“I got radicalized while in the service, during the 60’s. It was in the Vietnam era. I had been in Germany, but during my four months in Thailand, I found out that what we were doing wasn’t kosher. . . I didn’t see any action there, but when I got back to the States, I was shot. It was at a Georgia motel, near the Robbins Air Base. This was in ’68. I was speaking a kind of racial jargon. The clerk said I threatened him, so he shot me in the abdomen with a .38. I was hospitalized for quite a while. He was exonerated.”
- Born Alonzo Canady Jr. in 1947, Mr. Muwakkil was the oldest of four children.
- Upon his high school graduation, Mr. Muwakkil volunteered for the Air Force, where he served five years as an administration specialist.
- After being shot following his return from military service, Mr. Muwakkil became involved with the Black Panther Party, but soon left to join the Nation of Islam.
“They possessed the qualities that the Panthers didn’t. They were serious, changing their life-styles, their behavior patterns. We had been socialized in this culture to be self-destructive. I saw the Nation of Islam as counteracting this impulse”
Terkel, Studs. Race: How Blacks and Whites Think and Feel About the American Obsession, p. 166
- While pursuing his B.A. in political science at Rutgers University following his return from service, Mr. Muwakkil began working for the Newark Bureau of the Associated Press, the first black journalist in the history of the bureau. At this time a fledgling member of the Nation of Islam, he began to do side-work with Muhammad Speaks, the weekly newspaper of the Nation of Islam.After his graduation, Mr. Muwakkil began to work for Muhammad Speaks full-time, moving his family to Chicago where he first served as the copy editor and then soon the managing editor of the newspaper. In 1975 he officially changed his name, dropping Alonzo Canady Jr., and becoming formally known as Salim Muwakkil.
“One of the reasons I changed my name is because, while in the service, I was stationed not far from Macon. My maternal family was there, so I made quite a few visits. They told me lots of stories. One was about an ancestor called Guinea Sultan. He came as a slave and was part of my family’s history. It was the only connection I could find between myself and my land of origin. So I feel a soft spot at least for Islam”
Terkel, Studs. Race: How Blacks and Whites Think and Feel About the American Obsession, p. 170
- Left the Nation of Islam in the late 1970’s following the fallout from Malcolm X’s assassination and the infighting between Louis Farrakhan and Wallace Muhammad over who would take over following Elijah Muhammad’s death.
“As a reporter in Newark during the early 1970’s, I covered some of the ritualistic murders still reverberating from Malcolm’s 1965 assassination. My reflections on the ease with which disciples can commit even the most heinous acts, as long as it’s in the name of their particular deity, began reviving my skepticism of temporal figures seeking religious devotion. That, coupled with my realization of the similarities between the NOI’s devotional “fatherland” nationalism and the mystical nationalism of Nazi ideology, helped speed my exit from the nation and its various offshoots”
Alexander, Amy., ed. The Farrakhan Factor, p. 209
- Mr. Muwakkil worked as a writer and editor for the U.S. Department of Housing and Development in Chicago, doing some freelance writing on the side. Articles with his byline appeared in newspapers such as the New York Times, Washington Post and Chicago. This passion for investigative journalism propelled Mr. Muwakkil to once again become a full-time public writer, taking up the post of Senior Editor with In These Times in 1984 and serving in that position ever since. He also serves as the host of “The Salim Muwakkil” show on WVON, Chicago’s historic black radio station and a means of furthering the conversation about modern racial issues in America.