The X Files

Punk-rock guitarist turned Nation of Islam minister Jamal Muhammad is still angry--and not just in black and white.

Late last summer, Muhammad and the Nation agreed that it was time for him to step down from running Mosque 51. "It was mutual," he says, denying that he was forced out. "Time for me to move on."

Muhammad says the media coverage he'd received wasn't a factor, but he acknowledges that he didn't always care for the public stage. "A lot of people recognized me," he says. "Some people looked at me with all this anger. It's not like I have all these bodyguards standing around."

He was replaced by a longtime fixture in the local Muslim community, Henri Muhammad, the same man who headed up the Nation's Denver office in the 1970s. Reverend Ford speculates that Jamal Muhammad was brought in to agitate, while Henri Muhammad is here to negotiate. "In the nation they send young men for war and old men for counsel," Jamal Muhammad replies. "In that sense, he's right. But the brother's always been there."

In recent months, Muhammad has been seen at poetry readings in Five Points reading love poems. He's also been spotted in less cozy surroundings. Only recently, he says, he spoke to a criminal-justice class at Metro, "blasting white folks.

"I didn't like how they were dealing with Alvertis," he says. "Even with his mistakes, I love him. He's a real person."

Muhammad says he thought about getting involved in the local rock scene while he was a minister, and he remains interested in putting a hip-hop music project together. He started at the Hue-Man Experience a month ago--a job that gives him plenty of time to think and plan his next course of action. Though owner Claire Villarosa has known Muhammad since he arrived in Denver, it wasn't until one of her employees recommended him that she considered him as a potential employee. She says she was wary of him preaching in the store. "I had to interview him, see where he was coming from," says Villarosa. "I liked what I heard."

Muhammad says he wants to leave Denver soon and embark on a national tour of high schools to spread the Nation's word. He also says his view of racial politics has expanded beyond the inequalities of black people to consider the inequalities of other people of color as well. And though he remains outspoken in his approach, he admits he may have been too sweeping in his past indictments.

"I've met some very fine white people who've been very helpful," he says. "I can't just take an ignorant paintbrush to everything. The world is getting smaller."

Visit to read related Westword stories.

« Previous Page
My Voice Nation Help