In His Own Words Shabazz: "Who is it that caught and killed Nat Turner?" Audience: "Jews!" Shabazz: "Who is it that controls the Federal Reserve?" Audience: "Jews!" Shabazz: "What? You're not scared, are you?" Audience: "Jews! Jews!" Shabazz: "Who is it that controls the media and Hollywood?" Audience: "Jews! Jews!" Shabazz: "Who is it that has our entertainers … and our athletes in a vice grip?" Audience: "Jews!" — Speech at Howard University before becoming Panther leader, 1994
"The Caucasians and the government are arrogant, telling us how to suffer. America should be glad that every black man is not on a killing spree for all the suffering they have done." — Speech at the African Black Holocaust Nationhood Conference in Washington, D.C., 1995
"What we have against Jews and others is simple facts of history — that the Jews have been involved in the African holocaust and that the Zionists are causing problems, you know, for people of color around the world." — Comments to New York One television, 1998
"Kill every goddamn Zionist in Israel! Goddamn little babies, goddamn old ladies! Blow up Zionist supermarkets!" — Speech during protest of B'nai B'rith International, Washington, D.C., 2002
"If 3,000 people perished in the World Trade Center attacks and the Jewish population is 10%, you show me records of 300 Jewish people dying in the World Trade Center. … We're daring anyone to dispute its truth. They got their people out." — Morristown, N.J., press conference alleging that Jews (who are 2.2% of the U.S. population) were forewarned about 9/11 attacks, 2003
Background Malik Zulu Shabazz, who was born with the name Paris Lewis, credits his grandfather, a longtime member of the Nation of Islam (NOI), for introducing him to black separatism. Shabazz took up the cause at an early age. While still in his twenties, Shabazz organized a group of NOI supporters at Howard University, where he obtained both an undergraduate and a law degree. There, he made waves with a series of offensive public comments and also brought a series of controversial speakers to the school, most notably Khalid Abdul Muhammad, who then led the New Black Panther Party (NBPP), in 1994. Just months before that, Muhammad had been ousted from NOI for a speech widely considered anti-Semitic, anti-Catholic and homophobic.
It was at the Howard University event that Shabazz led the audience in an infamous anti-Semitic call and response as a prelude to Muhammad's speech, cementing his own reputation as a bigoted and militant activist. Also in 1994, Shabazz was fired from a position with Washington D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, who criticized him for statements "regarding other people's cultural history, religion and race that do not reflect the spirit of my campaign, my personal views or my spirituality."
Shabazz and Muhammad became close colleagues, joining together again on the eve of the Million Man March in 1995 to organize the African Black Holocaust and Nationhood Conference, an event from which more mainstream march organizers distanced themselves. At the conference, speakers discussed Jewish involvement in the "African Holocaust" and disparaged the Holocaust of the "so-called Jews." As the event opened, Shabazz introduced Muhammad as "a man who gives the white man nightmares … a man who makes the Jews pee in their pants at night … Dr. Khalid Muhammad!"
Muhammad was a mentor to Shabazz, who followed Muhammad's path away from NOI and into the NBPP. Besides adopting the name and some of the confrontational methods of the original Black Panthers, the NBPP differed significantly, advocating a degree of violence and a virulently racist stance that is completely unrelated to the tenets of the original movement, which has strongly denounced it.
Muhammad ascended to the leadership of the NBPP in 1998, with Shabazz becoming his primary spokesperson. As the person responsible for taking Muhammad's message into the mainstream, Shabazz made frequent media appearances in which he advanced vast conspiracy theories about the role of Jews in black oppression and insisted that world problems are caused by "the very nature of white people." Shabazz has also advanced the theory, laid out by some black nationalists, that blacks, not Jews, are the original Hebrews of Israel. (This theology, which is present in many black nationalist organizations but varies markedly from group to group, is usually known as Black Hebrew Israelism.)
Shabazz assumed the leadership of the NBPP in February 2001, following the unexpected and sudden death of Khalid Muhammad. That same year, Shabazz notoriously appeared at a press conference alleging a Jewish conspiracy behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks and embarked on what was to be a long series of controversial protests. The group had previously participated in operations such as a 1998 protest in Jasper, Texas, at which armed, fatigue-wearing NBPP members confronted Klansmen over the savage truck-dragging murder of James Byrd by white supremacists. Shabazz was intent on expanding this strategy of staged high-profile events that drew enormous media attention.
