Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Anti-Jewish Tone Taints Black Leader's Message Louis Farrakhan Softens His Words but Continues to Use Racial Slurs

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Anti-Jewish Tone Taints Black Leader's Message Louis Farrakhan Softens His Words but Continues to Use Racial Slurs

Article excerpt

WHEN blacks and Jews in the United States discuss Louis Farrakhan, they seem almost to be describing two different men.

To many African-Americans, the leader of the Nation of Islam is a galvanizing champion of black pride, self-empowerment, and bootstrap capitalism. The Chicago-based movement he heads is, in their view, a model of hard work and good works, dedicated to rescuing blacks in America's inner cities.

But in the eyes of many Jews, Mr. Farrakhan is, in a frequently used phrase, "a classic anti-Semite," a spreader of bigotry and hate against whites and, particularly, against world Jewry.

"Farrakhan definitely is anti-Jewish," says Sylvia Neil, executive director of the American Jewish Congress's Midwest regional office in Chicago.

"He mixes black nationalism and an admirable emphasis on African-Americans' cultural roots with racial demagoguery that taints his whole message. He pushes the buttons of rage and hatred," Ms. Neil says.

Farrakhan's rhetoric and that of some of his followers is replete with references to Jews, generally unflattering, even coarse. In 1984, Farrakhan called Judaism "a gutter religion," and in many speeches and interviews he discusses such themes as Jews' allegedly dominant roles in the American slave trade, in international finance, and in Hollywood and the media. Anti-Jewish ad

Last November, Khalid Abdul Muhammad, then the Nation of Islam's national spokesman, gave a speech at Kean College in Union, N.J. According to a full-page ad in the New York Times placed by the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, Mr. Muhammad cast slurs upon Jews, other whites, homosexuals, and the pope.

After the ad drew criticism from black leaders as well as Jewish organizations, Farrakhan demoted his lieutenant and called the speech "vile in manner, repugnant, malicious, mean-spirited...." But he said, "I stand by the truths that he spoke...."

Despite his seeming fixation on Jews, Farrakhan has repeatedly denied that the Nation of Islam is anti-Jewish - most recently in a speech delivered March 28 at Kean College, the same school where Mr. Muhammad lit the fuse in the latest flare-up of black-Jewish tension. Even his disavowals of prejudice often are barbed, however.

Speaking in New York City in December, Farrakhan said, "I'm neither a racist nor an anti-Semite. But if I point out your evil with truth, then call me a preacher of truth." And in his Kean College address, according to press accounts, he sounded many of his recurring Jewish-centered themes, albeit in temperate language.

The March 28 speech illustrates why it is hard to pin down what Farrakhan is all about. While some of his statements, as well as those by followers in the Nation of Islam and other allies in the black-nationalism movement, ring offensively in the ears of many people - not just Jews - those incendiary statements do not make up the bulk of his rhetoric.

Throughout much of the speech, reports said, Farrakhan called on young black men to improve themselves and to resist the lures of drugs and violence.

Messages like this, often delivered with spellbinding oratory, together with the Nation of Islam's work with addicts and the poor in black ghettos, enable many African-Americans to overlook or at least discount the words that observers like Neil call "the buttons of rage and hatred."

By some observers' estimates, Farrakhan has eclipsed the Rev. …

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