Demonization has been used in mythology throughout the course of human history. It is very much a part of human life throughout the world every day. When James Wolsey, former Director of the CIA, said recently that the United States is currently fighting World War Four, he was alluding to the fact that what America is fighting in the Middle East, not just Iraq, is a world created by a mythology that demonizes non-Moslems (infidels) as intrinsically evil people who must be destroyed or converted. All attempts to dialogue with radically fundamentalist Moslems are swept aside, unheard, because they know from their mythology that all infidels belong to the Great Satan. Here, I wish to treat demonization as it has been used in the Black Muslim movement and in the Brahminical religion of India.
The common ground of all members in the Nation of Islam was that they were black. This skin color entailed oppression at the hands of the whites. Naturally, their enemy, the character in their demonology, was the white man. In vilifying the white man, everything that was his had to be naturally evil, and any evil he did had to be in his nature. The Nation of Islam took an uncompromising stance that all white men were inherently evil.
This vilifying of the white race gave the Nation of Islam a mission, which they proclaimed was divine. They claimed that the white man, in a final act to brainwash and subjugate the Negro, had given him the Christian religion, which, in the words of Malcolm X:
[H]as taught us to shout and sing and pray until we die, to wait until death, for some dreamy heaven-in-the-hereafter, when we’re dead, while this white man has his milk and honey in the streets paved with golden dollars right here on this earth!
While the teachings of Islam, rather, Elijah Muhammed’s own interpretation of those teachings, could convert a black Christian to the Nation of Islam, they could not explain why the white man was inherently evil. To do that, Elijah Muhammed would have to rely on his imagination.
This history, called Yacub’s History, was "the demonology that every religion has." It explained the origins of the white man and his evil nature, how the evil of the whites had prevailed over the black people, or Original Man, and how slavery and rape of the black race had come about.
As the story goes, the black race was the first race, who worshipped Allah and founded Mecca, a holy city of Islam. Over 6,000 years ago, when there had apparently been much learning in colleges and universities, a disgruntled black scientist named Yacub learned the methods of "race breeding." His purpose was one of vengeance against Allah for banishing him from Mecca, and in retribution, he decided "to create upon the earth a devil race - a bleached-out, white race of people."
In the course of 800 years, by following rules which only allowed the lightest-skinned people to breed, the evil white race had been created. Malcolm X describes this race according to the Nation of Islam’s demonology:
On the island of Patmos was nothing but these blond, pale-skinned, cold-blue-eye devils – savages, nude and shameless; hairy, like animals, they walked on all fours and they lived in the trees.
The purpose of these devils was to create destroy the black, Muslim community, and in time they "turned what had been a peaceful heaven on earth into a hell torn by quarreling and fighting." The black race decided to exile the whites to the caves of Europe, to live in diabolical savagery. Then, for some reason, Allah picked Moses to civilize the white race and lead them out of the caves; this information is recorded in book of Moses which "are missing." The Jews of the Exodus symbolize the first white race to be led out of the caves.
In time, the whites rose to power, and Allah picked some of his faithful blacks in Africa to "be brought as slaves to North America - to learn to better understand....the white devil’s true nature." According to the Elijah Muhammed, the enslaved blacks soon lost their faith, were brainwashed by Christianity, and have been oppressed by the whites ever since. To reconcile African-Americans with their true roots and true faith, the "Savior" W.D. Fard was sent to America as an instructor. His follower, Elijah Muhammed, spent his life spreading Fard’s teachings, to save the "Lost-Found Nation of Islam....., here in ‘this wilderness of North America.’"
If a doubter had asked Elijah Muhammed, Malcolm X, or another Nation of Islam minister why this historical information was just now being revealed, the answer was that "the real truth was known to some white men, the scholars; but there had been a conspiracy down through the generations to keep the truth from black men." Within this circular argument, history cannot be disputed. However, it was historical fabrication of an angry mind, which was not taught anywhere in Islam of the East. Malcolm X described reactions to this story that he observed in Mecca:
I was later to learn that Elijah Muhammed’s tales, like this one of ‘Yacub, infuriated Muslims of the East. While at Mecca, I had reminded them that it was their fault, since they hadn’t done enough to make real Islam known in the West. Their silence left a vacuum into which any religious faker could step and mislead our people.
Thus, the leaders of the Nation of Islam concocted a wild, unprovable yet undisputable world history which explained that whites were inherently evil, and it was the destiny of the black race to throw off the white man’s yoke - culture, religion, lifestyle - and return to their Muslim roots. This gave black Muslims an enemy in the whites, and a salvific mission among the blacks. That this mythology is an absolute tissue of fictions is irrelevant to those who choose to believe it.
