Louis Farrakhan, you still have it wrong

July 21, 1996|By GREGORY KANE

Dear Minister Farrakhan:

At long last, you have responded to " The Sun" series on slavery in Sudan. You didn't respond directly to a request by me and my colleague Gil Lewthwaite for an interview, but some response is better than none at all.

In the July 23 edition of the Nation of Islam newspaper, " The Final Call, " writer Askia Muhammad chided us for using your name in the series.

"Minister Farrakhan's name was used so prominently, even in the headline of the " Sun " article, to infer that the Muslim leader would 'turn a blind eye to the suffering of Blacks' in Sudan in order to defend an Arab, Islamic government, observers said. In fact, Minister Farrakhan has often been critical of Arab and Muslim-led regimes and leaders, they said."

Those observers, whoever they may be, are quite correct. I've heard you do that in the past, but not lately. When you uttered your now famous "Where's the proof?" question in regard to slavery in the Sudan back in February, I had to wonder where the Farrakhan of old was. You may remember him. That guy who wouldn't hesitate to stomp on anybody's toes. The one who said in a " Final Call " interview that blacks were on the bottom of society in even Arab Islamic countries.

Your name in our series wasn't meant to "infer" -- I think Mr. Muhammad meant "imply" -- anything other than that the press will take up a challenge put forth by a public figure. You may remember Gary Hart's ill-fated presidential campaign. Accused of having an affair, he publicly challenged the press to tail him and prove it. The press did, and indicated he was having an affair.

The lesson here is that when you're a public figure and make challenges to the press, media types will inevitably take you up on it. There's nothing sinister about it. It's just that such challenges present an opportunity too juicy for most editors to pass up.

You are, indeed, a public figure, one of the most prominent leaders of black America. It's a job you wanted your whole life, and one you knew would be tough when you took it. In this case, you weren't treated any differently than Gary Hart. You have to take the same lumps he did.

From your latest " Final Call " interview, I surmise that you are still inclined to defend the government of Sudan. To quote your newspaper:

"My question is, if slavery exists in The Sudan: How long has it existed? Did it just start in the administration of (President) Omar Bashir and (Spiritual Leader) Hassan al-Turabi? If not, why was there not mention made of this during the regime of Sadig el-Mahdi, or Gen. (Siwar) el-Dahab, or President (Gaafar Muhammad) Nimeiri? ... Was it because Sudan was used under Nimeiri as a dumping ground for nuclear waste that the West favored it? ... Is it now opposed because this Islamic government is trying to build an Islamic nation? I should condemn slavery and certainly will, but I will not allow myself to be used as a pawn for the West in a political game that is being used by Western governments to destabilize the Islamic government of Sudan."

Twice in that quote you referred to the government of Sudan as Islamic, bent on building an Islamic nation. You realize, of course, the problems an Islamic government would have in building an Islamic nation where a good 30 percent of the population is non-Muslim. That is why the Christian and animist blacks of the south are in rebellion today. I suspect they have the same problem with an Islamic government you would have, as a Muslim, with a fundamentalist Christian government in this country trying to build a Christian nation.

It was in trying to build an Islamic nation that sharia, Islamic law, was imposed on the country. Christian areas are exempt from sharia, the Khartoum government claims (rebel leader John Garang denies it). But how do you, Min. Farrakhan, feel about sharia with its punishments of stoning adulterers and dismembering thieves? You don't impose such a harsh code on your followers in the Nation of Islam.

Finally, you impugned the morality of myself, my colleague and this paper.

"When an unrighteous person brings you news, look carefully into it, lest you harm a people in ignorance then be sorry for what you did," " The Final Call " quotes you as saying. I'll agree, you have me busted on that point. I'm on record as saying the only way I'll get into heaven is if God is grading on a serious curve.

But brother, did you have to go there? No one at " The Sun " threatened " Washington Post " reporter Milton Coleman with death. You did. No one here wrote that Malcolm X was worthy of death. You did. We didn't stand before a gathering of Nation of Islam members and say that when Wallace Muhammad made disparaging remarks about his late father Elijah Muhammad's unrighteous conduct that anyone else would "have been dead )) the minute such disrespect was uttered." You did. At least, that's how your paper, " The Final Call, " quoted you.

It is you, in fact, who has made several statements indicating that you feel murder is justified, given the proper provocation. So spare us the talk of unrighteousness, please. Coming from you, the charge rings a little hollow.

Pub Date: 7/21/96

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