Black Muslims are Bush's faith-based Achilles heel

April 17, 2001
Few religious organizations have more experience transforming outlaws into upstanding citizens than the Nation of Islam. 
     Allah -- the Nation of Islam's iron-handed god -- brooks none of the anti-social behavior commonly associated with the poor underclass. The self-discipline he requires, coupled with the Nation's insistence on black self-reliance, has reformed thousands of lives. For example, the Nation's most famous convert, Malcolm Little, forsook drugs and petty crime to become the family man and civil rights leader Malcolm X after several terms in prison. 
     Since then, several Washington patricians have praised the Nation's good work, some of it government sponsored, in America's ghettos. While running for vice president in 1996, Jack Kemp told the Boston Globe he valued the Nation's advocacy of "responsible fatherhood, individual initiative, of not asking the government to do everything for you." 
     But one of the things Black Muslims say makes them successful at rehabilitating black outlaws -- their message of black empowerment through black separatism -- also puts them at odds with Washington policy-makers. 
     It comes as no surprise, then, that President Bush -- who is undertaking an initiative to fund religious non-profits doing just what the Nation of Islam does, fix social problems -- has openly expressed reservations about funding the Nation. On the campaign trail, the Austin-American Statesmen reports, Bush said that because "Louis Farrakhan preaches hate," the Nation would probably not be eligible for funding under his initiative. 
     Yet because Black Muslims have been rehabilitating black convicts and other outlaws for decades, nothing exposes the Achilles heel of President Bush's faith-based initiative than this blanket reluctance to fund them.