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The Charmer's Visit

Certainly, Farrakhan isn't on the verge of inciting a pogrom, not yet anyway.

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His appeal doesn't stop there. On a recent Sunday, about 600 people gathered at the Arthur Ashe Center to hear a satellite-fed message from Chicago by Farrakhan on Saviours' Day, a Nation of Islam holiday. This year, Farrakhan's message, broadcast to cities nationwide, was "Why War is Not the Answer." Predictably, he once again saw the Jews running the show.

Tapping into the same race- and Jewish-conspiracy theories that he has peddled for more than 20 years, Farrakhan could only conclude that Saddam Hussein is targeted by Bush because Hussein is a man of color, because he has "never agreed with the taking of Palestinian land," and because Bush and his Jewish advisers covet Iraqi oil, which they will seek at the expense of black blood.

One could say that Farrakhan is beneath discussion, for always, he draws the heart of his message from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, an early 20th century anti-Semitic forgery devised by the Czarist secret police and used time and again by Jew-haters as proof that Jews are plotting to take over the world.

Certainly, Farrakhan isn't on the verge of inciting a pogrom, not yet anyway. Even his archenemy, the Anti-Defamation League, admits that no "hate crime" against a Jew has been linked to the Nation of Islam. Yes, to say that Farrakhan is an anti-Semite is accurate, but what's at issue here is the broad support he finds within many black communities. A people devastated by slavery's consequences, they are now prey to Farrakhan, the demagogue. For all his talk of self-empowerment, the message ultimately fails because there's always someone else - whites, America, the Jews especially — to blame for every black misfortune, personal and collective. In the last few years, in seeing him speak, I got the message: The Jews run the media, which undermines black women's modesty through persistent images of them gyrating in thongs. "They" dumb down blacks in schools. "They" plant crack in black neighborhoods. The AIDS virus, too.

Unfortunately, much of black leadership currently lacks the independence of character and mind to steer clear of him. Far from being ostracized, he is embraced, and at the recent gathering, billed as the "crowning event" of Black History Month, his speech drew community leaders such as Richmond's vice mayor, the Rev. Delores McQuinn, and state Sen. Henry Marsh.

Following a woman's squeaky violin rendition of the national anthem (no, not the American, but from the sound of it, the Nation of Islam's), a local Nation of Islam leader, Tracy Muhammad, proclaimed, "We cannot lose the significance of Sister McQuinn being here. Not everyone has the courage of Sen. Henry Marsh. They don't care nothing about what the oppressor thinks."

Exactly why McQuinn and Marsh think that Farrakhan is a suitable leader is not clear; neither has returned my repeated calls seeking comment. Of course, their presence at the Farrakhan event confirms the sorry state of Richmond's black leadership, capped by the spectacle of Councilman Sa'ad El-Amin, the booted lawyer and accused tax dodger who recently saw fit to nominate convicted drug felon Chuck Richardson to a city panel.

This isn't what you'd call Richmond's finest hour — and the McQuinn and Marsh attendance at a Farrakhan event is yet another blow. Apparently, a large portion of America's black leadership doesn't challenge Farrakhan. In fact, no Jew-hater has gotten as much mainstream black support as Farrakhan. A few years ago, Jet magazine listed him among its greatest "Chicagoans of the Century." Ebony included him as one of the "20th century's immortal giants." And in 2000, Martin Luther King III met with Farrakhan in Atlanta to voice his support for Farrakhan's Million Family March.

I have seen firsthand Farrakhan's power to pump up crowd fury. As a reporter in Dallas, I heard him speak in the fall of 2000 at Carver Heights Baptist Church, where he addressed 1,000 people. Whipping out a $100 bill, he spoke of the Federal Reserve. "In 1913," he said, "they pushed through Congress the Federal Reserve Act. This nation is in debt all the way into your great-grandchildren's future … the same year they set up the IRS, they set up the FBI, and the same year they set up the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith." His ministry also distributes the "book," "The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews," which states that Jews played a key role in the African slave trade. (Many scholars have discredited the charge that Jews played a role out of proportion to their small numbers in the slave trade. If anything, in the early 1800s there were more black slave owners than Jewish ones.)

Now, on the crisis in Iraq, Farrakhan essentially changes the subject about what's at stake. "I don't care how bad Saddam Hussein is … that's Iraq's problem." Bush, the dictator, is "our problem." As for Sept. 11, it's a government plot to exploit the nation's grief and fear to the benefit of Israel: "The pro-Israeli Zionists have literally gotten American foreign policy to protect Israel. Now many of you won't say these things, but that's on you. Daniel Pearl — or Richard Perle, Wolfowitz, Kristol. All of these are architects of policy and they're pro-Israel."

Well, not all of them. Fortunately for The Charmer, Pearl is dead — decapitated by his Muslim captors this past year.

At the Sunday event, Farrakhan told his supporters that this would be his "final call" before the war. He'd lay low for a while, he said, for safety's sake. No doubt, the palatial estate he occupies in an affluent, integrated neighborhood of South Chicago could provide sufficient shelter.

In the meantime, he said, just remember that when "they" come to shut off your electricity and gas that the reverend told you so — and keep the money coming to the Nation of Islam. As the spellbinding Master put it to his children that Sunday: "Those of you who love Farrakhan, make (out) checks." That, he says, is a fitting "Saviours' Day gift." S



A writer in Richmond, Lisa Singh has written for The Wall Street Journal, the Baltimore Sun and the Richmond Times-Dispatch, among other publications.



Opinions expressed on the Back Page are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Style Weekly.

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