You probably know about the Church of Scientology’s courting of Hollywood celebrities, from Tom Cruise to John Travolta to the woman who’s the voice of Bart Simpson, and perhaps you’ve caught wind of its cozy relationship with the Los Angeles Police Department.
But few are aware of its close partnership with the Nation of Islam, led by Minister Louis Farrakhan.
The approximately 20,000-strong black political and religious movement was formed in 1930 to improve the lives of black Americans, but in recent years has come under fire for its anti-gay, anti-white, and anti-Semitic views. Farrakhan, a vocal anti-Semite, found himself back in the news recently when he was cited as one of the reasons for the implosion of the Women’s March, with some leaders of the movement accused of supporting Farrakhan and parroting his anti-Semitic talking points.
The alliance between the Nation of Islam, a black organization, and Scientology, an almost entirely white one, was hatched in the mid-Aughts, when the late Isaac Hayes, one of the only famous black Scientologists, approached Scientology leader David Miscavige and asked why the “religion” wasn’t doing more to court black Americans. So Miscavige reached out to the Nation of Islam, and by 2010, they began promoting the “benefits” of Dianetics, the core set of ideas preached by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.
During a sermon in Chicago on July 1, 2012, Farrakhan proclaimed to his acolytes, “I found the tool that I know can help us. And I thank God for Mr. L. Ron Hubbard. And I thank God for his research and teaching.”
The latest episode of Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath, A&E’s Emmy-winning docuseries, examines the ties between the Church of Scientology and the Nation of Islam. And who better to guide us through it than Remini, who says she was tasked with strengthening the partnership.
“I was approached by Scientology to bridge the gap between Scientology and the black community. And I wanted to do that. I had no idea what the Nation of Islam was,” Remini says. “I was a Scientologist and I wasn’t questioning what my church was asking me to do.” (The church, for its part, sent a letter less than 24 hours prior to the episode’s airing, claiming that it “supports religious freedom” and comparing Remini’s show to Nazism.)
The first guest joining Remini and her co-host Mike Rinder, a former Scientology executive, was Ishmael Bey, a decade-long member of the Nation of Islam who quit over its relationship with Scientology—indeed a curious one, given that L. Ron Hubbard has said “there was no Christ,” and did not believe in the existence of Allah.
“We started to see that buildings were being made, that the Nation of Islam were having secret meetings with Scientology that the public had no idea about. It started going in a different direction than the core tenets of what Islam actually represented,” Bey said.
According to Bey, the Nation of Islam began administering Self-Improvement Courses, or the introductory courses that people take to enter into Scientology that are disguised as innocuous self-help courses.
“The breaking point for me was when it started going in that direction with the self-improvement study guides. It started feeling very cult-like to me,” Bey claims.
“They now call him ‘The Honorable LRH,’ they now meet in the Scientology buildings, they now are being bestowed with the Scientology awards, and within the Nation of Islam, it’s now a celebrated thing that the first female went ‘clear’ recently, and in 2015 the first male went ‘clear,’” Bey added, referring to one of the most advanced statuses (or states of mind, as they put it) in Scientology.
Scientology has a policy that any of its members who recruit someone into the religion get to receive 10 percent of whatever their recruit pays into it, which can equal tens of thousands of dollars over a period of time. And there have been whispers and reports over the years that Farrakhan has received similar kickbacks from Scientology for spreading their gospel.
But that’s not all. Remini contends that, “They were coming to people like me, and they were saying, ‘Hey, we want you guys to sponsor Nation of Islam members to come in and do these [Scientology] seminars.”
She claims that one of the Nation of Islam members whose Scientology courses she sponsored was Tony Muhammad, the West Coast regional minister of the Nation of Islam who was also identified by Bey as introducing many Nation of Islam-ers to Scientology. Muhammad is plastered all over the Scientology website, and he was recently bestowed with the IAS Freedom Medal, Scientology’s biggest award.
“I have become a better Muslim as a result of my relationship to the Church of Scientology,” Muhammad says in a Scientology promotional video. “The world should be grateful that in our lifetime, along came a being known as Mr. L. Ron Hubbard… We say that when a man comes along like that, his name should be mentioned right along with the names of the saints.”
The next guest on the program was Hector Falu-Muhammad, a 26-year member of the Nation of Islam who worked closely with its senior officials.
Falu-Muhammad said that after he expressed his dissent against Dianetics to officials, he found himself “singled out,” and was subsequently accused by fellow Nation of Islam members of everything from stealing to committing indecent sex acts on his wife. This policy of attacking critics or “enemies,” Remini and Rinder note, is straight out of the Scientology handbook, and Falu-Muhammad claims that it was instituted after the two movements became bedfellows.
“There’s been a command that came from a member of Minister Farrakhan’s personal staff. He said, if anyone is critical of Minister Farrakhan, to ‘attack him like a hornet’s nest,’” Falu-Muhammad says.
“You’re told, ‘Hey, you better stop talking about Scientology, you’re gonna get put out the mosque.’ It’s almost like Dianetics is the law now of the Nation of Islam,” adds Bey.
“The one thing that infuriates me the most is you find pictures of children in the Nation holding Dianetics books,” Falu-Muhammad offers. “We have children that are in the Nation. I don’t want my children studying Dianetics, or studying Scientology.” (The Nation of Islam did not respond to requests for comment.)
In addition to its courtship of the Nation of Islam and some local black churches, the Church of Scientology has recently erected giant centers in Atlanta, Harlem, Inglewood, and other predominately black communities—although as Tiponi Grey, who worked in the Inglewood organization of Scientology, says, she only witnessed “at most 10 people” inside the building on a given day.
And Farrakhan addressed Remini and her Scientology whistle-blowing in a recent speech to his congregants.
“I know that this is the time that they’re making an all-out move to destroy Scientology,” Farrakhan said. “But what I’d ask Mrs. Renmie [sic], or whatever her name is, she’s going in hard. She’s hurt by something. I know a lot of Muslims that’s hurt. Hurt because they came in looking for something, but didn’t necessarily find what they were lookin’ for, and walked away. And when you walked away, where did you go, what did you do, how did you gain, what did you lose?”
“Nobody’s trying to take Scientology down for reasons that are unwarranted,” Remini fired back. “And once you’re in Scientology for a good 35, 45 years, maybe then ask these kinds of questions. And you should ask these types of questions to the families who have been destroyed.”