Qubilah Bahiyah Shabazz, 34, was a child when she witnessed the 21 gunshots that killed her father, legendary Black Muslim leader Malcolm X, in a Harlem auditorium in 1965.
On Thursday, she was indicted on charges of trying to arrange the murder of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan - the man who succeeded her father as the Nation’s spokesman and who has been dogged for decades by rumors that he was involved in the assassination.
Federal authorities said Shabazz paid a prospective hit man, who cooperated with law enforcement during a sevenmonth investigation.
A federal public defender representing Shabazz denied the allegations in the ninecount indictment. “She’s not guilty of the crimes named,” said attorney Scott Tilsen.
Federal prosecutors and FBI agents declined to comment on her alleged motive, but Shabazz’s mother, Betty Shabazz, spoke publicly in March of her belief that Farrakhan played a role in the killing of Malcolm X. Although Farrakhan wrote in the Nation’s newspaper prior to the assassination that “such a man is worthy of death,” he has denied involvement in the killing.
For decades, relations between the survivors of Malcolm X, who broke angrily with the Nation of Islam before he was gunned down, and Farrakhan have defined a hostile division in the American Black Muslim community.
U.S. Attorney David Lillehaugh said the suspected contract killer “is not, to my knowledge, a member of the Nation of Islam” and would testify during the trial.
The indictment charges Shabazz with making eight phone calls in July and August to Minnesota in connection with a death plot and with making a “partial payment” after she moved to Minneapolis from New York City in September.
Qubilah Shabazz was informed she was a suspect two weeks ago in his office, Tilsen said. She was released Thursday by a federal magistrate on a $10,000 uninsured bond and will be arraigned next week. If convicted, she faces up to 10 years in prison on each of nine counts and/or a $250,000 fine.
A documentary called “Brother Minister,” released last year, included footage of a 1993 Farrakhan speech. “Was Malcolm your traitor or was he ours?” Farrakhan asks, presumably addressing outsiders. “Ours,” the crowd shouts back. “And if we dealt with him like a nation deals with a traitor,” Farrakhan continues, “what the hell business is it of yours?”
Farrakhan’s “traitor” remarks referred to the excommunication of Malcolm X from the Nation of Islam after he disclosed that the religion’s leader, Elijah Muhammad, had fathered children by his secretaries.
On Feb. 21, 1965, the outcast Malcolm X was gunned down at the lectern of Harlem’s Audubon Auditorium. The three men convicted in his death were identified as former members of the Nation.
MEMO: See also sidebar which appeared with this story under headline “The death of Malcolm X”