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Farrakhan rekindles controversies about race, Jews, 9/11 in speech at Watergate Hotel

Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan speaks at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 16, 2017. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

WASHINGTON (RNS) — Before a crowded ballroom at the Watergate Hotel, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan called on President Trump to repent for what Farrakhan called America’s mistreatment of black people over the centuries.

“America is a great nation but America needs to reflect on her sins,” Farrakhan told a gaggle of reporters and hundreds of supporters who showed up Thursday (Nov. 16) for an event billed as “a major message” to the Trump administration.

For more than two hours, Farrakhan drifted from politics to religion – citing Christian and Muslim scriptures – and back. He combined condemnation of presidents past and present — though he was more supportive of former President Obama — with declarations of his continuing devotion to Elijah Muhammad, his predecessor as leader of the Nation of Islam.

“I am here from my teacher, not out of hate but out of hope that maybe what I say to this 45th president of the United States of America might have an effect to get him off the course that he is on,” Farrakhan said.

He suggested Trump forgo plans to confront North Korea.

“You will never get North Korea to give up what she has as a trump card – that’s over, Mr. Trump,” he said. “Can you live with North Korea with nuclear weapons? I think you’re going to have to, even though you have war plans already to knock out North Korea.”

The 84-year-old leader, his speech accented by images of former U.S. presidents and a poster of a Nation of Islam book about blacks and Jews, dove into all sorts of controversies – from slavery to the unhealthy water in Flint, Mich., to current reports of sexual harassment by national leaders and celebrities.

The Nation of Islam’s influence has waned since its heyday in the 1950s and ’60s, when the movement claimed to have half a million adherents. African-Americans were drawn to its message of self-sufficiency and piety that combined a mistrust of the white establishment and a call for black separatism. Its numbers are now thought to be much smaller.

Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan speaks at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 16, 2017. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

Farrakhan addressed the long-standing charge against him of anti-Semitism, which arose during his support for Jesse Jackson’s 1980s presidential campaign. He said he admires Jews and their contribution to civilization.

“There are righteous Jews, good Jews, Jews that want to practice the teachings of the prophets,” he said. “But then there are others who don’t wish to practice and it is they that hated Reverend Jackson’s desire to be president.”

He repeated his conspiracy theory that 9/11 was a setup.

“The country was so divided that what it needed was some event that could pull a divided country together,” he said of the time after the contested election between George W. Bush and Al Gore. “So here comes 9/11 and they said Muslims did it.”

And as for recent sexual harassment scandals, Farrakhan maintained all members of Congress might be guilty. And he quoted Allah’s words that are rendered in at least one English translation of the Quran as: “Did I not find you groping and show you the way?”

Farrakhan said it wasn’t “nice” for Trump to call protesting football players names for kneeling at games and said blacks were under attack in other ways.

“You’re under assault, black brothers and sisters,” he said. “Why is the sperm count in black men falling? Because of the food you eat and the water you drink. The lead in the water in Flint is not an accident.”

Farrakhan said he planned to contact Trump via mail and added, drawing laughter from the crowd, “I don’t go to White Houses.”

His speech came two years after he spoke in Washington at the “Justice or Else” rally in 2015 to mark the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March that brought hundreds of thousands of black men to the National Mall. The anniversary event brought together supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement along with Latino, Native American and Palestinian activists who urged better treatment – from opposing deportation to reducing mass incarceration.

About the author

Adelle M. Banks

Adelle M. Banks, production editor and a national reporter, joined RNS in 1995. An award-winning journalist, she previously was the religion reporter at the Orlando Sentinel and a reporter at The Providence Journal and newspapers in the upstate New York communities of Syracuse and Binghamton.

48 Comments

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  • I’m old enough to remember when Louis endorsed Obama for president in 2008. It always struck me as problematic.

  • “I am here from my teacher, not out of hate but out of hope that maybe what I say to this 45th president of the United States of America might have an effect to get him off the course that he is on,” Farrakhan said.”……..“There are righteous Jews, good Jews, Jews that want to practice the teachings of the prophets,” he said. “But then there are others who don’t wish to practice and it is they that hated Reverend Jackson’s desire to be president.”
    Which face is he speaking from?

