Malcolm Lateef Shabazz (born 1984 in Paris) is the son of Qubilah Shabazz, the second daughter of Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz. His father is an Algerian Muslim whom Qubilah Shabazz met in Paris. He is the first male descendant of Malcolm X. In 1997, when he was 12 years old, Shabazz set a fire that caused the death of his grandmother, Betty Shabazz.
According to Shabazz, he has never met his father. Other sources say Shabazz knew his father, but they had little contact with one another.
When Shabazz was a few months old, he and his mother moved to Los Angeles. A little while later, they went to New York City and then Philadelphia. One landlord there remembered frequently having to let young Shabazz into the apartment because his mother was not at home. Shabazz showed some evidence of disturbance as a child. As a three-year-old, he reportedly set fire to his shoes. He brought a knife to school in the third grade. About the same time, he suffered from delusions and was hospitalized for a short time.
During the early 1990s, Shabazz often stayed with his grandmother, Betty Shabazz, and his aunts in New York, while Qubilah Shabazz lived with various friends. In 1994, Shabazz moved with his mother to Minneapolis. She was being drawn into a plot to assassinate Louis Farrakhan by an FBI informant, Michael Fitzpatrick. Shabazz saw in Fitzpatrick the father figure he had never known, calling him "my dad". In January 1995, Qubilah Shabazz was charged with trying to hire an assassin to kill Farrakhan. She accepted a plea agreement with respect to the charges, in which she maintained her innocence but accepted responsibility for her actions. Under the terms of the agreement, she was required to undergo psychological counseling and treatment for drug and alcohol abuse for a two-year period in order to avoid a prison sentence. For the duration of her treatment, Malcolm Shabazz, then ten years old, was sent to live with Betty Shabazz at her apartment in Yonkers, New York.
Shabazz visited his mother in December 1996 in San Antonio, where she was undergoing treatment. Qubilah Shabazz had married, and Shabazz quickly bonded with his stepfather. But the marriage soon ended, and Shabazz and his mother began to fight, sometimes physically. On February 26, she called the police and said she wanted him committed to a mental hospital. After a brief stay, Shabazz was released. In April, he called the police and reported that they had been in a fight. His mother said she was going to place him in foster care. On April 26, Shabazz was sent back to New York to live with his grandmother.
On June 1, 1997, Shabazz, then twelve years of age, started a fire in Betty Shabazz's apartment. She suffered burns over 80 percent of her body. Shabazz was found by police, wandering the streets barefoot and reeking of gasoline. Betty Shabazz died of her injuries on June 23, 1997. At a hearing, experts described Shabazz as psychotic and schizophrenic. He was also described as "brilliant but disturbed." He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 18 months in juvenile detention for manslaughter and arson, with possible annual extensions until his 18th birthday.
Shabazz was released after four years. In a 2003 interview with The New York Times, Shabazz, then aged 18, gave his version of the fire and the events leading up to it. He explained that he had been unhappy living in New York with his grandmother, and had started: "being bad, doing anything to get them to send me back to my mother. And nothing's working. Then I got the idea to set the fire." Expressing remorse for the event, Shabazz continued:
I set a fire in the hallway, and I didn't think the whole thing through thoroughly, but she didn't have to run through that fire ... There was another way out of the house from her room. I guess what she thought was I was stuck, and she had to run and get me because it was in front of my room as well. She ran through the fire. I did not picture that happening, that she would do that.
In the same interview, Shabazz also dismissed the diagnosis of the child psychiatrist at his trial that he was a paranoid schizophrenic, saying that he had only "made up" a story about hearing voices in his childhood "to get attention."
Following his release, Shabazz lived for a time with his aunt, Ilyasah Shabazz. He was arrested in 2002 for stealing $100. He pleaded guilty to attempted robbery, and was sentenced to three and a half years in prison. Shabazz was arrested again in 2006, months after his release from prison, for punching a hole in a store's plate glass window.
Shabazz is the father of a girl, named Ilyasah, who was born in March 2007. In 2010, he made the Hajj to Mecca. As of 2011, he is working on his memoirs and attending John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
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“Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible. He is a kind of confidence man, preying on peoples vanity, ignorance, or loneliness, gaining their trust and betraying them without remorse.”
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