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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Gandhi influenced King, Islam, professor says

By Linah Mohammad/se news editor

As part of the Changing America series, SE history assistant professor Bradley Borougerdi presented The Ties that Bind: Transnationalizing the American Civil Rights Movement to more than 70 students and staff Feb. 12.

He discussed the international influences on the Civil Rights Movement, including how Mahatma Gandhi influenced Martin Luther King Jr.’s civil disobedience and the effect Islam had on Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam.

When students think of the Civil Rights Movement, they tend to think of it as a national movement that took place within U.S. borders, Borougerdi said.

“No society ever developed in isolation,” he said. “Nations develop interconnectedly. They do not develop in a vacuum or isolated bubbles but rather are a result of mutual exchanges and encounters.”

Gandhi, the famous example of nonviolent civil disobedience, was one of King’s major influences. Gandhi tried different kinds of methods to end the British colonization of India including strikes, fasting, prayer groups and marches.

“Gandhi’s ways were basically all designed to promote the idea that you do not cooperate with the oppressor,” Borougerdi said. “That is the key to making change with nonviolent resistance. It is not passive. You do not sit back idly and allow people to oppress you.”

According to him, nonviolence is the opposite of being passive. It gives all kinds of emotions and uncomfortable feelings for the oppressor. Nonviolence exposes their hatred and animosity.

By the 1930s, Gandhi’s ideas of fighting back had influenced black Americans fighting racism.

“Freedom did not begin when slavery ended,” Borougerdi said. “We created slavery with another name. There are various different ways of keeping people oppressed.”

Howard Thurman, then a Howard University professor, heard these ideas and traveled to India to meet Gandhi.

“Thurman was amazed by this great leader,” Borougerdi said. “He wanted his help. He wanted to use his strategies. What Gandhi told him was ‘Practice. Practice. Practice.’”

Gandhi advised Thurman to stop cooperating with the white population and deny them the services of black people.

Another black American who went to India to meet with Gandhi’s students was Mordecai Johnson, who stayed in India for a year. When he returned, he gave a lecture about his trip. Among the audience was King.

The Black Nationalist Islamic Movement, another movement of the 1960s, was the most powerful movement to galvanize black Americans in an organized association.

“In order to talk about this movement, I need to talk briefly about Islam,” Borougerdi said. “Two very important words that resonate with Muslims: elegance and simplicity. That’s the beauty of Islam and the Koran. Despite differences of your race, your color, your ethnicity, if you accept the religion, you can be a member of the religion.”

The rise of W.F. Mohammad, who became the founder of the Nation of Islam, came during a time when many figures were perceived as prophets or Mohammad incarnated such as Marcus Garvey, Noble Drew Ali and Elijah Mohammad.

While Elijah Mohammad was in jail, he converted blacks who were there as well. Malcolm X was one of them.

“The Nation of Islam saw themselves as the holy original nation,” Borougerdi said. “They saw themselves as emerging from Mecca not from Africa.”

The Nation of Islam wasn’t Muslim at all. Malcolm X traveled to Mecca, Egypt, Sudan … etc. and met real orthodox Muslims. However, he saw the Nation of Islam as a good way to unify black Americans, Borougerdi said.

“The speech was very deep,” said SE speech instructor Rebekah Adderley, who attended Borougerdi’s presentation. “I did not know most of the external influences he talked about.”

SE dietetics student Maysoun Hassan said he had very strong points, and the speech was informative.

“I wish he could have spoke for another hour,” Hassan said. “I was very interested.”

Adderley agreed: “I might need to sit in one of his classes!”

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