The FBI once tried to sabotage the Nation of Islam with a zine

The FBI once tried to sabotage the Nation of Islam with a zine

J. Edgar Hoover personally signed off on a COINTELPRO operation that anonymously distributed leaflets critical of NOI leadership

Written by
Edited by Beryl Lipton

Throughout the ’60s, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s infamous COINTELPRO operations targeted what it called “Black Nationalist Hate Groups,” for surveillance, infiltration, and ultimately, disruption. It was to that end in March 1968 that FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover sent a memo to the New York field office, authorizing the use of the Bureau’s secret weapon against the Nation of Islam: the zine.

The office had originally proposed to Hoover the idea of anonymously mailing booklets to NOI members as a means of fomenting dissent and Hoover had strongly approved, praising the “imagination and enthusiasm of the New York Office.” The Bureau’s “Exhibits Section” put something together, which was then sent back to New York for duplication and distribution.

The finished product was entitled “Muslim Mosque #7” (referring to the NOI mosque in Harlem where Malcolm X had previously preached) and, bizarrely, came with a 10-cent price tag.

The booklet tells the cautionary tale of a “good Muslim” who pays dues to NOI leadership (whose names, with the exception of Elijah Muhammad, are all redacted) …

who are then depicted in crude doodles collecting said dues …

using them to fund their lavish lifestyles …

and then collecting more dues.

The point is further emphasized with some back of the napkin math …

and a “baby” thrown in there just so you know that is was written by Not A Cop.

The booklet ends with the admonition to not be a sucker …

a message which, considering the medium, comes off as a tad disingenuous.

It’s unclear if the booklet was successful in the Bureau’s goals to “cause internal strife, factionalism, distrust, and disorder with the NOI,” but it’s worth noting that future literature produced for the New York field office were more traditional pamphlets.

Interestingly enough, the FBI appears to have also tried a similar tactic in its COINTELPRO operations aimed at the Klu Klux Klan

which, although ineffective, at least demonstrated that the Bureau found somebody who could actually draw.

Read the full ‘zine embedded below, and the rest of the FBI’s COINTELPRO files here.