Louis Farrakhan heads the Nation of Islam, a group he has led since 1977 and that is based on a somewhat bizarre and fundamentally anti-white theology. Farrakhan is an anti-Semite who routinely accuses Jews of manipulating the U.S. government and controlling the levers of world power. Farrakhan blames Jews for the slave trade, plantation slavery, Jim Crow, sharecropping and general black oppression. Farrakhan's tone grew more belligerent in June 2010, when he sent letters to several leaders of the Jewish community as well as the Southern Poverty Law Center demanding that they realize the evils they have perpetrated and that they work to further Farrakhan's goals. The letter ended with a threat to "ruin and destroy your power and influence here and throughout the world" if his terms were not met.
In His Own Words
"The Jews, a small handful, control the movement of this great nation, like a radar controls the movement of a great ship in the waters … the Jews got a stranglehold on the Congress."
— Louis Farrakhan, Saviour's Day speech, Chicago, Feb. 25, 1990
"And you do with me as is written, but remember that I have warned you that Allah will punish you. You are wicked deceivers of the American people. You have sucked their blood. You are not real Jews, those of you that are not real Jews. You are the synagogue of Satan, and you have wrapped your tentacles around the U.S. government, and you are deceiving and sending this nation to hell. But I warn you in the name of Allah, you would be wise to leave me alone. But if you choose to crucify me, know that Allah will crucify you."
— Louis Farrakhan, Saviour's Day speech, Chicago, Feb. 25, 1996
"And the Christian right, with your blindness to that wicked state of Israel … can that be the holy land, and you have gay parades, and want to permit to have a gay parade in Jerusalem when no prophet ever sanctioned that behavior. How can that be the Israel, how can that be Jerusalem with secular people running the holy land when it should be the holy people running the holy land. That land is gonna be cleansed with blood!"
— Louis Farrakhan, Saviour's Day speech, Chicago, Feb. 26, 2006
"We can now present to our people and the world a true, undeniable record of the relationship between Blacks and Jews from their own mouths and pens. These scholars, Rabbis and historians [that Nation of Islam researchers studied] have given to us an undeniable record of Jewish anti-Black behavior, starting with the horror of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, plantation slavery, Jim Crow, sharecropping, the labor movement of the North and South, the unions and the misuse of our people that continues to this very moment."
— Letter sent by Louis Farrakahn to Jewish leaders and the Southern Poverty Law Center, June 24, 2010.
Minister Louis Abdul-Haleem Farrakhan Muhammad Sr., better known simply as Louis Farrakhan, was born Louis Eugene Walcott on May 11, 1933, in New York City. Farrakhan was a talented high school student, but he dropped out of college in the summer of 1953 to take care of his wife during a difficult pregnancy. Up to that point, Farrakhan had a music career he began in his teens when he played violin in Boston-area symphonies. Later, Farrakhan recorded several calypso albums under the name "The Charmer" and also performed live as a cabaret singer and dancer.
Farrakhan's singing career was left behind after he heard Elijah Muhammad, the leader of the Nation of Islam (NOI), speak in Chicago in February 1955. Soon after, he became a member of Temple #7 in Harlem, where Malcolm X was in charge. Farrakhan rose quickly within the NOI, and became the minister of Temple #11 in Boston in 1957.
The Nation of Islam has a black separatist agenda: Its program states that blacks should be able to form their own nation. It also holds that blacks should be made exempt from taxation until they have achieved equal justice under the law and that interracial marriage and "race mixing" should be "prohibited." These views are based on religious precepts created by Elijah Muhammad and preached by Farrakhan.
Ideologically, the NOI is very distinct from mainstream Islam. Its "theology" – or more appropriately, its mythology – holds that the original humans were black, and that God, who is a black man, created them. White people were not created by God but by the evil black scientist Yakub. Yakub used eugenics to create white people, killing many black babies to do so. Because of the process by which Yakub created the white race, white people are inherently deceitful and murderous. Given these views, it is not surprising that white people are banned from the NOI.
There are additional exotic aspects to the NOI's ideology, including a belief in UFOs. Farrakhan has written on the topic. In The Divine Destruction of America: Can She Avoid It?, Farrakhan refers to UFOs as "mother wheels." His book claims they were very expensive to create and were built in Japan by the "Original scientists." On March 30, 2011, Farrakhan warned that recent uprisings in the Arab world coupled with the tsunami in Japan signified that the divine spaceships waiting to avenge black suffering would soon arrive, adding that "Brother Barack's" decision to back the rebels opposing Libyan dictator Moammar Qaddafi, whom Farrakhan considers a personal friend and ally, would serve to hasten the UFOs' arrival.
When Malcolm X left the NOI to become a Sunni Muslim in March 1964, NOI leaders vigorously condemned him. In December 1964, Farrakhan wrote in the NOI publication Muhammad Speaks: "the die is set, and Malcolm shall not escape, especially after such evil foolish talk about his benefactor, Elijah Muhammad. Such a man as Malcolm is worthy of death, and would have met with death if it had not been for Muhammad's confidence in Allah for victory over the enemies." Two months later, NOI members assassinated Malcolm X; the role, if any, of the NOI leadership in planning the murders remains undetermined. However, the violent tone with which Farrakhan and other NOI leaders condemned Malcolm X may have encouraged his assassins to murder him.
