Editor's Notebook: Reflections on Farrakhan's Visit

By Larry Brook, editor On April 10, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan will appear at Alabama A&M University in Huntsville, a visi...

By Larry Brook, editor

On April 10, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan will appear at Alabama A&M University in Huntsville, a visit that has garnered a great deal of advance controversy.

It is well known that Farrakhan uses the rhetoric of race-baiting and has a particular interest in the Jews, wrapped up in an otherwise positive self-help message for blacks. His organization promotes books that tout the discredited theory that Jews controlled the slave trade, that the Jews took over the black economy in America, as well as the usual canards about Jewish control of the government, media and banking industries.

Back in the late 1990s, he spoke in Birmingham, not that long after a visit from Khalid Abdul Muhammad, an organizer of the Million Man March, who had made a name for himself in 1993 during a speech at Kean College in New Jersey. There, he called Jews "bloodsuckers" and called for the genocide of whites. Farrakhan removed him from his NOI post, but criticized Muhammad's tone, not "the truth" of his words.

I attended both events, after receiving word each time from the local Nation of Islam mosque.

Muhammad was a great speaker, Farrakhan was absolutely mesmerizing. People talk about Farrakhan's lengthy addresses, but he is one of those speakers who can hold an audience's attention for a long time and not make it seem that long.

Both men played to full houses, at the Alabama Theatre and Boutwell Auditorium. Naturally, I received more than my share of "are you nuts" from those who learned I was going to attend. And yes, there were many over-the-top statements at both programs.

The audience reaction was interesting. The more extreme pronouncements were not really greeted with amens and agreement -- the atmosphere was more like being in a comedy club where you know the comic is going to say outrageous stuff and stick it to the man, as it were. Laughter, fist-pumps and "can you believe he said that?"

Both times, you could count the number of whites in the building on a single hand; at the Alabama the only other white was the guy running the sound board. Also, the local mosque's leadership knew exactly who I was, who I represented and what I was doing there.

Each time, the entire night, I was treated and greeted with unfailing politeness and courtesy. It was quite a disconnect -- the anti-white, anti-Jewish rhetoric coming from the stage, and the absolute friendliness toward me from everyone I encountered in the audience.

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The last time there was such a controversy over an anti-Jewish speaker in Huntsville was in the 1990, at the University of Alabama at Huntsville. At the time, there was a local Holocaust denier named Robert Countess, now deceased, who rented rooms at UAH to bring in more noted deniers. Countess himself was on the board of the Institute for Historical Review, the think(?)-tank of the denier movement.

He brought in David Irving in 1993 and Robert Faurisson in 1994. Naturally, the Jewish community was outraged; and Huntsville's rabbi at the time was Rabbi Steven Jacobs, the son of a Holocaust survivor.

The response to the program, though, was unique and brilliant. Here's the brilliant part -- the Jewish community and Jewish students were deliberately excluded from the protests and counter-programming. As the organizers told me then, they wanted to be sure that Countess and his guests could not simply dismiss any opposition as being Jewish noise and therefore unworthy of being taken seriously.

Admittedly, Countess did still attack the students' characters, sneering that the students couldn't even spell "Sorbonne," let alone be admitted to the historic university where Faurisson attended.

A handful of students quietly passed out flyers to those who attended the lecture. The flyers had a list of reliable sources and books on the Holocaust. They also held a screening of "Schindler's List" at the same time as the lecture, and drew four times what Countess did.
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Southern Jewish Life: Editor's Notebook: Reflections on Farrakhan's Visit
Editor's Notebook: Reflections on Farrakhan's Visit
Southern Jewish Life
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