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The Complete History of Louis Farrakhan

avatar by Harold Brackman

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Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan addressing the organization’s national convention in 2017. Photo: Reuters / Rebecca Cook.

Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld’s fact-filled piece in The Algemeiner is important for highlighting Louis Farrakhan as America’s leading antisemite.

Perhaps from abroad, he sees something that somewhat eludes US-based observers who fail to see what is right in front of them. As George Orwell wrote, “To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.”

Farrakhan, as Gerstenfeld documents, often talks about global Jewish conspiracies. Yet it is Farrakhan’s own conspiratorial tentacles that stretch to the Middle East: to Tehran, to his Hamas and Hezbollah friends, and to the late Muammar Gaddafi, who repeatedly gave start-up money to the Nation of Islam (NOI)

The question in the US is why Farrakhan has been able to become such a mainstream force from his base as leader of a small, once-obscure crackpot reverse-racist sect.

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During World War II, NOI founder Elijah Muhammad was jailed in the US for encouraging pro-Japanese sedition, based on his vision that the Yellow Race would humble the White. Elijah Muhammad’s racism was rooted in his Southern Baptist upbringing, together with his scapegoating of Jewish merchants as “bloodsuckers” of black people. Race riots in Harlem in 1935 and 1943 — as well as Elijah Muhammad’s adopted home of Detroit — resonated with these themes. Later, Muhammad also saw Israel’s existence as a direct affront to Allah and his own, racist version of Islam.

Starting in the 1960s, Farrakhan gave the NOI’s hateful creed a new reach in an America convulsed by race riots and anti-war protests. In the 1970s, Farrakhan (whom Malcolm X’s widow, Betty Shabazz, accused of inciting and maybe orchestrating his assassination) wrested control of the Nation of Islam from Elijah Muhammad’s son, W. Deen Muhammad, who wanted to lead the NOI into a more orthodox Islamic, less anti-white, and anti-Jewish direction.

In the 1980s, Farrakhan hitched his star as “security chief” to Jesse Jackson’s 1984 and 1988 Democratic presidential primary campaigns. This was when Farrakhan became notorious for calling Hitler “a great man,” and Judaism “a gutter religion.”

In the early 1990s, the NOI’s anonymous Historical Research Department concocted the notorious The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews, alleging that a handful of Jewish merchants “dominated” the Atlantic slave trade and (in later elaborations) that “Jewish rabbis invented racism.”

Farrakhan’s seeming apex was in 1995, when he organized the Million Man March on Washington, promising to rebuild African-American communities from the male grassroots. Very little positive came of this. But in the 21st century, Farrakhan’s relentless gospel of hating whites and Jews — and Korean and Arab ghetto merchants, and gays and lesbians — has survived and even been mainstreamed.

The question is why?

The answer is the rampant, divisive identity politics fracturing the US along racial, religious, ethnic, and gender lines. White racist separatists like Richard Spencer and David Duke consider Farrakhan a soul brother across the racial divide. But some of his greatest support, as documented recently in Tablet magazine, comes from Tamika Mallory and Linda Sarsour, “progressive” co-leaders of the Women’s March, and other figures such as recently-elected Democratic Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib.

In the 1930s, ultra-conservative Germans around President Hindenburg thought they could manipulate Hitler. They were wrong. So too are progressives of all colors and creeds who think that in our divided, frightened country, they can manipulate Louis Farrakhan.

Historian Harold Brackman has tracked Louis Farrakhan since the 1960s.

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