Three months after Malcolm X's death, Farrakhan became the minister of Temple #7 in New York. In 1967, he became the "national spokesman" of the NOI. Farrakhan's history of public anti-Semitism began during his tenure as spokesman. In April 1972, he claimed that Jews were "in control of the media." In May 1972, he blamed Jews for what he thought was unfair treatment of the NOI in the media. Farrakhan became a prominent leader: In June 1974, 70,000 people came to hear him speak in New York.
When Elijah Muhammad died on Feb. 25, 1975, his son, Warith Muhammad, succeeded him as leader of the NOI. Warith was significantly less popular and less oratorically gifted than Farrakhan. He was very concerned, rightly as it would turn out, that Farrakhan was a threat to his leadership. Because of this, Warith transferred Farrakhan to Chicago, where he put him in charge of an unpromising temple located in a poor section on the West side of town. As leader, Warith worked to make the NOI more like a mainstream Muslim group and started allowing nonblacks to become members. In November 1976, he changed the group's name to the "World Community of al-Islam in the West." The shift away from black separatist principles irked many NOI members, including Farrakhan.
Farrakhan thought that Warith was abandoning the principles that Elijah Muhammad had imbued in the NOI. But Farrakhan did not want to provoke Warith or be accused of splitting the movement. For two years after Elijah Muhammad's death, Farrakhan maintained a relatively low profile. Then, on Nov. 8, 1977, Farrakhan announced that he would be reestablishing the Nation of Islam in line with Elijah Muhammad's principles. His group grew very quickly: In 1981, Farrakhan drew thousands of people to his first annual Saviours' Day speech.
Farrakhan entered the national public consciousness in 1984, when he became a vocal supporter of Jesse Jackson's presidential campaign. On March 9, 1984, Farrakhan claimed to know of "reports" that "Israeli hit squads" had been dispatched to assassinate Jackson.
Over the years, Farrakhan strived to gain legitimacy as the rightful heir to Elijah Muhammad. He purchased Muhammad's Chicago home in 1986 and moved in. On Jan. 16, 1988, Farrakhan bought Mosque #2, the flagship mosque of the old Nation of Islam, from Warith Muhammad's group. Over time, the new NOI under Farrakhan eclipsed Warith's organization in terms of membership.
Farrakhan routinely uses his popularity to rail against the Jews. In July 1985, he spoke to an audience of 10,000 at the Washington, D.C., convention center. He told the audience, "Jews know their wickedness, not just Zionism, which is an outgrowth of Jewish transgression." In September of that year, Farrakhan spoke at Morgan State University in Baltimore. In his speech, he attacked Israel and Zionist Jews. He explained that Israel had not found peace since its creation because "there can never be any peace structured on injustice, thievery, lying, deceit and using God's name to shield your dirty religion … you cannot tell me your religion is what you profess; your religion is what you practice, and if you practice lying and stealing and cheating and murder and whoremongering then your religion is a dirty religion."
Farrakhan believes in the false theory that Jews were largely responsible for the slave trade in the United States. This is based on his perception of Jews as perpetual exploiters of blacks. As Farrakhan put it in a March 1985 speech at a Chicago church: "The owners of the slave ships were Jews. They were then the masters of the channels of distribution. From that day we had a relationship. You and they. They own the house, you clean it. They own the property, you rent it. They got the store, you buy from them. … It's been a master-slave relationship."
Farrakhan attempted to find support for his bigotry when he asked the NOI's "Historical Research Department" to investigate the involvement of Jews in the slave trade. The result was the book, The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews, which was published by the NOI in 1991. The book describes incidents in which Jews traded or owned slaves in the U.S., and lists Jews who fought in the Confederate Army. However, it does not compare the number of Jews who did these things with the number of non-Jews who were involved in these practices, causing it to completely fail in proving a disproportionate level of Jewish anti-black activity. Eugene Genovese, a deceased American scholar who was an expert on slavery, said of the book, "The absurdity of its pretensions to scholarship are outweighed only by its sheer viciousness."
Farrakhan's anti-Semitism has earned him some strange allies. Former Klan and White Aryan Resistance leader Tom Metzger was so impressed with Farrakhan's anti-Semitic bombast that he donated $100 to the NOI after attending a Farrakhan rally in Los Angeles in September 1985. Given that white supremacists share the NOI's belief in separation of the races, a month later, Metzger and 200 other white supremacists from the United States and Canada gathered on a farm about 50 miles west of Detroit, where they pledged their support for the Nation of Islam.
Anti-Semitism is only one of Farrakhan's many prejudices. Over the years, his comments have consistently been rabidly anti-gay. "God don't like men coming to men with lust in their hearts like you should go to a female," he told a Kansas City crowd in 1996. "If you think that the kingdom of God is going to be filled up with that kind of degenerate crap, you're out of your damn mind."
