some currency among black Americans. The two are not the same, and the motivations for joining the two are not necessarily identical, as orthodox Islam is not identified with black separatism or petty bourgeois entrepreneurship. Many black Americans disillusioned with Christianity are attracted to Islam, and even more black Christians flat out reject any consideration of Islam. All you have to do is stand at the right bus stops to listen to the most idiotic conversations on the subject, symptomatic of the undereducated, clueless ignorance of all the parties involved.
I think that whatever appeal Islam has to black Americans should be analyzed. And here I would put orthodox Islam and the Nation of Islam in distinct categories. I think the exoticism of Islam, Arabic . . . the whole mystique . . . appeals to a certain kind of spirituality or otherworldliness, a desire to get beyond the banality of everyday life and the conventionality of American society (even in its Black Christian incarnation) and connect up to something that is felt to be repressed or forgotten. It's another belief system and institution that purports to provide structure and meaning to lives otherwise casting about in confusion and randomness. For those who come from backwardness and ignorance, it seems to be an advance or a recovery of something lost. Here I am thinking of black Americans I encountered back in the '70s who were attracted to orthodox Islam. The Nation of Islam includes some of these ingredients in its appeal but adds the pernicious nationalist-racial-fascist paranoia and cult of personality.
Islam is seen as a "alternative pick" to the many blacks in my opinion who feel they have awoken to the "white mans" trickery. However, when you look back in history Muslims too had blacks as slaves and are no better off than the white man when it comes to mistreatment on AFricans. It is another route that some blacks have seen OPEN to EXPLOITATION.. and they have indoctrinated some blacks to believe Islam is the only way, when in reality is nothing more than another form of ORG RELIGION.... sad.... I hate to say it but it is much to easy to brainwash blacks we need more critical thinking...
Farakhan and those doods decieved people. Africa was attacked by two religions muslims from the north and christianity from the south. Islam has a strong presence in prisons where inmates with nothing to do are often converted and brainwashed with hate. Another thing I noticed is that those guys in suits claim to say they are teaching black history when its all post slavery stuff. Islam will not regain my history. Even Malcom X began to realized the hypocrosy. Islam is just a smaller cult than christianity.
Once again, there is a distinction to be made between Islam and Elijah Muhammed's fascist personality cult The Nation of Islam. I'm not saying this to defend traditional Islam by any means, but the two are distinct, and both have had some appeal to black Americans, often but not necessarily on the same basis.
Orthodox Islam feeds into a black counterculture, historically. For example, many jazz musicians converted to Islam back in the 1940s (or earlier?). It's an alternative that periodically re-occurs, and it marks off people who have made this choice from the black Christian community that won't have anything to do with Islam. The Nation of Islam is unambiguously pernicious. In the end Malcolm X could only defend it as a road to uplift and militancy among degraded people who knew no other route. He never outgrew orthodox Islam, but in the final year of his life he began to secularize his movement via the Organization for Afro-American Unity, which did not survive his assassination.
Quite so, and it's important to see how this runs down the entire history of the black liberation movement internationally, for example: Du Bois, Hubert Harrison, CLR James, and George Padmore on one side, Marcus Garvey on the other--mutually incompatible politics and world views, and rationalism vs. mysticism and racialism. The cleavage reaches back into the 19th century. See the works of Wilson Jeremiah Moses, also:
Adeleke, Tunde. UnAfrican Americans: Nineteenth-Century Black Nationalists and the Civilizing Mission. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1998.
"Though many scholars will acknowledge the Anglo-Saxon character of black American nationalism, few have dealt with the imperialistic ramifications of this connection. Now, Nigerian-born scholar Tunde Adeleke reexamines nineteenth-century black American nationalism, finding not only that it embodied the racist and paternalistic values of Euro-American culture but also that nationalism played an active role in justifying Europe's intrusion into Africa." "Adeleke looks at the life and work of Martin Delany, Alexander Crummell, and Henry McNeal Turner, demonstrating that as supporters of the mission civilisatrice ("civilizing mission") these men helped lay the foundation for the colonization of Africa."
Certainly The Nation of Islam is distinct from Orthodox Islam in many ways. Yet the distinctions are no more significant than say Catholicism and Southern Baptists or Methodists and Pentecostals.The Nation of Islam presented Islam as the true Black Man's religion drawing on the historical roots of Orthodox Islam in Africa and simply failing to mention how this religion was brought to Africa. They both read from the same book and simply interpret it differently just as the many different variations and denominations of Christianity have done and continue to do. I certainly see your point and it is duly noted but I don't really see the value in separating the two. They are fruit of the same poison tree.
There is a more often than not a similarity in appeal, though the Nation of Islam is explicitly racialist and tailored to a specific population and set of circumstances quite different than those that generated Islam proper. But then religions are adapted by peoples whose cultures and circumstances are radically different from those who originated the religion. Here we also have a nostalgia for a lost empire. Elijah Muhammed's fascist cult is hardly the only one of its kind. There is also the Moorish Temple, the Black Hebrews, obsessions with Nubia or Egypt. It is all reactionary nonsense, built out of the same imperial, patriarchal, sadistic and self-aggrandizing impulses that fueled the European and all prior conquests of Africa in the first place.
Religion of any stripe is theistic nonsense based in absurdist and crackpot notions of supernatural agents
who exist to guide the lives of the believers. Islam,Christianity and all other like faiths have one thing in common:Dogma. Michel de Montaigne said it best, " Men make themselves believe that they believe".
The concept of supernatural agents is broader than the concept of gods. Magical thinking is probably older than theism. And superstition is older than "faith". Of course, belief in some sense has to be part of superstitious notions and practices. But it's not the case that all religions have relied on "faith" to the same extent. Because organized atheism is substantially informed by ex-Christians, there's an inherent bias that assimilates all religious phenomena to Christianity. But I think that Christianity was really the first religion to predicate itself on "faith", and I think it continues to do so more than any other. I think this arose because Christianity grew out of the circumstances of the cosmopolitan Roman Empire, and in expanding itself could not rely on planting traditional Jewish ritual practices everywhere, and as a competitive enterprise had to rely on demarcating itself from outsiders by means of faith. Faith or belief or superstition is of course embedded in all religious systems, but is generally indistinguishable from social life and ritual. Faith becomes an abstraction in special circumstances as I've indicated, and I think in the modern period where social, economic, and technological organization and scientific knowledge are so at variance with archaic religions.
Note that theism vs atheism is not the decisive issue, unless we are to define these terms such that they encompass more than the argument with monotheism or even polytheism. There is always an argument over epistemology, or the sources and validation of knowledge, but again, this is a broader concern than "faith".