Imam Jamil Al-Amin
Imam Jamil Al-Amin with son
Imam Jamil Al-Amin (formerly known as Hubert Brown) was born the youngest of three in a working-class family in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. His parents, Eddie C. Brown, Sr., and Thelma Warren Brown, were both active and stressed social activism to their children. Hubert Brown fully embraced this, leaving university before graduating—disappointed with the racial inequity he saw there—to eventually join the War on Poverty.
In 1966 he jumped to the front of the Civil Rights Movement as a director for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in Alabama, quickly earning a reputation for his fearlessness, eloquence (as H. “Rap” Brown), and his ability to organize. By 1968, disillusioned with the nonviolent approach, much of SNCC’s leadership merged with the Black Panther Party. Imam Al-Amin said that the era “was a war.” On at least two occasions during that undeclared, high-intensity civil war, attempts were made on his life.
While some would argue that Imam Jamil lost his revolutionary edge when he embraced Islam, nothing could be further from the truth. In his novel Revolution by the Book, he writes:
“It is criminal that, in the 1990s, we still approach struggle [by] sloganeering, saying, ‘by any means necessary,’ as if that’s a program … or, ‘we shall overcome,’ as if that’s a program. Slogans are not programs. We must define the means which will bring about change. This can be found in what Allah has brought for us in the Qur’an and in the example of the Prophet. Our revolution must be according to what Almighty God revealed …
“The mission of a Believer in Islam is totally different from coexisting or being a part of the system. The prevailing morals are wrong. Their ethics are wrong. Western philosophy… has reduced man to food, clothing, shelter, and the sex drive, which means he doesn’t have a spirit… Successful struggle requires a Divine program. Allah has provided that program.”
H. “Rap” Brown became Muslim in 1971, and changed his name to Jamil Al-Amin—“the trustworthy.”
On the night of March 16, 2000, a shootout occurred on the West End of Atlanta; two Fulton County sheriff’s deputies exchanged gunfire with an assailant, and one deputy (Ricky Kinchen) died the next day while the other was hospitalized with serious injuries. Between surgeries, the surviving deputy identified Imam Jamil Al-Amin (by photograph) as the lone assailant, and claimed to have shot the assailant in the stomach area. Media reports nationwide reported a wounded “former Black Panther” on the run; when Imam Jamil was apprehended four days later, he had no injuries.
From 1992 to 1997, the FBI and Atlanta police investigated the former H. Rap Brown in connection with everything from domestic terrorism to gunrunning to fourteen homicides in Atlanta’s West End, without charging him of any crime. In his only public comment on his arrest, Al-Amin called it a “government conspiracy.” Otis Jackson, 26, confessed to killing the police officer, but later recanted under pressure. Imam Jamil’s defense team was not informed and he pleaded innocent in court, but was convicted by the jury. He is in solitary confinement to this day, under 23-hour lock-down.
Imam Jamil, as part of the struggle, as a leader, and as a Muslim, is an inspiration to everyone today. He taught that one must live by Divine decree and explained: “Islam is something that Allah has given us, to take us from the level of degradation, from the level where we have been crushed, to a level where Allah is satisfied with us and grants us success … It deals with training. It deals with discipline. It deals with submission, to the point where it becomes automatic… where we don’t give a second thought about doing things that are good; enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong.”