What is the attraction of the Nation of Islam? A series of interviews with former members of the Crips and Bloods, two Los Angeles gangs, shows that the NOI's repulsive theology (which deems the whole Caucasian race, created by a mad black scientist, to be the devil) and its repulsive politics (which denounces the United States as oppressor but finds the sweet air of liberty in Saddam Husayn's Iraq) are central to its success. Uprising, itself a shameless piece of NOI propaganda (the title refers to the Los Angeles riots following the Rodney King trial in 1992), repeatedly comes back to these points.
While "Moon" declares that he sees "Allah working through the gangs," Leibo declares that "God has an enemy, and that's the devil, and . . . he's the white supremist [sic] Caucasian." Leibo also credits Islam for teaching him that "[i]nstead of us killing one another we should be concentrating on the enemy who is keeping us down, our oppressor."
Interestingly, the only negative note on Islam comes up when "General Robert Lee" recalls how he used to have "stacks of Muhammad Speaks" (the NOI publication) and was on his way to "joining" the Muslims, when in 1975 Wallace Muhammad "took over and started letting white people in, it broke my heart." (In other words, Wallace Muhammad broke with the anti-Islamic beliefs and practices of the NOI, including its racism.) It is a bitterly ironic turn of fate that Islam, the most self-consciously nonracist religion, has, in the slums of America, been turned into a prime vehicle of racism. And therein, apparently, lies much of its attraction.