What is the Nation of Islam?
Posted: September 20, 2010
More than any other NOI leader, Louis Farrakhan has marked himself a notable figure on the extremist scene by making hateful statements targeting whites, Jews and homosexuals. Under his leadership, the NOI expanded in both size and influence, operating mosques in dozens of cities, as well as several businesses.
After nearly 30 years as leader on the NOI, however, Farrakhan ceded his leadership role in September 2006 due to illness. The NOI's Executive Board of Directors, a group of NOI officials, now controls the organization's day-to-day operations. In an open letter dated September 11, 2006, and posted on the NOI's Web site, Farrakhan said he began suffering pain similar to what he felt in 1998 when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. In it, he announced that he was "postponing indefinitely all engagements, meetings and appointments." On January 5, 2007, Farrakhan underwent a 12-hour abdominal operation to help correct damage done by the earlier procedure that he received to treat his prostate cancer.
Farrakhan came into public view in 1984, during Jesse Jackson's presidential campaign. Farrakhan endorsed Jackson's candidacy and encouraged his followers to do the same, ending NOI's policy of non-involvement in American politics. Farrakhan's participation in the campaign attracted a lot of attention, mostly concerning his anti-Semitic and racist statements. During this time he stated: "…the Jews don't like Farrakhan, so they call me Hitler. Well, that's a good name. Hitler was a very great man…" While Jackson condemned Farrakhan's remarks, he has since taken part in several NOI events.
Farrakhan's bigotry in the following years included statements calling whites "blue eyed devils" and Jews "bloodsuckers" that controlled the slave trade, the government, the media and various Black individuals and organizations.
Despite his long record of bigotry, Farrakhan and his organization have received a measure of legitimacy from prominent political and media figures by emphasizing activism towards African-American self-reliance and economic development. The NOI was particularly well-received by the mainstream African-American community in the period leading up to the 1995 Million Man March in Washington, DC. This popular reception of the NOI stressed the group's focus on Black self-reliance and minimized the group's well established record of racism.
While Farrakhan has toned down his rhetoric at times, especially during highly publicized events like the 1995 Million Man March and the Millions More Movement rally ten years later, he has not apologized for his past anti-Semitic and racist statements, nor has he completely abandoned his message of hate. For example, in 2006, he blamed Jews and Israel for the war in Iraq, for controlling Hollywood and for promoting what he considers immorality during his February Saviours' Day address in Chicago.
Farrakhan has also increasingly reached out to the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (NBPP), which since the late 1990s has become perhaps the largest racist and anti-Semitic Black militant group in America.