What is the Nation of Islam?

Malcolm X, the civil rights leader who was assassinated in 1965, was back in the headlines this week after the Manhattan District Attorney’s (DA) Office said it is taking another look at his assassination, following a Netflix documentary that calls into question the outcome of the initial investigation.

A spokesman for the Manhattan DA, Cyrus Vance, confirmed to WPIX that the department is conducting a review of the Feb. 21, 1965, assassination.

Malcolm X was an outspoken leader in the civil rights movement, often portrayed as a more militant alternative to Martin Luther King, Jr.

He was a prominent figure in the Nation of Islam but parted ways with the group in early 1964, less than a year before his assassination.

A sermon of the Nation of Islam. 

A sermon of the Nation of Islam.  (Reuters)

So, what is the Nation of Islam?

The Nation of Islam is an African-American political and religious group founded in Detroit in 1930 by Wallace Fard Muhammad.

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Muhammad mysteriously vanished in 1934 and was succeeded by Elijah Muhammad, who led the Nation for the next 41 years. Among his most notable disciples were Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali.

With its message of black empowerment, the Nation grew to one of the wealthiest African-American organizations in the United States. At its peak, it claimed to have at least 250,000 members.

But the group is better known for its bizarre theology that holds Jews as “satanic” and prohibits race-mixing. The Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit that frequently targets conservative groups, has labeled the Nation a hate group.

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Following Elijah Muhammad’s death in 1975, his son Warith Deen Mohammed became the Nation’s new leader. Mohammed attempted to make the Nation more accessible to outsiders, but those efforts were thwarted by Louis Farrakhan, a protégé of Elijah Muhammad, who restored the group to its original message.

For more than 40 years, Farrakhan has stoked controversy for his incendiary remarks, particularly his attacks on Jews, whom he frequently refers to as “satanic.”