Between Exodus and Egypt: Malcolm X, Islam, and the natural religion of the oppressed
Abstract:Malcolm X's life and career offers a window through which to analyze the interactions between race and religion in the post-slavery experience of African Americans. This essay traces the trajectory of Malcolm's two religious conversions, and his evolving sense that Christianity is the backbone of white supremacy and western imperialism, where Islam is the natural religion of the oppressed. This journey, I suggest, features the eclipse of the Exodus motif that has been so central to much black religiosity since slavery to make way for the centralization of the Egypt metaphor; thus identifications with Jews are displaced by associations with black and Muslim diasporas. However, exploration of this movement from Exodus to Egypt illuminates not a smooth transition but rather a complex and ongoing interaction between the two motifs, interactions that question the notion that any singular religious identity offers an authentic experience for oppressed peoples. I suggest that Malcolm X's negotiation between what emerge as the competing modalities of race, religion and nation offer an insight into those forces that shape expressions of black religion today.
Document Type: Research Article
Affiliations: University of Birmingham.
Publication date: 2008-10-16
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