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When they called for Muslim services, he stepped out of the cell with four other inmates. He noticed one of them was from his unit. A dark skin scrawny kid. He saw him earlier in the morning too, performing ablution in the bathroom. He just thought he was taking a birdbath. He never thought he was up to make prayer. Although that was the reason, he was awake.


Nine individuals filed out of the holding cell. Other inmates were on the move to the recreation movement. Taliban coughed into his hand and slipped the razor he had been palming, between his teeth and cheek. He was cutting his eyes in every direction, watching the inmates as they passed. A few of them stacked Blood, as he passed them. The word was getting around about who he was. He just didn’t know if it was because of Fuji or rumors circulating from the street. He understood why the lion paced back and forth when put on display. The courage it exhibits on the plane is suppressed by the new environment. There is no hunt to pursue. No territory to protect. Just the keepers and those who came to stare.


He had stopped banging to get his name known long ago. Those who needed to know... knew! Having his name and picture around most of the precincts in Harlem, at the age of fifteen, made him realize that gangsters truly do move in silence. There was a reason. He didn’t need any extra attention in this oven. He was hot enough. For his activities out on the turf. When they reached the building designated for Muslim services, the officer who had been escorting them held open the door and waved them in. His lips moved as he did a silent count. Once all nine of them were inside the building, he released the door and took up a position outside it. Like a sentry.


Inside the building, they were greeted by an older man with a full salt and pepper beard, that almost reached his chest. Taliban assumed he was the Iman. He eyed him suspiciously as he approached. He smiled and extended his hand.


“As-salamu alaykum. Will you be joining us for prayer this afternoon?”


“Wa ʿalaykumu s-salām. Yes, hopefully, Allah will answer my prayers and get me out of here,”


“Perhaps, you’d do better getting up with your homies in the yard or the library. See if one of them has the plug on a bail bondsman. Those who enter here without Allah will surely leave without his favor,”


The Iman’s obvious sarcasm did not escape Taliban.


“Maybe I could wait,” Taliban stretched the pronunciation.


“On the banks of the Shatt al-Arab river, in hopes a Jew comes along to take me into the holy land,”


The Iman raised a brow and twisted his lips. Taliban knew he caught his last statement. He didn’t know how he perceived it. He had intentionally spoken in a fashion, where ‘could wait’ referenced Kuwait. Which referenced his Providence Basra. The aftermath of dictator Saddam Hussein almost left the city in ruin. The Shatt al-Arab river was left so contaminated, it poisoned those who bathed in it. The media blamed Saddam. But the people of Basra blamed the ones who took power after the reign of the autocrat. Hussein was running an illicit after-hours spot. The new government was an illegitimate casino of corruption. His point was it was all Muslims, Sunni, or Shia. Militia or government.


The Iman nodded, “Come pray with us,”


The scrawny kid from his unit took a spot in the east corner of the room and began reciting the Adhaan. His voice was full of energy and his delivery was excellent. Taliban felt like he was in one of the Mosques back in his homeland. It had been so long since he visited. Many Americans, even gangsters had no clue about the drugs and violence that plagued Iraq. The media showed the oil crisis, but there was no coverage of the gangs that reap the benefits of the drug trade in Iraq. A drug trade that is much more lucrative than the one in America, and much more dangerous. The neighborhood in his homeland was Harlem, magnified by ten. Celebratory gunfire was commonplace. You could never tell if someone had been massacred or a baby had been born. AK-47’s and light machine guns were standard, and the eleven-year-old gunner was a trained marksman. Tupac Shakur once said there was no such thing as a Muslim gangster, he couldn’t have been more wrong.


The Iman took his place behind the wooden podium. He looked down at his notes for a moment, before looking up and out over the congregation. He gave his beard a few strokes with his right hand and cleared his throat.


“Brothers who have joined us this week, I will be continuing my coverage of our brother Malik Shabazz or as he is known by the common, Malcolm X,”


Taliban could not help but feel the Iman’s announcement before the Khutbah was for his benefit. He decided to sit attentively and see if there was in fact a lesson or just a slight. This was only his second time, attending a Muslim service that was not led by someone from the Middle East. His first experience was in juvenile detention. The experience gave him an understanding as to how Christians and Catholics could praise the same God under different idealisms.


“Many of us sitting here know of the murder of brother Shabazz, but how many know of his assassination?”


He looked out over the faces.


“Brother Shabazz was murdered, then he was assassinated. I know many of you are saying, aren’t they the same thing? And in most instances, this would be true. But in the case of our fallen brother, he was murdered first and set out on public display for the world to see. Then, the assassination started. The media reported that he was killed by his own kind, Muslims,” he paused and took a deep breath.


“Killed by his own kind, at the behest of their common enemy. And still today, the same idealism is being used against our brothers. They are making allegiances to gangs, instead of Allah. Many are ending up here for taking another brother’s life. Most before they have even brought a life into this world. This is an effective trick that has been going on for far too long. The divide and conquer method.” He shook his head and smiled.


“They tell you Malcolm was killed because he had a dispute with Muslims. But don’t be fooled, Brother Shabazz was assassinated because he was prepared to go to the supreme court at the United Nations and bring awareness to the issue of human rights violations being made by the United States government. He had successfully got the support and backing of thirty-three heads of state from Africa. That is why brother Malik was murdered by Muslims but assassinated by the government. I know many of you are wondering what’s my point. My point is this, my brothers, little is known about Malcolm Little, they murdered Malcolm X and they have yet to acknowledge and honor Malik Shabazz. It doesn’t matter if you’re on Lenox Avenue in Harlem, Utica Avenue in Brooklyn, or Congress Heights in D. C. the assassination of Malik Shabazz is happening. That is why it is important to establish your identity clearly, so there will be no mistakes. Who you are? And no individual can do that if they are serving two Gods.”


The Iman's eyes fell on Taliban. He stared back seemingly unbothered by the Iman’s statement which he knew was directed at him. His face did well at masking his thoughts. The Iman’s words had struck a nerve. He thought about his birthright as a Muslim and his affiliation to the Bloods. Was he serving two Gods?

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