Religion: The Messenger Passes

Throughout his controversial career, Elijah Muhammad was the nation's most potent preacher of black separatism. Yet when he died last week at 77, he was mourned as a statesman. Proclaimed Chicago's mayor Richard J. Daley: "Under his leadership, the Nation of Islam has been a consistent contributor to the social well-being of our city for more than 40 years." A New York Times editorial noted his movement's success "in rehabilitating and inspiring thousands of once defeated and despairing men and women."

Muhammad's recent respectability came not from the creed of his "Black Muslims," as they are known to outsiders, but from his...

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