Back on form
FOR a time it seemed that September 11th might have had a soothing effect on the troubled soul of Louis Farrakhan. The Nation of Islam’s leader praised New York’s firefighters and policemen, called America the “greatest nation ever”, and said that the massacre had united all “the children of Abraham — Muslims, Christians and Jews” as brothers and sisters.
Now the old troublemaker is back on form. In a sermon on October 16th, commemorating the sixth anniversary of the Million Man March (the 1995 black-pride rally he led on the Washington Mall), Mr Farrakhan pinned the blame for the attacks of September 11th on the “liars, whoremongers, lesbians, pimps and hustlers” who have led American society and foreign policy astray and thereby courted divine retribution.
This has echoes of Jerry Falwell (who spotted the obvious link between suicidal terrorists and gay promiscuity soon after the attacks). However, unlike the historically-limited Christian fundamentalist, Mr Farrakhan sees the war on terrorism as a continuation of a long history of western aggression against Islam that dates back to the Crusades.
Mr Farrakhan has long been the Howard Stern of black politics. His creed once held that white people were created by a mad scientist named Yacub. He has called Judaism the “synagogue of Satan” and Hitler a “great man”. In his sermon he neatly blended science fiction and treason, boasting how he had once been able to warn Muammar Qaddafi of an American attack because an unidentified flying object had earlier carried him to a city in the sky where the late Elijah Muhammad had revealed to him a plot by Ronald Reagan.
What is he trying to do? Most Arab-Americans are Christians. Many Muslims are black, and the Nation of Islam is, alas, one of the best-known black Muslim groups. Mr Farrakhan seems to be making a pitch for the growing number of non-black American Muslims who have not previously fallen for his bow-tie and buzz-cut version of the Koran. Whatever the merits of his organisation — and it does help some poor people who live in city slums — send a prayer of your choice that he does not succeed.