Magazine article Islamic Horizons

Malcolm X, Egypt and the Glory of Islam

Magazine article Islamic Horizons

Malcolm X, Egypt and the Glory of Islam

Article excerpt

"W" ARRIVED BACK HERE IN CAIRO LAST NIGHT... WHEN I I return, I hope to have names and citizenship for all I who accept True Islam. I know it seems to be taking a long time, but good things always take a long time... Allah is blessing me to make some progress. The OAAU now has branches in Cairo." - Malcolm X to the OAAU: Cairo, Egypt; Aug. 9,1964

With suitcases packed and movie camera in hand, Malcolm X headed out from New York City's Kennedy Airport to challenge American foreign policy more than 6,000 miles away. He was headed to Egypt for an Organization of African Unity Summit Conference in Cairo. Upon his return to New York, his briefcase would contain several note-binders filled with a brilliant synthesis of five months of fascinating details of political change and spiritual growth.

During a stopover in London, Malcolm visited the Islamic Cultural Center for Friday prayers. After the prayer, the center's director introduced him to the congregation. The imam was Sheikh Omar Gabir, a South African refugee and an AlAhzar graduate. The center's director also was from Egypt.

Without fanfare, Malcolm arrived in Cairo just after midnight on July 12, 1964, and checked into the Semiramis Hotel. He watched African delegates and VIPs of all ranks flock into the Shepherds Hotel across the street - in town also for the conference. Within days at the summit, the delegates read portions ofMalcolm X's memorandum calling on newly independent African nations to condemn the United States for its violations of black human rights. During the conference, he met with leaders of the African Liberation Front, aboard the Isis, a hotel-yacht anchored in the Nile. It was an honor since it was under top security, and off limits to everyone else.

As he waited for clearance to attend the conference as an observer, Malcolm contacted key African leaders, such as Mahmoud Youssef Shawarbi, an Egyptian and then-director of the Federation of Islamic Associations in the United States and Canada and a United Nations advisor.

Shawarbi was eager to engage Malcolm in political conversation and took a small entourage to his hotel where they talked until 3 a.m. Malcolm met with several African dignitaries, including Hassan Sabn Al-Kholy, director of President Gamal Abdel Nasser's Bureau of General Affairs.

Shawarbi, who had first met Malcolm in 1960, presented him with a copy of "The Eternal Message of Muhammad" by Abdul Rahman Hassan Azzam, an international statesman and one of the closest advisers to then-Crown Prince Faisal of Saudi Arabia. To Malcolms surprise, Shawarbi told him that Azzam had been closely following him in the press.

In Egypt, Malcolm's life began to transform. He bought Arab and African-style tunics and pants, which underscored his appearance as a Pan-Africanist and a Muslim. He seized the opportunity to immerse himself in the culture, watching movies and plays and writing essays for the Egyptian press, granting interviews to newspapers, television networks and wire services around the world, and doing an in-depth study of the Quran. His vision of justice was global and Islam expanded it far wider than he had ever conceived. He launched himselfinto a detailed study course prepared by scholars associated with Cairo-based Supreme Council on Islamic Affairs.

Soon after, Malcolm would learn what the friendship of the Nasser government could mean when he was moved to a luxurious suite at Cairo's Shepherd Hotel as a state guest. Amid all this, news arrived from the U. …

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