Betty Shabazz was remembered Friday by hundreds of shoeless mourners who prayed in Arabic and English in an Islamic rite three decades after her husband, Malcolm X, was laid to rest.
“Our sister Betty Shabazz died by burning. May Allah forgive the person who did that,” an imam, or Muslim prayer leader, told mourners at Manhattan’s Islamic Cultural Center during a pre-funeral service.
The prayers came over a loudspeaker from a room marked “For sisters only,” where hundreds of women, some with children, bowed in neat rows before a prayer rug on the wall. They wore multicolored dresses and head coverings with only their faces visible.
Following custom, women were separated from men. The mourners carried their shoes in plastic bags.
Shabazz, 61, died Monday, three weeks after suffering severe burns in a fire allegedly set in her suburban Yonkers apartment by her grandson, Malcolm, 12, who was named for his grandfather.
The boy remains in custody, charged in juvenile court with attempted murder, arson and other charges. The charges have not been upgraded since Shabazz’s death.
Mourners arriving at the East Side mosque walked past a large photograph of Shabazz, bordered with red flowers, at the entrance.
During the half-hour service, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani rose to call Shabazz “a great leader in New York City.”
“All seven million New Yorkers share with you this sense of loss,” Giuliani said. “Everybody in New York City is ennobled by Betty Shabazz.”
Former heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali, Giuliani, former Mayor David Dinkins, American Indian activist Russell Means and diplomats from Muslim countries attended.