Archive: May 2008
by Daniel Pipes
Michael Jackson, the king of pop, is "on the verge" of converting to Islam, CBS News reported last week. If that's true, it fits into a recurring and important African-American pattern.
Rumors of Mr. Jackson's conversion first surfaced in November 2003, a month after his arrest on child-molestation charges. Saeed Shabazz, a reporter for the Nation of Islam's publication, The Final Call, announced that Mr. Jackson had joined the organization. He added that NoI's leader, Louis Farrakhan, "sees a lot of spirituality in Michael." But the Nation of Islam denied this connection and the topic quickly faded.
It resurfaced only after Mr. Jackson's acquittal of the molestation charges in June 2005. By October he had moved to Bahrain, living in a spare palace belonging to Crown Prince Salman ibn Hamed Khalifa. Mr. Jackson's lawyer described him as "living permanently" in the tiny Persian Gulf island state with just 363,000 Bahraini subjects and half again as many foreigners.
In November came the news of Mr. Jackson donating "a huge amount of money" to build a mosque near his new residence. The Khaleej Times newspaper explained that the mosque "would be designated for learning the principles and teachings of Islam as well as teaching of English language, for which high-standard teachers would be brought from United States under his personal supervision."
Michael Jackson in Muslim women's clothing
In January, a Bahraini business, AAJ Holdings, announced it had hired Mr. Jackson as an entertainment consultant. In addition, Mr. Jackson was spotted leaving a Bahraini shopping mall wearing a black veil, black gloves, and a black robe (called the abaya). To avoid publicity, in other words, he dressed like an Islamist woman.
Given Mr. Jackson's famous eccentricities, it is unclear what his Bahraini venture amounts to, but if he does convert to Islam, he will be following a path in place since the late 1940s, of African-Americans under stress turning to some form of Islam. Their ranks include some notable high-profile cases:
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