NBPP members began traveling the country to "protect" victims of hate crimes and often angrily denounced the police officers, white business owners and residents who they insisted were complicit. Appearances included a large presence in Jena, La., in 2007, where major civil rights protests broke out over what appeared to be the authorities' sharply differential treatment of white and black students involved in schoolyard violence. The NBPP also held inflammatory protests in New York over the 1996 police shooting death of Sean Bell. At one such protest, Shabazz led the crowd in a chant of "Fifty shots! Fifty cops! Kill the pigs who kill our kids!" The NBPP have also protested the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and attempted to disrupt an interfaith vigil organized by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington.
In 2007, Shabazz also became involved in the case of Megan Williams, a black woman who was allegedly tortured and raped by six white men and women in Charleston, W.Va. Shabazz was angry that local authorities did not charge the whites with hate crimes in addition to other charges; local authorities, for their part, said that Williams was in a relationship with one of the white men charged and said racial hatred did not appear to be the motive in the crime. (In the end, just one of those charged was charged and convicted of a hate crime.) Soon after the case made national news, Shabazz got himself appointed as the victim's legal counsel and hastily organized a "National March Against Hate Crimes and Racism," which was not held under the banner of the NBPP, but rather that of another organization, Black Lawyers for Justice, which Shabazz had founded in 1996. Shabazz's efforts in West Virginia were supported by the Rev. Al Sharpton and then-Texas Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. In late 2009, Williams recanted her charges, but only after most of those charged had pleaded guilty. Prosecutors said they did not believe Williams' recantation and had only relied on the offenders' statements to convict them.
Since 2007, Shabazz has increasingly identified himself as the head of the Black Lawyers for Justice, instead of the NBPP that he still leads. Nevertheless, during a march in West Virginia related to the Williams case, Shabazz publicly reaffirmed his commitment to the NBPP. "I will always be a part of the New Black Panther Party," he said. "I am not going to deny my family for anybody."
In October 2007, about 100 NBPP members from across the country gathered in Atlanta for the national Black Power Summit, co-billed as The Attack on Black America. “Our rise is co-dependent on the white man’s demise,” Shabazz said in a scalding keynote address. “What do I mean when I say, ‘the white man’?” he asked. “Well, I mean the goddamn white man.” Arguing that overt signs of white racism like the Jena 6 case in Louisiana are just cause for black Americans to become militant, Shabazz discouraged the idea of “waiting” for racial tensions to ease, saying “that sounds like faggot talk, and I hate faggot talk.”
In 2011, Shabazz turned his ire on the first African-American president. A few months after the U.S. began supporting insurgents’ efforts to overthrow Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi, Shabazz called President Obama a “nigger” on camera.
“Whatever Barack Obama is doing, he represents the white man,” Shabazz shouted. “He represents the ideology of the white man, he represents the CIA set up, sabotage, lie on a African leader and bomb that man like he George Bush. He represents the white man. And his wife should leave the nigger tonight. She should walk out and his beautiful daughters should walk out on this bamboozling, buck-dancing Tom.”
“Only thing you see in Libya is just a big case of police brutality,” Shabazz continued. “We see the way they [police] team up on us and run us down all the time. … Sometimes it’s a nigger police chief that’s in the lead. This time it’s a nigger police chief in the lead named Barack Obama.” The NBPP leader’s rage over U.S. involvement in Qaddafi’s overthrow may have been related to the fact that the Libyan dictator was a financial patron of the NOI, which Shabazz continued to support, despite having cut his formal ties years ago.
The NBPP generated a great deal of media attention with its militant response to the death of Trayvon Martin, the black teenager whose February 2012 shooting death in Sanford, Fla., at the hands of a neighborhood watch volunteer caused waves of outrage across America. Shabazz’s group offered a $10,000 reward for the capture of Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman, and announced, but did not ultimately hold, an armed rally in Sanford with the New Black Liberation, a fellow black separatist group.