LONDON (Oct. 4)
British Jewish leaders are welcoming their government’s announcement that it will seek new legal action to keep Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan out of Britain.
The government had banned Farrakhan from visiting the country since 1986, largely due to pressure from Jewish groups, but his lawyers succeeded in overturning the ban in London’s High Court this summer.
Home Secretary David Blunkett, who is responsible for domestic affairs, announced this week that he would seek permission to appeal the ruling. The right to appeal is not automatic in all British court cases.
Lord Janner, president of the Parliamentary Council Against Anti-Semitism, said he was “very pleased that the home secretary will immediately appeal. This decision was very sad and should be overturned.”
The Board of Deputies, the umbrella organization that represents most British Jews, also welcomed Blunkett’s announcement.
“We have always maintained that there should be no platforms for racists,” a Board spokeswoman told JTA.
“Farrakhan has never retracted nor apologized for his anti-Semitic statements, and further, his policy of racial segregation is completely contrary to the interfaith dialogues currently being conducted by the Board,” she added.
Blunkett said this week he was “frankly astonished at the judge’s decision. I continue to think that Mr. Farrakhan, were he to come here, would be a threat to public order.”
The judge explained in his earlier ruling that there was “a complete absence of racial, religious or ethnic tension between the black Muslim and Jewish communities” in the United Kingdom.
As well as citing Britain’s “long and cherished reputation for respect for the freedom of speech,” the judge said Farrakhan had “endevored to follow a path of reconciliation between Jews and black Muslims.”
The judge will soon decide if the government can appeal his decision.
If he refuses, Blunkett can petition the Court of Appeal for permission to continue the legal battle.
The Nation of Islam — a black nationalist movement that differs significantly from mainstream Islam — is estimated to have as many as 10,000 members and supporters in Britain.
It organized a Ten Thousand Man March in Britain in 1998, modeled on Farrakhan’s 1995 Million Man March in Washington.
The Jewish community has long had concerns about Farrakhan.
In 1984, he praised Hitler as “a very great man.”
In a separate speech that year, he said “The nation of Israel will never have any peace because there can never be any peace structured on injustice, thievery, lying and deceit and using the name of God to shield your dirty religion.”