Posted: March 10, 2006
We have come to expect that Louis Farrakhan, the anti-Semitic and racist leader of the Nation of Islam, will use any large gathering of his supporters to spread anti-Semitism, homophobia and racism.
Last month’s annual Saviours’ Day event was no exception. In a speech to thousands of supporters at the United Center in Chicago monitored by ADL, Minister Farrakhan was at it again, accusing “Hollywood Jews” and “wicked Jews, false Jews” of “promoting lesbianism, homosexuality” and other “filth” and charging that “your country has been taken from you by the synagogue of Satan.”
Minister Farrakhan was joined on the platform by Malik Zulu Shabazz, the virulently anti-Semitic leader of the New Black Panther Party. The anti-Semitic book, The Synagogue of Satan by Nation of Islam member Ashahed Muhammad was widely available at the event.
ADL immediately reacted by condemning Farrakhan’s remarks, calling him an “unrepentant bigot.”
Prior to the Saviours’ Day event, ADL received a disturbing invitation to it from Sister Claudette Marie Muhammad, Farrakhan’s Minister of Protocol and director of community outreach for the Nation of Islam. Sister Muhammad is a member of the Illinois Governor’s Commission on Discrimination and Hate Crimes, and she invited fellow members of the commission, including ADL, to attend Saviours’ Day.
ADL communicated its concerns about the invitation to Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s administration immediately upon receiving it. However, no action was taken. Following Farrakhan’s remarks on Saviours’ Day, ADL appealed unsuccessfully to Gov. Blagojevich to remove to remove Sister Muhammad. When it became clear that Sister Muhammad would not be removed, ADL Chicago Regional Director Lonnie Nasatir announced his resignation in protest of her invitation to Farrakhan’s speech and, more importantly, her failure to denounce Farrakhan’s anti-Semitic and homophobic rhetoric after the fact. Since Nasatir’s resignation, three other members of the panel – all Jewish – have tendered their resignations. In addition, a Jewish state representative appointed to fill ADL’s seat on the commission resigned one day after accepting the appointment. The Chicago Jewish Community Relations Council, an umbrella group of 46 organizations including ADL, subsequently passed a strong resolution supporting those who resigned from the commission.
To this day, it is unclear how Sister Claudette Muhammad was selected for membership on a panel whose members were tasked by the governor with fighting hate, not fostering it. The commission’s 25 members include representatives from government bodies and various groups, such as Blacks, gays, Muslims, Jews and others. But the fact of Muhammad’s membership on this commission made it clear that unless she was removed, ADL could no longer in good conscience serve.
Sister Claudette Muhammad has continued her refusal to denounce Farrakhan’s anti-Semitic and anti-gay rhetoric. And Farrakhan's chief of staff, Brother Leonard Muhammad, said on the radio this week that those who left the commission did so “out of confusion. You misunderstand what the commission is all about. Come back to the commission and debate your point,” he said, adding, ''They need to come back or shut up.”
The resignations have sent a strong message to the Governor and all involved that it was morally reprehensible and inappropriate for a Farrakhan loyalist to serve on a commission tasked with fighting bigotry and hate. Gov. Blagojevich has said he didn't realize he had appointed a Nation of Islam official until learning about it from news reports, and that he still supports Muhammad’s membership on the commission.
The controversy has led to commentaries and editorials exposing and denouncing Farrakhan’s hateful rhetoric, applauding ADL’s stand, and criticizing the Illinois governor for failing to take the only action that would have been appropriate and acceptable in this case. On March 9, the Chicago Tribune editorialized that the governor should, “… ask Muhammad publicly to renounce the anti-Semitic comments of Farrakhan – and ask her to leave the commission if she will not do so.”
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