WASHINGTON (Feb. 3)
Outrage and revulsion rippled through the American Jewish community this week when the controversial Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam refused to distance himself from anti-Semitic remarks made by a top aide.
At a news conference Thursday, Farrakhan announced he was dismissing the aide, Khalid Abdul Muhammad, not for the message but for the manner in which it had been delivered.
Farrakhan also strongly attacked the Anti-Defamation League, which had publicized the remarks of the aide Muhammad.
“Louis Farrakhan’s words at his press conference today spoke for themselves. It was classic anti-Semitism,” ADL National Chairman Melvin Salberg and National Director Abraham Foxman said in a statement.
David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee, said his organization was “repulsed by Louis Farrakhan’s comments today. It is the same old bone-chilling hate delivered with a smile.”
And Henry Siegman, executive director of the American Jewish Congress, said that “Farrakhan not only reaffirmed the essential validity of what Muhammad said but repeated for the television audience and the press the distortion of Jewish history which has become the stock weapon in his anti-Semitic arsenal.”
Amid heavy security at a downtown hotel here, Farrakhan said he considered Muhammad’s speech to be “vile in manner, repugnant, malicious, mean-spirited and spoken in mockery of individuals and people, which is against the spirit of Islam.
“While I stand by the truths that he spoke, I must condemn in the strongest terms the manner in which those truths were represented,” Farrakhan said.
PROVES MESSAGE IS INHERENTLY RACIST
“I have warned my brother Khalid several times about his manner of representing the truth,” Farrakhan said.
The National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council said, “By deliberately choosing to ignore that his aide’s speech was quintessentially racist, anti-Semitic, anti-Catholic and homophobic, Minister Farrakhan proves that his own message is inherently racist.”
The council said it was “deeply dismayed that Mr. Farrakhan continues to disregard the obligation to denounce bigotry, racism and anti-Semitism wherever they exist in our society.”
The contents of the speech were widely publicized by ADL in a full-page advertisement in the New York Times on Jan. 16.
In his remarks, Farrakhan ripped into the ADL, calling it “anti-black and even anti-American.”
Farrakhan charged that the ADL aimed “to destroy the reputation and character of Louis Farrakhan in the eyes of the world, and to ultimately destroy the Nation of Islam.”
In a telephone interview Thursday, Foxman called the news conference “a performance by a master of hate.”
Farrakhan’s words, Foxman said, were “doubletalk, doublethink, acrobatics and semantics.”
“He did not reject the message, he did not reject the messenger,” but he rejected “the delivery,” Foxman said of Farrakhan’s comments on Muhammad’s speech.
Farrakhan had been under growing pressure to distance himself from Muhammad’s comments, which were made Nov. 29 at Kean College in New Jersey.
In the speech, Muhammad said that Jews were “sucking our blood in the black community,” that Jews controlled the White House, the media and the Federal Reserve, and that they brought the Holocaust on themselves.
The speech also included remarks seen as anti-Catholic and anti-white.
Farrakhan said Muhammad had been invited to the college to discuss the controversial Nation of Islam book “The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews.”
SENATE CONDEMUS AIDE’S SPEECH
In the course of the news conference, Farrakhan offered a spirited defense of the book, saying he agreed with “the truth of this book.”
The book includes a discussion of the alleged Jewish role in the slave trade.
On Wednesday, Rep. Kweisi Mfume (D-Md.), the head of the Congressional Black Caucus, said at a news conference that the caucus was distancing itself from a previously announced “sacred covenant” with the Nation of Islam.
“It is clear that the Congressional Black Caucus’ ability to work for change with the Nation of Islam (is) severely jeopardized as long as there remains a question by some of our membership about the Nation of Islam’s sensitivity to the right of all people and all religions to be free from attacks, vilification and defamation,” Mfume said.
Also Wednesday, the Senate, by a vote of 97-0, passed a resolution sponsored by Sens. John Danforth (R-Mo.) and Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) condemning Muhammad’s speech.
Farrakhan’s remarks were punctuated by applause and shouts of approval from the crowd, which apparently included a number of supporters in addition to members of the media.
In his remarks, Farrakhan criticized what he called “an internal and secret document put out by the civil rights division of the Anti-Defamation League” that dealt with Farrakhan.
He said ADL had “a history of spying not only on black leaders but all those leaders and organizations that have popular support, black, white, Arab, and even other Jews.”
He charged that ADL “seeks total control of the Jewish people, many of whom would have dialogued with us if it were not for the wicked aim and purpose of the ADL and its leadership.”
Farrakhan also responded to Vice President Al Gore’s criticism of Muhammad’s speech, saying it showed “possible collusion between the ADL and the United States government.”
Farrakhan said Muhammad was remaining in the Nation of Islam and had accepted his discipline.