To many, Malcolm X was a charismatic leader, powerful civil rights activist and, oftentimes, a misunderstood figure. To Dr. Azizah al-Hibri, founder and chair of KARAMAH, he was a mentor, confidant and a human being.
For the first time, Dr. al-Hibri, publicly shared her correspondences with Malcolm X on Sunday, June 10th at Masjid Muhammad during the KARAMAH event entitled “Letters from Brother Malcolm.”
KARAMAH was pleased to share these historical documents at Masjid Muhammad, the Capital’s oldest mosque. This location was especially significant given that Malcolm X once prayed and lectured there. Albert Sabir, the Executive Assistant to Masjid Muhammad’s Resident Imam Talib Shareef, welcomed Dr. al-Hibri and KARAMAH, with a lively introduction.
Throughout her readings and reflections, Dr. al-Hibri illuminated the human side of Malcolm X. She described him as “a kind and gentle person” who was stern in the face of injustice but admitted his sense of vulnerability to those who knew him personally. Dr. al-Hibri encouraged attendees to challenge the media’s portrayal of Malcolm as an instigator of violence. Instead, she insisted that the American Muslim community should take pride in the leadership and legacy of Malcolm and should define him as the compassionate visionary he was rather than let others define him.
Finally, Dr. al-Hibri invited the audience to use history as a lens for introspection on the present state of African Americans and the larger American Muslim community. Malcolm’s life and death, Dr. al-Hibri pointed out, should prompt us to ask where the community has been, where it is today and where it is heading in terms of activism and leadership.
During the event, Dr. al-Hibri also read a number of letters that she and Malcolm exchanged over the course of the years and that provided new insight into his life and ideas. Their correspondences began in 1964 after Malcolm spoke at a lecture that she organized at the American University of Beirut.
Particularly powerful was a note that Malcolm X wrote to Dr. al-Hibri in a book he gave her as a gift. In the note, Malcolm inspired her to become a leader and underscored the importance of women’s leadership in the U.S. and abroad. Malcolm X’s calls to support Muslim women’s leadership in the U.S. and abroad were especially fitting to KARAMAH’s mission.
Dr. al-Hibri also stressed the importance and impact that African-American Muslims have had on the overall Muslim American experience. She mentioned that without them the same opportunities would not be available to other American Muslims today.
This special event was another example of KARAMAH’s continued efforts to educate the public about the history of American Muslim leadership and to inspire and support future leaders. For more information on this and other upcoming KARAMAH events, join our mailing list, friend our Facebook page or visit our news and events page regularly.