    Quran (5:51) – “O you who believe! do not take the Jews and the Christians for friends; they are friends of each other; and whoever amongst you takes them for a friend, then surely he is one of them; surely Allah does not guide the unjust people.”
    Quran (9:30) – “And the Jews say: Ezra is the son of Allah; and the Christians say: The Messiah is the son of Allah; these are the words of their mouths; they imitate the saying of those who disbelieved before; may Allah destroy them; how they are turned away!”
    Or, does he not consider muhammad a prophet any longer?

  • A curious and colorful character to say the least. He seems to have mellowed somewhat in his old age, but he still fails to make a cohesive straightforward argument for a number of his assertions, he mirrors the present chief executive in that respect.

  • He is smart, but a bullshit artist for the most part. When AIDS was a predominant virus in the gay community, Farrakhan thought that it was God’s will, but when it became an epidemic in the Black Community, he said that AIDS was invented by the Jews (how convenient!). Not even (a) Jew, but “THE JEWS”.

    The Church teachings in Europe, for centuries, was that Jews were the “Christ Killers”, causing untold amounts of damage. Later, Jews were massacred by the millions because of Hitler’s superior race doctrine, claiming that Jews were an inferior semitic race that did not belong in Europe. Churches all over Europe did not demand that their Christians put a stop to this. Today, after Jews have built a tiny homeland and reclaimed their holiest City, Islamists are now claiming Jews to be a European invasion of Muslim/Arab land, while the banner of Islam flies over 99.9% of the Middle East land mass. You know where Farrakhan stands on this issue, while fully supporting 57 declared Muslim States at the United Nations, the largest voting bloc at the UN General Assembly. Does anyone have a balanced scale?

  • Have never read what made him choose to convert. He gave up music as a condition of converting – he was gifted – and his family was active in a church. Perhaps happenstance j(being invited by a fellow musician to hear Elijah speak juxtaposed with location whereas MLK Jr was based out of the south. .

  • It was very problematic for Farrakhan because he endorsed Obama who was politically opposite, in the sense that Farrakhan is against a women’s right to chose, he does not support equal civil and social rights for homosexuals, he does not support Israel’s right to exist, and Islam, political Islam, Islamic Sharia, and Islamism is a politically far-right as you can go. Farrakhan endorsed President Obama’s color or maybe he endorsed Obama to hurt him politically, but either way, it was politically dishonest. I voted for Obama for numerous reasons, twice, as did the popular American vote did, twice.

  • To all the Commentators “you still don’t get it”! Your conjecture want change the magnitude of his works or words. You have had a WARNER and MESSENGER in your presence, and you understand not. The message and warning has been giving, not out of hate, but from the heart of love. What Farrakhan represents is MERCY to you.

  • One thing not helping The Nation of Islam is the growth of Muslim populations in the US. Farrakhan’s black nationalist (largely parody of the faith) can be compared to the more mainstream versions of it.

    Malcolm X cited his haj to Mecca as his moment of epiphany to break with the Nation of Islam. Nowadays there is the mosque down the street.

  • How sad that someone had to come along and tarnish the good name of the Watergate..
    Farrakhan sounds like a mainstream strategic analyst on Korea, but like a conspiracy theorist on everything else. I so hope I’m one of the “good Jews” and would find favor in his eyes. Curious that he thinks the nation was so divided after Bush-Gore and needed the faked 9/11 to bring us together. Compared to now, the first eight months of 2001 were the glory days. Considering how badly our nation is divided today, what does he think would help, a fake alien invasion?

  • It wasn’t just Malcolm X. By 1975, the NOI’s leader, Warith Deen Muhammad, disbanded the organization and led many members to convert to traditional Islam. Were it not for Farrakhan reviving the NOI a few years later, it might not have existed today.

  • I think he saw an opportunity to get his two cents in and someone said, OK, we’ll print it. The man is divisive.

  • There is not war against black people. There is a war against humanity, poors and people who got no power. But bless Louis Farrakhan to speak the truth .

  • Farrakhan wants Trump to repent for America’s past? Trump is no more responsible for that than Obama is.

  • LOUIS FARRAKHAN: ” I don’t go to White Houses.”

    HPO: Were there Farrakhan’s ancestors in “White House Plantation”?

