NEW YORK (Oct. 3)
Mayor Edward Koch today led a coalition of political, Jewish and Black leaders in denouncing the bigotry and anti-Semitism preached by the Rev. Louis Farrakhan, head of the Chicago-based Nation of Islam. Farrakhan will speak at Madison Square Garden here October 7.
Farrakhan is expected to draw a huge audience to the Garden, and his scheduled appearance has caused widespread concern within the Jewish community and discussion on how best to handle it. Last month, Farrakhan drew more than 15,000 persons to the Forum in Los Angeles where he outlined proposals for Black economic development, and attacked Jews and Israel.
Koch, at a news conference outside the Garden, denounced Farrakhan and compared his preachings to that of Hitler in the 1920’s when Hitler talked of German economic development after World War I. Farrakhan, Koch said, “is using economic issues just as Adolf Hitler did to vent his anti-Semitism. “
The Mayor urged that those who oppose Farrakhan should stay away from the Garden and not stage protest demonstrations. “Why should we allow him that notoriety … that satisfaction,” Koch said. But he urged that people denounce Farrakhan and “exercise their right to free speech” just as Farrakhan will use his right to speak at the Garden.
FARRAKHAN LINKED TO KKK
The news conference today came on the heels of reports linking Farrakhan with the former head of the Ku Klux Klan in California, Thomas Metzger, who said he headed a “white nationalist” delegation that attended Farrakhan’s speech at the Forum in Los Angeles. Metzger said he and his delegation contributed $100 to support the Muslim cause.
Metzger told reporters that he had met with Farrakhan in the past and that his group, the White People’s Political Association, has shared “intelligence” about “extremist Jewish organizations. ” Metzger told one reporter that he provided information about the activities of the Jewish Defense Organization and the Jewish Defense League.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center of Los Angeles condemned the growing ties between Metzger and Farrakhan.
“Louis Farrakhan apparently thinks so little of his own people and their history of suffering from racism and bigotry that he is prepared to form an alliance with the former grand dragon of the California Knights of the Ku Klux Klan,” said Marvin Hier, dean of the Wiesenthal Center.
Hier told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency today that Metzger has been invited to attend the New York rally next Monday evening. According to Hier, citing information obtained through law enforcement agencies in California, Metzger has received a personal invitation from Farrakhan to attend the New York rally and to later meet with Farrakhan’s aides.
An official of the Nation of Islam who was at the news conference here today denied reports of past meetings between Farrakhan and Metzger. However, Abdul Walid Muhammad, editor of the Final Call, a publication of the Muslim group, confirmed reports that the group had accepted a donation of $100 from Metzger.
Muhammad, speaking to a group of reporters after the news conference, denied accusations leveled by many Black, Jewish and political officials that Farrakhan preached a message of violence and hatred, and that he is anti-Semitic. He accused Jews of pressuring Blacks to denounce Farrakhan’s message of “truth.”
A MORAL IMPERATIVE TO SPEAK OUT
The news conference was sponsored by the Coalition of Conscience, an ad hoc group comprised of religious, ethnic and government leaders, who, according to Malcolm Hoenlein, the Coalition’s acting secretary, felt there was a moral imperative to speak out against Farrakhan’s racist and anti-Semitic preachings.
Hoenlein, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, said the Coalition gave consideration against “enhancing” Farrakhan’s position, but felt that remaining silent would not diminish press coverage of Farrakhan’s appearance or the intensity of his “venomous attacks. Racism, bigotry, and prejudice regardless of the source must be recognized and addressed force fully and forthrightly, ” said Hoenlein.
Among those denouncing Farrakhan at the news conference was Governor Mario Cuomo, who said in a statement read to reporters that Farrakhan’s “loose, irresponsible and dangerous talk” must be condemned. “Racism and bigotry are evil, no matter who utters them” Cuomo said.
Among others who denounced Farrakhan were: Sens. Daniel Moynihan (D. N.Y.) and Alfonse D’Amato (R. N.Y.); Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith; Union of American Hebrew Congregations; Central Conference of American Rabbis; Rabbinical Council of America; Jewish War Veterans, U.S.A.; United Methodist Church; and Freedom House. Numerous local political officials were present at the news conference as a sign of solidarity with the Coalition’s aims.