In the myths of the Brahmanical religion of India, we see another example of history revised. This history is different from that of the Nation of Islam in that it was not created by the oppressed to liberate themselves from the oppressors, in fact it was the exact opposite, a history created by the oppressors to dupe the oppressed into believing that they deserved the terrible treatment and oppression of the higher castes. The common elements these revised histories share is an explanation of who is evil, an explanation of the current quality of life, and a mission to improve the oppressed people’s lives, either here and now on Earth, or through reincarnation into a higher caste.
This myth of the Brahmans is the Aryan invasion. While modern historians have shown that an Aryan "invasion" did occur, it was less of a single invasion than a migration of peoples into India over a thousand or so years. In the Brahmanical version, the Aryan conquerors led huge armies through the mountains to conquer the native Indian peoples. These Aryan conquerors were the gods, and the conquered peoples became the oppressed lower castes.
Jotirao Phule was one of the earliest activists for Dalit liberation in India. Writing in the late 19th Century, he made a parallel between the oppression of the blacks in America and the Dalits, or Shudras, in India:
The arguments of the brahmans have been implanted so firmly on the minds of the shudras that they, like the Negro slaves in America, oppose the very people who are willing to fight for them, and free them from the chains of slavery.
In his efforts to convert "brainwashed" black Americans to the Nation of Islam, Malcolm X had to denounce and destroy anything that whites had "implanted" in their minds, and the main target was Christianity. Offering the Islamic faith as a religious alternative, even as the black man’s destiny, served to cut the roots of any white religious or cultural norms that the "brainwashed" blacks had accepted to be true.
While the Nation of Islam created a new, revised, and false history for African-Americans, Phule’s mission was to dispel the old and untruthful history which was told to the Dalits by the Brahmans. For the Nation of Islam, a new, albeit mythical, history could liberate the oppressed African-Americans, because it explained the inherent evil of whites. In the case of Phule and the Dalits he was fighting for, the mythical history of India was the tool of the oppressors, and the liberator’s mission was to dispel the ancient falsehoods. Thus, a fabricated history can be used to liberate or oppress the downtrodden, depending on who that history deems to be good, and who it deems to be evil.
Brahmanical history teaches that the leaders of the Aryan invasion were gods, and that their mission was to destroy the original inhabitants of India, the present-day Dalits, because as lower castes they were inherently evil. One example is the god Parashuram, who let the Brahmans in a genocidal campaign of the kshatriyas, the original inhabitants of India. Phule states:
We feel that the brahmans considered Parashuram’s dastardly act of wiping out the kshatriyas from the face of the earth, not just once but twenty-one times, as a great heroic deed; this included the merciless massacre of the young babies and infants as well!....It is really surprising that though Parashuram had wreaked havoc on the kshatriyas by ruthlessly massacring them, the brahmans compelled the shudras and atishudras [lowest castes] to address the tyrant as the all-powerful God and as the Creator of the entire Universe.
In the Brahmanical religion, a person’s goal in life is to perform their caste and gender specific duties, or dharma, well enough so that they will be reincarnated into a higher caste. Moreover, it teaches that a person's lot in this life was earned by their actions in the previous life, thus being deserved. For a Shudra (lowest class) or Atishudra (somehow lower than the lowest class) to rebel against the Brahmans is to invite the possibility of being reincarnated in a future life with an even worse status. This is the mental slavery which would cause the lower castes to fight against their liberators. To liberate these people mentally, reformers like Phule, Babasaheb Ambedkar, and Kancha Ilaiah have deemed it an absolute necessity to throw out the Brahmanical religion and mythical history.
The social roles of the oppressed in both the United States and India gave them a sub-human status. The very fact that the Atishudras were too low to be even included in the caste system, literally rendered them "out-castes." Their social situation is strikingly similar to the role of being a "non-man" described by Richard Wright in his autobiographical Black Boy. In order to liberate the oppressed, leaders rose among them, using revised and mythical histories in whichever manner circumstance dictated.
The Nation of Islam fabricated a story of world history, which explained the origins of races and of evil by demonizing the white man. The black Muslim who believed this was empowered with a sense of mission to open the eyes of his fellow brothers who were still brainwashed by the white man. In India, mythical history was used for centuries to demonize and oppress the Dalits, by declaring them to be enemies of the gods, and forcing them into a position of servitude to the semi-divine Brahmans. To liberate these people, historical myth had to be dispelled, and the yoke of Brahmanical religion cast off.
Thus, mythical history and demonization of a specific group is a powerful tool which can alter a person’s perceptions of his neighbors, and dictate the mission of his life.