Minister Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, spoke via satellite in Strong Auditorium during his annual Saviours’ Day address Feb. 27. The event was sponsored by the UR Black Students’ Union and the Muhammad Mosque of Rochester.
Farrakhan’s main message regarded the “purification” of religion.
“If you purify religion, you’d get rid of the differences that we all create,” sophomore and BSU Vice President Mlen-Too Wesley II said. Farrakhan also pointed to a “lack of unity” in the black community and called the rich “blood suckers” of the poor. He supported economic separation from the general community.
Farrakhan was widely expected to speak in racist language. However, by comparison with his past statements, his tone was more moderate.
“He’s not really on a racist thing – he hasn’t been making racist statements in a few years,” Wesley said. “His perspective has changed. He never really claimed to be racist or anti-Semitic. [Farrakhan] is kind of moving to a different focus. He’s moving to a unifying focus. He’s talking about purifying religion.”
However, some disagreed.
“I think he’s racist against everyone that’s not [in the Black Islam community],” said Hillel President and sophomore Ilana Feldman.
Many of his more controversial statements this year were in a parallel structure, accusing wide segments of the population rather than targeting smaller groups.
“So will the real Christ please stand up? Satan has taken over the church,” he said, adding next that the mosque and the synagogue had also been taken over. “If the real Jews, real Christians, real Muslims stood up, they would stand up for their principles.”
Several students gathered outside to protest the event.
“[Farrakhan] is a black racist, and racism is no better when it comes from a minority,” junior Shira Pearlman, who attended the protest, said.
Hillel sponsored a discussion and viewing of the speech in Friel Lounge. However, organizers said many in attendance left when it became apparent that the speech would begin at 3 p.m. Central time, rather than the expected 3 p.m. Eastern time.
Lydia Crews, assistant director of Student Activity Programs, had earlier encouraged those who disagreed with Farrakhan “to come to this event so they can see for themselves.”
However, it appeared the audience was predominately middle-aged and from the Rochester community.
Security was tight, and attendees were frisked by UR Security with magnetic wands. Uniformed, beret-wearing Nation of Islam members also supervised the security.
“There’s always a search procedure at all of their [Mohammed Mosque] evnts,” said Wesley. “It also helps protect them.”
Continuing, he said, “More black people kill black people than black people kill white people. Especially with the controversy, we felt it was best to have our own security officers on the scene.”
The event also appeared successful in drawing significant financial support for the Muhammad Mosque of Rochester.
Questions regarding the Muhammad Mosque’s participation in the event were referred to spokesperson Minister James Muhammad.
He was not immediately available for comment.
Alkon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.