Are Black Muslims in America more successful, on average, than blacks in general?

I was reading a speech that Bill Cosby was giving to a black audience, decrying ghetto ‘culture’ and the lack of parenting involved with it. At one point he makes this statement:

Is it true, then, that black muslims tend to be economically successful, and that they are not linked with ghetto culture? If so, what factors, a work ethic, “family values,” etc., have led this group to raise itself above the socio-economic norm for black Americans?

I’d have to say its their religion at the core. Muslims don’t tolerate drug abuse or even drinking intoxicants. Its a very strict religion, requiring disipline.

I don’t know about the economic success, though it wouldn’t surprise me. Any disiplined, tight nit group is bound to be successful. Look at the Asian immigrants by and large.


It may be tricky to differentiate–a great many Muslims in America happen to be black, but the mainstream Muslim sects do not recognize the Nation of Islam, for example, as true Muslims (their basic doctrines contradict the tenets of Islam in things like their racial theories, etc.) Are you talking NOI alone or Muslims who are black? The US census has you define yourself, so if an NOI says his family is Muslim, the Census Bureau will count them as Muslim as the Sudanese immigrants down the block, who might look at the NOI folks with the same embarrassment Mormons look at the polygamist weirdos who call themselves Mormons.

To compound all this, if Cosby is like me he’d use Black Muslim to mean Nation of Islam, since the racial component is important to NOI’s in a way that it isn’t to American Muslims (of all colors).

Isn’t the NOI dying out? I get that impression, but living here, I really don’t know.

From the quote above as it appears, it seems clear Cosby was referring to NOI. Note the capitalization of Black Muslims.

I think it is–founder Elijah Muhammed’s own son, Warith Deen, himself left the Nation and is now a more mainstream Sunni Muslim. Good Wikipedia overview here.

As for success, well, the group has succeeded in being put onto the SPLC’s list of hate groups. :smiley: I don’t know if reliable figures can be gleaned for any effect they may have had on any communities they impacted, although I do remember an excellent Meldrick-centered episode of HOMICIDE about it.


Originally posted by Mehitabel

They are? I’m highly surprised at this. Here, in the Netherlands, we don’t know many black muslims. Most of them are of Turkish or Morrocan ancestry. Only a few are from Surinam [and therefore black]

excuse [/hijack]

Most black Muslims in America are American blacks and aren’t from any of the African countries or Muslim communities.

The last I heard there was something like 8m Muslims in the United States. I know we have a burgeoning Arab community, and I know we had a good number of Iranians come over in the late 70s/early 80s, but I’m not really sure how the percentages break down.

Of course in my opinion the Nation of Islam is Muslim in name only. Although they have a base in Islamic teachings at one point the founder (Wallace Fard Muhammad) was preached about as the actual second coming of Muhammad, which would set the sect far out of alignment with the rest of the Muslim world.

The NOI also preaches a virulent brand of black supremacism and anti-all other racism that is poisonous to the extreme, imo.

Thanks for explaining, Martin Hyde. Imagine that. Only 8 million muslims in America, huh.
There are 1 million muslims in the Netherlands, which is a country the size of New Jersey. :slight_smile:

I imagine they are- on the whole- more successful that Blacks in Africa.

But I doubt if the NoI dudes are better off than the average Black American. Sure, maybe there are fewer of them who are at the very very bottom, but how many very successful Blacks belong to that sect?

Hmm. Sorry for the possible confusion on this point; the above is a (casually?) transcripted lecture, not an essay, so I don’t know how Cosby would have put it. I find it a bit odd he would hold up the NOI as an example to be followed.

I have no doubt Cosby was referencing the NOI. But they are such a tiny minority w/i a minority that it loses the larger point he was making.

About 2 million of the NAmerican Muslims are Black.

However, NOI: Membership is 20,000-50,000 in the U.S., and less than 100,000 worldwide. (The influence of NOI among blacks is far greater than its membership)

FWIW on LEGAL US immigrants from Africa (many/most? of whom are not Muslims): In 2002 there were over 1 million African foreign born residing in the United States. Of the 1.0 million African foreign born, 35 percent were from Western Africa, followed by 26 percent from Eastern Africa, 20 percent from Northern Africa (which may not be “black” in the US cultural usage but ironically to this thread ARE more likely to be Muslims), 7 percent from Southern Africa, and less than 3 percent from Middle Africa.

Hey, man. Have you ever had bean pie? It’s good!

Former member of the NOI chiming in. As Salaam Alaikium.

Cosby indirectly defines success as strict anti-criminal personal behavior and safeguarding neghborhoods and communities. By that measure Black Muslims are decidedly more successful on average than most American communities. The closest equivalents I can think of are other groups with a strong ethnic ties and religious cores – like Orthodox Jews, Buddahists, Amish communities, Quakers, the B’nai B’rith, Latter Day Saints, etc.

Cosby’s holding up the NOI as an example to be emulated isn’t all that puzzling. For one, the Nation of Islam’s anti-white rhetoric has been toned down for decades now; simply because virulent racist actions against blacks aren’t as flagrant as they used to be. And despite their rhetoric, few members of the Nation of Islam have histories of violent, criminal and/or personally irresponsible behavior as long as they’re involved with the NOI. Although they have historically and continue to recruit members out of maximum security prisons, NOI members tend to reinforce behavioral standards between themselves, and self-destructive behavior (drinking, gambling, drug-use, whoring, pimping) is not permitted. The NOI’s success with reducing recidivism and ‘curing’ drug-addicts is well-documented. The tendency toward having lower divorce rates, illegitimate children and two-parent households is better than the national average. (Yes, I am aware of The Honorable Elijah Muhammad’s illegitimate children and Muhammad Ali’s many marriages. At least take a look at their personal conduct.)

In many respects the NOI is a law-abiding, conservative, disciplined, family-oriented organization that eschews criminal behavior even in former criminals it recruits – things that would appeal to Cosby. However a bigger issue with me with the NOI’s so-called anti-white attitudes is that it tends to be much more virulently homophobic than racist, insular, meritlessly patriarchial and gives lip service to members pursuing higher education and professional careers. (NOI is very blue collar.)

Despite public perception, the NOI as an organization does not preach virulent anti-white racism although Minister Louis Farrakhan clearly has issues with Jews and whites and says so openly when he’s assured reporters aren’t around and his audience agrees with him. But his bigotry does not necessarily filter down to the imams in individual masjids and mosques. And no, you’re not likely to see much in the way of interracial or interfaith marriage in a Black Muslim family, but that’s true of all the religious groups I mentioned.

Most people’s perception of the NOI is outdated, although I realize saying so is like assuring people, “No, no-- the Ku Klux Klan is different now!”

I wouldn’t be surprised if they are more “successful” on average. I woudn’t think “Islam” would be the major reason for that either. Just having a different identity and a unifying concept would give Blacks more self respect and focus on going beyond their current lower status in american society.