Moorish Orthodox Church of America

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Moorish Orthodox Church of America
Winged Circle 7 of the Moorish Orthodox Church.jpg
Moorish Orthodox symbol authorized by the Moorish League
Founder Walid El Taha Hakim Bey G El Fatah
Independence 1964
Recognition Ismaili Islam Moorish Science Temple of America Oriental Orthodoxy Universal Sufism
Primate Hakim Bey
Headquarters Montclair, New Jersey
Territory North America
Possessions United States of America, Great Britain, Western Europe, South America, Australia, New Zealand
Language English, Persian, Moroccan Arabic
Members 9,000
Bishops Sotemohk A. Beeyayelel Mikhail Itkin
Priests Every Man and Woman
Parishes Khalwat-i-Khidr hermitage Dallas, TX

The Moorish Orthodox Church of America is a syncretic religious body espousing an ostensibly Eastern Christian liturgical and devotional tradition laid over a theology consisting of teachings gleaned from Ismaili Islam, Sufism (particularly from the Chishti, Bektashi and Oveyssi traditions), tantra (of both the Buddhist and Hindu variations) and Vedanta teachings.

An outgrowth of the Moorish Science Temple of America, an African American body of heretical Muslims founded in the early 20th century by Timothy Drew (the Prophet Noble Drew Ali), the Moorish Orthodox Church was founded in 1962 by Warren Tartaglia,[1] beatniks and members of the Noble Order of Moorish Sufis (a group that grew out of Temple #13 in Baltimore on July 7, 1957). The MOC published a journal entitled the Moorish Science Monitor from 1965-1967. After a long period of quiescence the Church experienced a renaissance in the mid-1980s owing to the involvement of former members of the beat/beatnik movement, the countercultural hippie community and the gay liberation movement.


The Church went through a dim period during the 1970s and the 1980s, membership slumped to only a handful of members. In 1991 a sudden burst of energy came back into the Moorish Orthodox Church due to a new group of artists, musicians, rocket scientists, cybermeticists, as well as spa-loving freaks. The leaders of this new current was (and still are) an engineer named Yehoodi El and a black fez wearing, pistol toting Chaote named Mustafa al-Layla, they along with a few nameless others gave new untapped dimensions, as well as new life into the movement. They started the Khalwat-i-Khidr lodge, revamped the Moorish Science Monitor, (thanks to Thom Metzger) a Texas radio show, and social media, as well as word of mouth that spread like wildfire overflowing into different scenes such as Chaos Magic, Punk, Rave, Thelema, as well as other non-conformist misfits seeking a spiritual tradition with an anarchist ethos.

The Khalwat-i-Khidr lodge became an official Temple of the M.O.C.A in 1995.

Lineage of authenticity[edit]

The silsilah (lineage of authenticity) of the Moorish Orthodox Church in America can be traced through Rofelt Pasha, John G. Jones, Marcus Garvey, Noble Drew Ali, Brother Prophet John Givens El, Timothy Dingle El, Sultan Rafi Sharif Bey Shah, Rachel Yaqoubi El, Walid al-Taha (aka Warren Tartaglia), Hakim Bey, Sotemohk A. Beeyayelel, Yehoodi El, and Mustafa al-Layla. Rofelt Pasha is the reputed founder of the Ancient Egyptian Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine (AEAONMS), an African-American version of the Shriners that grew out of Prince Hall Freemasonry.

New Jersey Branch[edit]

Moorish Orthodoxy in New Jersey was influenced in a Christian direction by a number of episcopi vagantes numbering among them the gay activist Archbishop of San Francisco, Metropolitan-Archbishop Mikhail Itkin (today canonized a saint of Moorish Orthodoxy with the appellation Saint Mikhail of California).

In the late 1990s, the Moorish Orthodox Church's Diocese of New Jersey, under the leadership of Bishop Sotemohk A. Beeyayelel, established its primatial see in the abandoned southern village of Ong's Hat, New Jersey (today known as Pemberton, New Jersey; its administration is centered in Montclair, New Jersey) and returned to at least a veneer of conventional Orthodox Christianity, though retaining its distinctive liturgical and devotional life and maintaining a special mission of outreach to the marginalized, particularly the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities. Bishop Sotemohk has been particularly receptive to the influences of the Bektashi and Oveyssi Sufi orders as well as the Queer Spirit and Radical Faerie movements and has sought to promote the church's activity in the areas of educational and social reform.

In August 2010, the Moorish Orthodox Diocese of New Jersey became the primatial see of the Church in North and South America and transferred its chancery to Benzdorp, Surinam, and thereafter to be known Moorish Orthodox Jurisdiction of North and South America and Bishop Sotemohk was invested as Primate under the name Mar Sotemohk Lingamananda I. The functions of the denomination's educational facilities, Alamut College and its graduate school (the Hakim Bey Theological College) are planned to be transferred to Church facilities in Kentucky and Florida.

Notable members[edit]

Temple locations[edit]

Recently, the Church has become active in domestic and foreign missionary pursuits, and has established missions in Worcester, MA; Elmwood, MA; Rochester, NY; Wilmore, KY; Sebago Lake, ME; Asbury Park, NJ; and Sioux Falls, SD (USA), Kokstad, South Africa; Edinburgh, Scotland; Bata, Equatorial Guinea; Malabo, Equatorial Guinea; Occusi-Ambeno, East Timor; Prague, Czech Republic and Nieuw Nickerie and Nieuw Utrecht, Surinam.


  1. ^ Patrick D. Bowen (17 August 2015). A History of Conversion to Islam in the United States, Volume 1: White American Muslims before 1975. BRILL. p. 320. ISBN 978-90-04-30069-9. Then, in 1962 one of the Baltimore group's young members, Warren Tartaglia, left the city to attend New York University, where he introduced the organization to Manhattan's white hipsters, including the man who would become one of the US' most influential non-orthodox Muslims: Peter Lamborn Wilson (Hakim Bey). The New York Group, which was named the Moorish Orthodox Church, would soon adapter other elements of Sufism... 

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