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September 4, 2018 1:26 pm

The Shame of Louis Farrakhan

avatar by Lawrence J. Siskind

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Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan speaking in Detroit, Mi. in February 2017. Photo: Reuters/Rebecca Cook.

It was distressing — in fact, disgusting — to see Aretha Franklin’s funeral stained by the presence of Louis Farrakhan. He was not just present, but in the front row, next to former President Clinton, Jesse Jackson, and Al Sharpton.

Today, it is commonplace to label those with whom we disagree as “haters.” But if you want to witness true, sincere hatred, you need only read the words of Minister Farrakhan. The primary objects of his vitriol are the Jews.

Below are a representative sampling of his statements:

  • “Satanic Jews have infected the whole world with poison and deceit.”
  • “The Jews have control over [the] agencies of government. When you want something in this world, the Jew holds the door.”
  • “Jews were responsible for all of this filth and degenerate behavior that Hollywood is putting out, turning men into women, and women into men.”
  • “It is now becoming apparent that there were many Israelis and Zionist Jews in key roles in the 9/11 attacks. We know that many Jews received a text message not to come to work on September 11.”
  • “I believe that for the small numbers of Jewish people in the United States, they exercise a tremendous amount of influence on the affairs of government. … Yes, they exercise extraordinary control, and Black people will never be free in this country until they are free of that kind of control.”

Farrakhan sat a few seats away from President Clinton at the funeral. Yet during his administration, Farrakhan believed that Clinton was under Jewish control: “Don’t be afraid of the Zionists,” he said in a speech at Howard University. “Don’t be afraid of their power, Mr. Clinton. Stop bowing down.” He also called President Obama “the first Jewish President” because of his support for military intervention in Libya.

When it comes to relations between the Black and Jewish communities, neither Jesse Jackson nor Al Sharpton, seated next to Farrakhan, has been a model. Both have tawdry events in their pasts. But both have expressed regret for their past actions. Whatever one may think of their sincerity, at least they have demonstrated a healthy aversion to being charged with antisemitism and racism.

Not Farrakhan. He wears the charge like a badge of honor. “The Jews don’t like Farrakhan, so they call me Hitler,” he stated in 1984. “Well, that’s a good name. Hitler was a very great man.”

Of course, Jews are not the only object of his hatred. “God don’t like men coming to men with lust in their hearts like you should go to a female,” he said 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.”

Inviting Farrakhan to sit as an honored guest at Aretha Franklin’s funeral was an insult to the memory of a performer who spent a career respecting and collaborating with Jewish artists, such as Jerry Wexler, who worked with Franklin to transform “Respect” into a powerful feminist hymn. Through Wexler, Franklin met and created hits with other Jewish songwriters, including Burt Bacharach (“I Say a Little Prayer”), Carole King and Gerry Goffin (“Natural Woman”), and the trio of Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller, and Phil Spector (“Spanish Harlem”).

Racism and antisemitism were foreign concepts to Franklin. She told Jet magazine early in her career:  “It’s not cool to be Jewish, or Negro, or Italian. It’s just cool to be alive, to be around.”

We may never know what machinations led to Farrakhan’s place of prominence at her funeral. Worse, with the rise of identity politics in the United States, criticism of his presence at the event may lead many African-Americans to rally around him, boosting his popularity.

The day after Aretha Franklin’s funeral, former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama were speaking at the funeral of their erstwhile rival Senator John McCain. President Trump did not attend because the family had made it clear that he was not welcome. Sadly, no one involved with Aretha Franklin’s funeral saw fit to send the same message to Louis Farrakhan.

Lawrence J. Siskind is a San Francisco attorney who blogs on issues of politics, foreign policy, law, and culture at ToPutItBluntly.com.

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