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MUHAMMAD'S STORY, MOTIVES SUSPECT.

Byline: Jasmyne A. Cannick Local View

POLICE brutality is a serious problem within the African-American community, especially given the recent high-profile incidents involving the Los Angeles Police Department and minorities.

However, as an African-American I am not so quick to jump on the bandwagon in defense of Nation of Islam leader Tony Muhammad's alleged beating at the hands of the LAPD.

Muhammad is no angel. In fact, he's far from it. He carries a widely known hatred for police officers and whites and is known for his trademark history of being antagonistic and argumentative.

Earlier this month, Muhammad called a protest against the shooting of a black TV series in his neighborhood because there were whites on the crew. In 15 minutes, he managed to assemble over 150 people, who among other things spat on and called the white crew members names like ''white devil'' and ''cracker.'' Muhammad completely ignored the 30 or so blacks that were working behind and in front of the camera when the show's supervising producer canceled the shoot for the day and sent everyone home.

Muhammad and the Nation of Islam recently crashed a Police Commission meeting demanding answers regarding the case of 13-year-old Devin Brown. In this meeting, Muhammad proclaimed that he would ''shut this city down'' if Devin's shooting was not adequately investigated.

I think it's safe to say that African-Americans everywhere are outraged at Brown's death, but ''shutting the city down'' is not going to further our cause for justice for this young victim and his family.

I think that it's unfortunate that in a time like this, when blacks are looking for some sign of hope and something to cling to, Muhammad has chosen to use his alleged beating as a catalyst for martyrdom.

If I thought for a second that Muhammad was actually beaten by the police, I would support his case. But after reading the transcripts of the communication between a dispatcher and the officer involved, and taking Muhammad's history into account, I can't sign on.

Muhammad very well might have been assaulted by an officer that night, but judging from Muhammad's words in the transcripts, he was clearly aggravating the situation.

All of black Los Angeles is outraged over this supposed abuse of power at the hands of the LAPD. But where were all these people when Crenshaw High announced the loss of its accreditation? And what about the case that brought Muhammad out in the first place - the 21-year-old gunshot victim, Nahum Beaird?

Gang violence is still terrorizing our communities and is more rampant than ever. But Muhammad and his camp quickly abandoned that cause after finding a more media-worthy cause - his own.

With the recent retirement of John Mack, Chip Murray and Danny Bakewell, the recognized black leaders of Los Angeles, a vacuum of opportunity that hasn't been open for new membership in nearly two decades is suddenly available. Muhammad and the Nation of Islam have quickly seized the moment to launch themselves as the new leadership of black Los Angeles. However, Muhammad does not bring to the table a track record of service to the community, just service to himself.

In addition, his sudden catapult into leadership further feeds into the black leadership's image as a ``Good Ole Boys Club'' excluding the voices of anyone under the age of 40 and female.

Missing the spirit and the unity of the '60s and '70s Black Power movement, we oftentimes desert common sense when analyzing these types of situations for what they really are. Black leadership today is operated more as a business venture complete with media hype, photo-ops, corporate indulgence and cult personalities.

While I do not agree with all of the practices of the LAPD, given the facts as they are, I am more inclined to believe that the LAPD did not just beat Muhammad, as he would have the community believe. Muhammad is no martyr; he's an opportunist looking for the next big media hit and leading a blind community with false motives.

You don't speak for me, Tony Muhammad.
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Title Annotation:Viewpoint
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Sep 4, 2005
Words:676
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