    WIKIPEDIA: “The earliest evidence of the public calling it the ‘White House’ was recorded in 1811. … There is speculation that the name of the traditional residence of the President of the United States may have derived from Martha Washington’s home, White House Plantation in Virginia”.

    (References: Seale, William (1992). The White House, The History of an American Idea. The American Institute of Architects Press. And K.W. Poore and Associates, Inc.; Earth Design Associates, Inc. (June 2, 2002). ‘New Kent County Comprehensive Plan’.)

  • Perhaps, but I think it more likely that the dynamism of his personality required an approach and process on a what appeared to him a faster track than whatever else was happening in terms of the advancement of African-Americans in the context of that time. King was a man of gravitas and gentility, Farrakhan of frenetic movement and thunder. Theologically, I wish he had remained on the Christian path.

  • Why shoot the messenger ? His message does resonate, the part about war and war mongering and yes Black people and their grievances.

  • I have had numerous arguments with anti-Zionists who claim that Ashkenazi Jews are from Europe and never lived in what is now Israel.

  • So if some of his message “resonates” we are supposed to excuse his antisemitism? I won’t do that. Yes, Black Americans have real grievances, but Jews did not cause them so attacking Jews will not solve these very real grievances.

  • Trump is responsible for the present. He thinks that “fine people” were at that Neo-Nazi march and White Supremacist march. He has appointed people that want to put in Voter ID laws that make it harder for Black people and poor people to vote.

  • Farrakhan is not speaking the truth. He is using antisemitic conspiracy theories to attack Jews. It won’t help Black or poor people, because they’re not true.

  • I take that personally and as a Jew, I see that all Jews have been warned or at least the 99% of Jews that are the “bad Jews.” So what will he try to do to us? He has been stirring up hate for a long time now. I he going to go beyond that. That’s Farrakhan’s idea of mercy.

  • The Quran contains positive and negative views on Jews. Muhammed at first thought he could convert Jews, but when they refused to convert he changed to hatred. Very much like Martin Luther did when Jews wouldn’t convert to his “new and improved Christianity.”

    Most people don’t realize that when Muhammed was preaching there were still Jews living on the Arabian peninsula. There are still a tiny number of Jews left in Yemen.

  • Jews are not a specific race (DNA is no longer scientific guesswork), they are a collective people who have maintained a culture, an ancient text, traditions, rituals, language, and have a historic homeland of identity.

    Using a balanced scale, before the Islamic invasions– Egyptians were not Arabs, nor did they speak Arabic. Syrians (Assyrians) were not Arabs, nor did they speak Arabic, Moroccans (Berbers) were not Arabs, nor did they speak Arabic, Iraqis (Assyrians, Turkmen, Shabakis, Yazidis, Armenians, Mandeans, Circassians, and Kawliya) were not Arabs not did they speak Arabic, Libya was not Arab, nor did they speak Arabic, the Sudan (tribal Africa) was not Arab, nor did they speak Arabic, Tunisia was not Arab, nor did they speak Arabic. Why are they all called Arab Countries, belong to the League of “Arab” Nations, and have to live under some form of Islamic Sharia, which is Arabian?

    Using a balanced scale, I would ask anti-Zionists if they are fine with the banner of Islam flying over 99.9% of the Middle East land mass? I would ask them why no non-Muslims are allowed to enter their holiest City of Mecca, and even a Christian Arab [cannot] gain citizenship in Arabia, the land of their ancestors?

  • “There are righteous Jews, good Jews, Jews that want to practice the teachings of the prophets,” – that does not sound to be blanket criticism of Jews ! Antisemitism is a pretty loaded term unfairly used against anyone who dare speak up for the oppressed Palestinians.

  • I never said Jews were a race. Race is a scientificly dubious concept. Jews are indeed from the Middle East originally. If you convert to Judaism you also become part of the Jewish people.

  • Farrakhan would include 99% of Jew among the “bad Jews.” He also believes classic antisemitic conspiracy theories that are fantasies.. That is antisemitic on its face. No antisemitism is not used against who speaks up for Palestinians. It is used against people who use classic antisemitic tropes and stereotypes in their criticism of Israel or if they think that Israel and/or Zionists are uniquely evil. That stereotype goes back to Medieval Christian Europe. So, why is Farrakhan using it? You apparantly think that Jews plot and conspire to stop criticism of Israel. They do not. No one calls anyone an antisemite unless they sincerely believe it.

