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Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Dispute in Michael Jackson Camp Over Role of the Nation of Islam

Dispute in Michael Jackson Camp Over Role of the Nation of Islam
By SHARON WAXMAN

Published: December 30, 2003


LOS ANGELES, Dec. 29 — Officials from the Nation of Islam, a separatist African-American Muslim group, have moved in with Michael Jackson and are asserting control over the singer's business affairs, friends, employees and business associates of Mr. Jackson said.

Initially invited to the Neverland Ranch several weeks ago to provide security for Mr. Jackson, members of the Nation of Islam are now restricting access to him and have begun making decisions for him related to the news media, his business affairs and even his legal strategy, some of Mr. Jackson's friends and associates said. Mr. Jackson faces charges of child molesting in Santa Barbara and recently moved into a rented house in Los Angeles, where Nation of Islam officials have accompanied him.

Efforts to reach Mr. Jackson through his spokesman were not sucessful, but his lawyer, Mark Geragos, and The Final Call, the Nation of Islam's newspaper, denied the claim.

Leonard Muhammad, chief of staff and son-in-law of the Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, now works out of the Los Angeles office of Mr. Geragos, Mr. Jackson's lawyer, the Jackson associates said. Mr. Muhammad stood behind Mr. Geragos during a recent televised news conference and, according to two of Mr. Jackson's employees who spoke on condition of anonymity, he participates in phone calls involving media and legal strategy.

Mr. Jackson's official spokesman, Stuart Backerman, resigned on Monday to protest the Nation of Islam's presence, said a colleague of Mr. Backerman, who could not be reached for comment on Monday.

The employees said they spoke out because they are concerned about Mr. Jackson's welfare and because his multicultural message was at odds with the group's philosophy of black separatism. The Nation of Islam is a small group that advocates black self-empowerment and a separate African-American state, and some of its leaders have espoused anti-Semitic, anti-gay and racist rhetoric. Mr. Jackson is not Muslim nor a member of the Nation of Islam


OK, now, let me explain why they were called in. Jackson knows that he's in real trouble, you don't call in the NOI unless you're in real trouble. They are scary folks and they love to intimidate people when they have to.

Jackson is playing black politics to garner him the only kind of support he has left in the US. Unless he's seen as a victim of white injustice, he's going to have a very quick trial. The Michael Jackson people remember is not the one on trial. That is a 45 year old man looking to explain away sleepovers with teen boys and romancing them.

His claims of abuse also play into this. If he can convince people that the police are against him, humiliated him, then he's just another powerful black man the white media wanted to ruin. The fact that he may have been the most popular black recording artist in history is now supposed to go away. He's no naif, living in a fantasy world, but an adroit political player, using an image of weirdness to protect him. He's working all the angles of black politics like a pro.

The only problem is that he has to play down the NOI to the wider world, because of their reputation. It doesn't impress the media to have Louis Farrakhan running your business life and limiting access. Even Al Sharpton has learned to distance himself from the NOI over time. You can't have no relation with them, they have too much respect within the community to completely blow them off. They are serious people and you disrespect them at your peril. No one's ever accused them of murder in my memory, at least after the assassination of Malcolm X, but that was enough.

They're a tiny fraction of the Muslim community and most Sunni Imams in the US don't take them seriously, but because of their work in prisons, and in the community, they get listened to.

The problem for Jackson's political moves is this: if the kid is proven to be credible in any way, he's done. He can work the ropes all he wants, but facts are nasty things. If they turn against Jackson, all his manuvering will fail.

posted by Steve @ 5:27:00 PM

5:27:00 PM

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