The Nation of Islam (NOI) emerged in 1930 in Detroit when relations between blacks and whites in America were strained. Segregation denied blacks access to equal education, health and housing and kept them from reaching anything like prosperity. The NOI preaches separatism, forbids alcohol, tobacco, drugs, gambling and promiscuity. It has attracted to thousands of members including Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, and beltway sniper John Allen Mohammad.
The NOI is critical of Jews, Christians and Muslims who abandoned the principles of their scriptures. The Southern Poverty Law Center considers the NOI a hate group. Members say they have helped countless blacks become educated and self sufficient.
“The Nation of Islam represents hope to millions of our people in America and around the globe who have been deprived of the high standards of a righteous way of life,” according to the group’s Web site.
My first encounter with the Nation Of Islam occurred in 2001. I was amazed to see black women dressed in Middle Eastern cloths – that was quite new to me. I approached them and was introduced to one of the members who invited me to join them on a service. The mood in the mosque was serious but cordial. They searched me for weapons, cameras and microphones in every visit and I had to wait for more than one year before I could shoot the first photos. In 2002 they invited me to travel to Los Angeles where they had the Saviour’s Day – the annual gathering promoted by the NOI in America. Since then I photographed them quite extensively in London and in Germany.
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