  • The point is that anti-Zionists are using race to deny Jews a homeland in the Middle East.

    To your other point—Can anybody name a time in Europe when it was to your advantage to convert to Judaism?

  • Technically Trump was probably correct, although it was a politically obtuse thing to say.

    But that takes away from my point not one bit.

  • Sorry but your post did not show up in my e-mail, and I just came across it by accident. I actually agree with a number of points that Farrakhan teaches, but when he omits viable facts from his arguments, and posts racial bullshit, I have to call him on it. As an atheist, I am not emotionally attached to religious dogma, so I can easily see the bullshit coming from most clerics.

  • No Trump was not technically correct. There were not fine people on both sides. There are former Nazis and members of the KKK who have become fine people, but that’s not the same thing.

  • Good on you “as an atheist, … not [to get] emotionally attached to religious dogma”.

    Bad on you, nonetheless, “as an atheist, … [to get] emotionally attached to [non]religious dogma”. 6 dogmas of your own, in fact!

    According to Stephen LeDrew, an atheist himself (cf. The Evolution of Atheism: The Politics of a Modern Movement, Oxford University Press, 2016): Atheists do get emotionally attached to (1) “liberalism”, (2) ‘scientific rationality”, (3) “the legitimacy of the institutions and methodology of modern science”, (4) “the universalization of the ideology of scientism and the establishment of its cultural authority”, and (5) the “defense of the position of the white middle-class Western male, and of modernity itself”.

    Plus, according to CJ Werleman, an atheist himself (cf. The New Atheist Threat: The Dangerous Rise of Secular Extremists, Dangerous Little Books, 2016): Atheists do get emotionally attached to (6) “the beneficent U.S. secular state.”

  • I admire my Jewish brother or sister “who speaks up for Palestinians.”

    Can I please admire you for that reason?

  • I suppose what you think it means to speak up for Palestinians. I support a Palestiinian state and I oppose any abuses of power. If you think Zionists are evil racists then I’m not.

  • Palestine is a geographical location which has changed hands more than a Las Vegas gambler. Today, for example, Gaza is run by Hamas, an Islamist Organization. Can you name an Arab Country that supports Hamas or their methods?


    Egypt banned Hamas and branded it a terrorist organization.

    Jordan banned Hamas in 1999. In 2013, Jordan rejected requests to allow Hamas to return.

    Hamas and Lebanon’s Hezbollah disagree and are fighting with each other in Syria.

    Syria has called Hamas an uninvited guest.

    So my question to you is— In what specific manner would you like this Jewish sister to speak up for Palestines? Please be specific

  • Hypocritical activists say it would be better for peace if the West Bank- the biblical birthplace of David, Solomon, and Jesus- were free of Jews. Although, they could loose those ultra-Orthodox Jews and I would be fine with that. Mean while, 1.5 million Palestinian Arabs live in Israel proper as citizens on land that hypocritical activists say is ethnically cleansed. How would you balance that scale?

    Every last Jew was removed from Gaza 11 years ago to appease settlement critics, only to have Hamas rockets rain down on Israel within weeks. — Lesson learned!

  • You are posting the names of articles and books that were put out there to make money. Both atheists and believers do the same thing. A real atheist questions belief systems. Atheists are not necessarily part of a belief [system]. Muslims pray to God five times a day for favor and guidance. Do you disbelieve that Muhammad is the last messenger of God? Do you believe Jesus is the Son of God and allowed his only begotten son to be brutally murdered in that way? How did you get your evolution of belief or were you indoctrinated as a child?

  • Trump didn’t say everyone at the demonstration was a fine person. He said there some fine people there, and there likely were – people who weren’t racists, but still didn’t think confederate statues should be removed.

  • There wasn’t a single fine person marching with those Nazis. If you march with Nazis and the KKK, you are not a fine person. I’ve known former Nazis who bacame fine people when they gave up their hate, but they weren’t marching with Nazis and the KKK.

  • “people who weren’t racists, but still didn’t think confederate statues should be removed”

    No there weren’t. Not there, not then, not now.

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