Farrakhan also helped organize the Million Man March, which took place in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 16, 1995. Its planning was controversial: Some were tepid about the idea of implicitly endorsing Farrakhan by supporting a march for which he would be the keynote speaker. Nevertheless, approximately 800,000 people attended.
Not long after the march, in 1998, Farrakhan was diagnosed with prostate cancer. While fighting the disease, Farrakhan announced that he was moderating his views and turning to orthodox Islam. It was a false promise. He continued his attacks on Jews and LGBT people and continued to work with other extremist organizations. For example, in February 2005, Farrakhan announced that New Black Panther Party chairman Malik Zulu Shabazz, a former NOI official, would be co-convening the Millions More March, a rally planned to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Million Man March. Shabazz was responsible for organizing a kickoff event the night before the march, at which he promoted the book The Synagogue of Satan, an anti-Semitic screed. Shabazz has a long history of making anti-Semitic remarks. At a 2002 protest at the B'nai B'rith headquarters building in Washington, D.C., Shabazz said: "Kill every goddamn Zionist in Israel! Goddamn little babies, goddamn old ladies! Blow up Zionist supermarkets!"
In September 2006, suffering from severe swelling of the prostate, Farrakhan announced that he was turning over day-to-day operations of the NOI to a panel that included his medical adviser, chief of staff, and one son, Mustafa Farrakhan. At the time, he said he had lost 30 pounds, was dehydrated, and suffered from serious pain. But Farrakhan's health rapidly improved and he retained control of the group.
On June 24, 2010, Farrakhan wrote a letter to Anti-Defamation League president Abraham Foxman asking for a "sensible, intelligent dialogue" about the supposed Jewish responsibility for injustices against blacks. He sent copies of the letter to leaders of prominent Jewish organizations and the Southern Poverty Law Center. Using the classic stereotype of the "trickster" Jew, Farrakhan wrote, "We could charge you with being the most deceitful so-called friend, while your history with us shows you have been our worst enemy." Farrakhan closed the letter with a threat, stating: "However, should you choose to make our struggle to civilize our people more difficult … Allah (God) and His Messiah will bring you and your people to disgrace and ruin and destroy your power and influence here and throughout the world." Foxman called the request "outrageous and disingenuous."
Speaking in Atlanta on June 26, 2010, Farrakhan repeated the accusations from his letter to Foxman and promoted the second volume of The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews. In a July 13, 2010, guest editorial in the Nation of Islam's newspaper, The Final Call, Malik Zulu Shabazz praised Farrakhan for his speech and his letter to Foxman. Shabazz wrote: "I know firsthand about the pressure and vicious attacking power of the Zionist power structure … Farrakhan's landmark speech also expands and opens up a new front on the struggle against Zionism." The fact that the letter was published in the NOI newspaper suggests that Farrakhan has not chosen to distance himself from Shabazz and his hateful views.
In March 2011, Farrakhan took up the cause of his close friend and sometime financier, longtime Libyan tyrant Moammar Qaddafi, whose country was at the time in the midst of a violent uprising against his rule and being bombed by NATO due to his regime's attacks on civilians. Farrakhan told a civil rights conference at Jackson State University that Qaddafi has played the role of a forceful parent in post-colonial Libya. "When you come out of a colonial past where you have lost the value of your own self-interest, God raises somebody from among you that can instill in you the value of yourself again and that person dictates the path until you have grown into your own self-interest," Farrakhan said of Qaddafi, according to the Associated Press.
The NOI had some self-interest of its own at stake regarding Qaddafi: In a September 2009 editorial in The Final Call, Farrakhan stated that Qaddafi in 1971 provided the NOI with a $3 million loan to purchase a Greek Orthodox Church in Chicago that became his organization's headquarters. Farrakhan also acknowledged a $5 million gift (originally a loan that was forgiven) from Qaddafi for "economic development" provided at an unspecified date after Farrakhan took control of the NOI, presumably after November 1977. Qaddafi, through Libya's Islamic Call Society (described by Farrakhan as Libya's "religious arm"), sponsored two NOI "World Friendship Tours," including visits to more than 40 countries, Farrakhan wrote.
In the Jackson State speech, Farrakhan also alleged that President Obama had backed down from pushing a Palestinian-Israeli peace accord and banning the building of settlements in the West Bank because he is "the first Jewish president." Farrakhan, according to the Associated Press, said, "He was selected before he was elected. And the people that selected him were rich, powerful members of the Jewish community."
In 2011, Farrakhan began making unusually conciliatory racial statements – in the context of a growing alliance between the NOI and the Church of Scientology. “All white people should flock to [Scientology founder] L. Ron Hubbard,” Farrakhan said. “You can still be a Christian; you just won’t be a devil Christian. You can still be a Jew, but you won’t be a satanic Jew.” His remarks were part of a larger effort to encourage NOI members themselves to embrace the practices of Scientology. This, Farrakhan claims, will help them prepare for the end times he painted as increasingly imminent as he neared 80 and battled prostate cancer.