The Shame of Mosque No. 7

With a Sex-Harassment Suit Hanging Over His Head, Some Are Wondering Whether Nation of Islam Minister Benjamin Muhammad Is Fit to Lead the Million Family March

In the ensuing years, Minister Conrad battled with critics such as Minister Kevin, Captain Kareema, and Captain Dennis, who, in the words of one Mosque No. 7 member, "had a history of mayhem under his regime." Old-school Muslims also accused Minister Conrad of spending too much time settling grievances among gangstas and rappers. Sometimes he fought publicly with Al Sharpton, even storming a Sharpton rally with a contingent of bodyguards to interrupt a speech by Jesse Jackson. Sharpton eventually complained to Farrakhan, telling him that leaders at Mosque No. 7 were veering out of control.

On February 26, 1997, Abdul Sharrieff Muhammad, then supreme captain of the Nation of Islam, charged Minister Conrad's secretary, Jean Muhammad, with unauthorized "spending of Saviour's Day money." Sharrieff, the Voice reported, alleged that Jean had used $15,000 in monthly "taxes" intended for Chicago to pay the mosque's debts. "He paid the bills to keep the lights and gas on," a source said. Each of the Nation's 91 mosques is responsible for its own financial survival plus collection of taxes, which go into the NOI's coffers. From 1991 to 1997, Minister Conrad dumped more than $2 million into the NOI treasury, a source said. "The mosque was a $300,000-to-$500,000-a-year operation. Some years it gets up to $800,000, $900,000 in total revenues." The money is generated through sales of The Final Call, the NOI's newspaper, and other fundraising activities. A supporter of Minister Conrad scoffed: "He sent a whole lot of money to Chicago and they bust him for $15,000?"

"An NOI insider: 'It's crunch time for the Million Family March.' "

At about the same time that Minister Conrad was defending his stewardship, allegations swirled through the black Muslim community that a captain at the mosque was sleeping with another minister's wife. Farrakhan seized the opportunity to clean up Mosque No. 7's tarnished image, removing Minister Conrad and Captain Dennis in what some call "the Saviour's Day Massacre." Captain Dennis was reassigned to Farrakhan's personal security detail. A month after Minister Conrad was fired, Farrakhan kicked him out of the house he'd lived in with his wife and two young children. The shabby treatment of Minister Conrad destroyed his marriage.

Saying he was pumping new lifeblood into Mosque No. 7, Farrakhan appointed Benjamin Muhammad chief minister and eastern regional head with broad powers. Again the task of ensuring a smooth transition fell to Minister Kevin, whom Farrakhan tapped as Minister Benjamin's top assistant. "Since 1986 he's felt like he should have been given the top job in New York," an NOI source says of Minister Kevin. "It's made him, I think, bitter. It's made him resentful. Whenever a minister is appointed to the city, he becomes a thorn in that minister's side. In a sense he's like the guy who starts a fire in a house and then gets a medal of courage for putting the fire out."

In assessing the state of affairs at Mosque No. 7, some insiders fear that its "new" leadership can't survive the awful mess Minister Benjamin left behind. "The mosque is dead," a former member asserts.

"I'm not anti-Minister Benjamin," says another. "I'm saddened by what has happened to him." Such expressions of support for Minister Benjamin anger Khallid Abdul Muhammad. On July 20, after appearing at a news conference in West Philadelphia, Khallid, now leader of the New Black Panther Party for Self Defense, reminded a reporter about a prediction he had made after Farrakhan elevated Benjamin Muhammad into his inner circle.

"Ben Chavis has never atoned for a damn thing!" Khallid had charged in a fiery speech at the Masonic Temple in Brooklyn on February 26, 1997. "If one of our points here is that stealing money from the movement is counterrevolutionary, what about the money he stole from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People? Goddamn it, you can't sweep that under the rug! Ben Chavis is a goddamn thief and a rogue! . . . Now what is the nigger gon' do . . . ? Steal from the Nation of Islam? . . . He was busted for chasing women and buying the women, paying the woman to go to bed with him," Khallid alleged. "Nigger should have been named John instead. Name him John F. Muhammad, not Benjamin F. Muhammad. No-good bastard!" Khallid offered these words of advice to Farrakhan: "I warn you, my dear spiritual father, Minister Farrakhan, not to have a nigger like that next to you. Be careful! Make sure everything is on a need-to-know basis because that kinda nigger will sell you out if he can."

Additional reporting: Amanda Ward

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