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Serious Malcolmites, including myself, were neither surprised nor shocked by the exonerations of Muhammad Abdul Aziz (known in 1965 as Norman 3X Butler) and Khalil Islam (known as Thomas 15X Johnson) as assassins of Brother Malcolm X on Feb. 21, 1965. Though both were reportedly ardent supporters of the assassination, neither had a position in the Nation of Islam needed to plan and execute such a goal.
Shortly after the assassinations that Sunday afternoon, I was told by Brother Earl Grant, one of Brother Malcolm’s most perceptive and trusted aides, that there was no way Aziz and Islam could have been present at the Organization of African American Unity rally without being recognized and probably asked to leave by the organization’s security team. I personally had practically no knowledge about security, so I listened to Earl, who was a mentor to me, second only to Brother Malcolm. He also informed me about the lies and misinformation about the assassination coming from the FBI and the New York City Police Department.
What Earl told me at that time was lastingly reinforced in 1993 in a must-read book, “Conspiracys: Unraveling the Assassination of Malcolm X,” written by Baba Zak A. Kondo. His incisive introduction includes the following: “By March 3 (1965) three Black men, Talmadge Hayer, Norman 3X Butler and Thomas 15X Johnson, were in police custody, charged with the first-degree murder of Malcom X. Hayer was seized by police at the scene of the crime. Both Johnson and Butler were arrested at their homes. A year and two months later each man was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. Since Johnson and Butler were both well-known in the Nation Islam’s Harlem Mosque, the police and prosecutors attributed Malcolm’s death to the escalating feud between Malcolm and his former mentor, Elijah Muhammad. Thus, the assassination, so far as authorities were concerned, was an open and shut case. … This author contends that Malcolm’s murder resulted from three intertwined conspiracies. The first was orchestrated by FBI agents who employed various schemes to oust Malcolm from the Nation of Islam, provoke a war between him and the NOI and set up his murder. The second conspiracy — fed by the first — was orchestrated by the NOI hierarchy which authorized New Jersey Muslims to plan and execute the murder. The third was orchestrated by the New York Police Department which compromised Malcolm’s security, permitted all but one of the assassins to escape and framed two innocent men.”
With clarity and knowledge-expanding details, Baba Zak backs up his analysis in his book. He explains and documents more conclusively than anyone else the whys and hows around the assassination of Brother Malcolm, especially the role of the FBI. Its intense hostility and concerns about Brother Malcolm’s international agenda clearly played a role in their desire for him not being around. One example of their intense hatred of Brother Malcolm is clearly revealed in the following statements from its Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO) files. One of its aims was to “Prevent the rise of a ‘messiah’ who could unify and electrify the militant black nationalist movement. Malcolm might have been such a ‘messiah.’ He is the martyr of the movement today.”
The FBI by saying Brother Malcolm “might have been such a messiah” is understating their concern. They knew very well that he could unify and electrify the militant black nationalist movement. That’s why they wanted him eliminated. Aziz and Islam were not in a position to help carry out the plans of the FBI and its collaborators. I predict that 20 years from now, their exonerations will be taught in high schools and colleges as shiny examples of the greatness of the American “justice” system.