The Nation of Islam, also commonly known as the Black Muslims, has a fairly socially conservative stance on male-female relationships. Muslim men are responsible for maintaining discipline within the Nation of Islam and its households. Women have a domestic role as child bearers. The group forbids both interracial sex and homosexual activity. In general, most of the doctrines on sexual relationships have a direct correlation to the group’s belief in saving an African American community it perceives endangered by extinction.
Black Muslim Men and Women
Members often speak of the “civilized” nature of relations between Muslim men and women. Muslim men assume a dominant, protector role in relationships with women. The men attempt to safeguard the honor of black women, the bearer of black children. Muslim men chaperon women, who might be in the company of ill-willed men, to prevent inappropriate activity. Women, according to Nation ideology, have to learn to control their sexual desires. Apparently highly impressionable, women require male guidance. Muslim women have to dress conservatively, showing as little flesh as possible. There can be harsh penalties for women unable to follow the rules. Six secretaries impregnated in separate adulterous affairs with longtime Nation leader the Prophet Elijah Muhammad, received suspensions ranging from one to five years. The reason for the suspensions was their engagement in premarital sex.
Sex with other races, white people in particular, was, from the founding of the Nation of Islam in 1930, expressly forbidden. To the Nation, which believes the black race is the source of all good, intimate contact between black men and white women leads to vice and corruption. The group teaches Muslim men to control any desires for sex with white women to prevent succumbing to worldly ways. Muslim women, the Nation teaches, must protect, using physical force if necessary, their virtue from white men. The basis of this teaching lies in the history of slavery in which white masters often used the unequal power relations of the system to procreate with enslaved black women.
Black Muslims regard birth control and sterilization as socially engineered genocide. The purpose of sex is procreation, according to Nation ideology. Black families have to produce numerous children to compensate for the deaths suffered during slavery. Sterilized black women cannot, in this thinking, fulfill their duties as women.
In various places within its text, the Quran, Islam’s Holy book, forbids sexual intercourse between members of the same sex. Black Muslims, with their belief in black racial propagation, embrace this negative stance on homosexuality. Nation of Islam leaders have traditionally considered homosexuality as degenerate and contrary to God’s purpose for humans.
- Black Muslim Religion in the Nation of Islam, 1960-1975; Edward E. Curtis, IV
- Black Citizenship and Authenticity in the Civil Rights Movement; Randolph Hohle
- Martin Luther King Jr., Homosexuality, and the Early Gay Rights Movement; Michael G. Long
- Encyclopedia of African American History, Volume 1; Leslie Alexander
- Alex Wong/Getty Images News/Getty Images