When my travels take me east of the Perimeter (in Atlantan terms, the I-285 detour around the city (also the most dangerous highway in North America) is "the perimeter") I sometimes see a well dressed gent standing in a poorer part of DeKalb County with pre-wrapped slices of bean pie in one hand and a newspaper in the other.

The bean pie and suit and bowtie immediately peg him as Nation Of Islam, but the paper is specific to the region.

There's an older fellow with a darker suit and without the bean pie that sells it on a major intersection in what is known as East Atlanta. He does not venture near cars as the younger man does, so my interactions with him are more face to face.

At first both men were a bit surprised that I wanted to buy the newspaper. It is, after all, a publication of the Nation of Islam, and since that is a black supremacy movement - it would seem odd to them that man who is literally blue-eyed (they refer to white men as "blue eyed devils") would have any interest therein. But my money is as green as anyone else's, and now neither man even blinks when I approach them with a smile and a greenback. In fact, the younger man smiles and tells me I've been "Salaaminized" and part of me represses the giggle that springs to my lips considering it could be taken as a reference to sodomy given the Gwar song "Salaminizer".

It's the publication of a splinter group of the Nation of Islam, which broke free from Minister Louis Farrakhan and now is under the jurisdiction of a Minister Eric Muhammad - quitting after he disobeyed a direct order from Farrakhan to disassociate himself with another minister, Khalid Abdul Mohammad.

It's not the first time that a group has broken free from the Nation of Islam. The Five Percent Nation, aka the Nation of Gods and Earths broke free from it under the tutelage of Clarence 13X. Depending on who you talk to, Clarence 13X quit because the Nation taught that white men were devils, but not that black men were Gods - either that or Clarence 13X couldn't stay out of gambling dens and was kicked out for reasons of religious discipline.

But this schism appears to be actually for a proper religious reason and not a split because of clash of personalities. It was part of a greater schism from Farrakhan's leadership of the entire Nation when the N.O.I. joined up with Scientology and insisted that ministers in the Nation become "audited". Many ministers balked at the idea of joining ANYTHING to the teachings of the original progenitor of the movement - especially the teachings of a white man. (To the Nation of Islam, white people are a failed genetic experiment cooked up by a scientist named Yaakub, who is the Bible's Jacob. The Frankenstein monster of whitefolks escaped the lab and held the black man, the true Asiatic inheritor of the earth and divine, etc. under thrall).

The paper itself is semi-pro in terms of production level: on par with small publications of its ilk. It is printed on newsprint with a color front page and black and white inner pages. The masthead is in all-caps, Gothic English calligraphy, the NOI flag, and the assertion that they are the REAL Nation of Islam.

Inside are articles, some of which are repeated issue to issue: they do not presume regular readership so they run certain articles in every single issue. I've seen "The God Science of Black Power" in the centerfold in more than one issue, the back page "The Muslim Program" is there month to month. The inside pages are a mix of personal testimonies, political news both local and international, with a NOI spin, and some health advice. It's much of the same, and actually sensible advice. Don't eat pork, don't eat starchy foods and limit yourself to one small meal a day. If the general health and youthful appearance of Louis Farrakhan is anything to go by, there's some merit in it. He does NOT look look like a man in his 80s.

But one of the things that comes across time and time again is that the people therein are proud of their identity. A sample testimony speaks of a young man who buried his older brother not much into the elder's 20s, aimless and driftless until he met a proud, strong man who was in no way ashamed to be black, and promoted a strong family, temperance in food and drink, pride in a professional, clean appearance - and a program of personal and spiritual emancipation.

There's nothing there that I didn't know already - I have some conversance with the general program of the Nation of Islam. I know their similarities, and I know their differences- which are so great Islam itself doesn't consider them Islamic at all. In response, the Nation celebrates Ramadan the month after, and actually FEASTS during the Islamic Ramadan calendar. But even though I disagree with their assertion that their brand of Islam will somehow rise up and destroy the "falsehood" of Christianity, and that the black man will rise up and destroy the white oppressor when the seven thousand years of the white devil's rulership ends as foretold by Allah - and disagree with their desire to live apart from other races and reject the idea we can ever live together in harmony - I cannot help but see in the men standing in the rain, pie in one hand and newsprint in the other, a sense of dignity and purpose that I can't help but respect. Not because I am of their religion or their political aspiration - but because of The Golden Rule - I am happy to purchase it every time I see it sold.



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