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Louis Farrakhan

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Louis Farrakhan

Louis Farrakhan (born May 11, 1933 in Bronx, New York) is the highly controversial leader of the largely African American Nation of Islam.

In 1955, Louis Walcott, the then up-and-coming calypso singer and violinist, first came in contact with the teachings of the Nation of Islam after being inspired by Malcolm X and accepting a friend's invitation to attend the Nation of Islam's annual Saviours' Day address by Elijah Muhammad in Chicago. Walcott accepted Elijah Muhammad's teachings that day and became "Louis X" later to be renamed Louis Farrakhan by Elijah Muhammad. Nation of Islam doctrine explains that because in mathematics the 'X' represents an unknown variable, followers use it to represent their lost, unknown African surnames. The followers accept this 'X' as a symbol of the rejection of their slave names and the absence of a "proper" Muslim name. Eventually, the 'X' is replaced with an Arabic name more descriptive of a person's personality and character.

After joining the Nation of Islam, Farrakhan quickly rose through the ranks to become Minister of the Nation of Islam's Boston Mosque. He was appointed Minister of the influential Harlem Mosque from 1965 to 1975.

After Elijah Muhammad's son, Warith Deen Mohammad, was installed as Supreme Minister of the Nation of Islam he disavowed many of his father's beliefs and practices. He brought the group closer to mainstream Islam and renamed the organization as the Muslim American Society.

By 1976 Farrakhan became disillusioned with Warith Deen Mohammad's leadership and quietly walked away from the movement.

In 1978 Farrakhan, with a few supporters, decided to rebuild the Nation of Islam. In 1981, he publicly announced the restoration of the Nation of Islam as an organization that followed Elijah Muhammad's teachings.

On January 12, 1995 Malcolm X's daughter, Qubilah Shabazz, was arrested for conspiring to kill Farrakhan. It was later alleged that the FBI had used a paid informant, Michael Fitzpatrick, to set up Shabazz. After Shabazz's arrest, Farrakhan held a press conference in Chicago in which he accused the FBI of attempting to exacerbate division and conflict between the Nation of Islam and the family of Malcolm X. Nearly four months later, on May 1, U.S. government prosecutors dropped their case against Shabazz.

On May 6, 1995, a packed public meeting in Harlem, New York termed A New Beginning featured Louis Farrakhan and Malcolm X's widow, Betty Shabazz. Originally organized by community activists as a fund raiser for Qubilah Shabazz's legal defense, the meeting marked the first public rapprochement between Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam and the Shabazz family.

On October 16, 1995 Farrakhan convened a broad coalition of black men in what many say was the largest march in American history, the Million Man March.

The calming of Farrakhan's fiery rhetoric in recent years possibly signals a change of direction in the Nation of Islam.

Louis Farrakhan is currently the leader of the Nation of Islam and lives in Chicago, Illinois at the former home of Elijah Muhammad.

Farrakhan, along with Malik Zulu Shabazz, leader of the New Black Panther Party, Al Sharpton, Barack Obama and other prominent African-Americans are planning to mark the 10th anniversary of the Million Man March by holding a second march, the Millions More Movement on October 14, 2005 through October 17, 2005, in Washington.

Controversy

One of the most controversial quotes attributed to Farrakhan, and which led to him being censured unaminously by the United States Senate, was, "Hitler was a very great man." Farrakhan made this statement in response to a Jewish journalist at the Village Voice referring to him as a "Black Hitler":

"So I said to the members of the press, 'Why won't you go and look into what we are saying about the threats on Reverend Jackson's life?' Here the Jews don't like Farrakhan and so they call me 'Hitler.' Well that's a good name. Hitler was a very great man. He wasn't great for me as a Black man but he was a great German and he rose Germany up from the ashes of her defeat by the united force of all of Europe and America after the first world war. Yet Hitler took Germany from the ashes and rose her up and made her the greatest fighting machine of the twentieth century, brothers and sisters, and even though Europe and America had deciphered the code that Hitler was using to speak to his chiefs of staff, they still had trouble defeating Hitler even after knowing his plans in advance. Now I'm not proud of Hitler's evil toward Jewish people, but that's a matter of record. He rose Germany up from nothing. Well, in a sense you could say there is a similarity in that we are rising our people up from nothing, but don't compare me with your wicked killers."

In 1998, former Wall Street Journal editor Jude Wanniski attempted to foster dialogue between Farrakhan and those who had labeled him anti-semitic. He arranged for Farrakhan to be interviewed by reporter Jeffrey Goldberg who had written for the Jewish weekly, The Forward and the New York Times. Since the extensive interview was never published in either publication, Wanniski decided to post the transcript on his website in the context of a memo of Senator Joseph Lieberman. The following are links to the interview, parts one, two and three:


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