The group involved in an hours-long standoff with State Police on Interstate 95 over the weekend have been identified as members of a Moorish sovereignty group called “Rise of the Moors,” which proclaims its members are original sovereigns of the land, and need not comply to the authority of state or federal governments of the United States.
Eleven men nevertheless face multiple firearms charges stemming from the incident, including unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition, and the use of body armor in commission of a crime, according to police.
Revs. Irene Monroe and Emmett G. Price III joined Boston Public Radio to explain the beliefs of Moorish sovereignty groups, which they say are tied to tenets of the Nation of Islam and the Moorish Science Temple of America, a Black religious organization dating to early 1900s.
“It’s that sort of Afro-centric, religious, non-Christian teaching,” said Monroe. “Their point of view is this: African Americans — or Africans here — were really Muslims. We had a Muslim identity taken away from us through slavery and racial segregation.”
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the modern Moorish sovereignty movement comprises multiple independent groups that emerged in the 1990s as “an offshoot of the anti-government sovereign citizens movement,” which believes individuals are independent of federal and state governments.
Some Moorish sovereigns are known to affiliate with the Moorish Science Temple of America, but not all chapters are linked to sovereign citizens, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The “Rise of the Moors,” which flies the Moroccan flag, does affiliate itself with the MSTA, according to the group’s website.
“This group, not necessarily the ‘Rise of the Moors’ in terms of this specific group, but these individuals and the zeitgeist around their thinking has been around for many generations,” said Price. “Whereas many people would perceive them as being idiotical and stupid and anti-intellectual, these folks are very clear on what they believe, they’re very clear on their religious mandate, and they’re very clear they come out of a tradition: There are Moorish temples in Washington D.C., Detroit, Chicago, Philadelphia.”
Monroe is a syndicated religion columnist, the Boston voice for Detour’s African American Heritage Trail and a visiting researcher in the Religion and Conflict Transformation Program at Boston University School of Theology. Price is the founding pastor of Community of Love Christian Fellowship in Allston.
. Together they host the All Rev’d Up podcast, produced by GBH.
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