Leader of the Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan will speak via satellite in Strong Auditorium to celebrate Saviours’ Day on Feb. 27.
This event, sponsored by the Black Students’ Union, is causing controversy across campus because of Farrakhan’s harsh views about the Jewish and white communities.
“Saviours’ Day is the celebration of the day Elijah Muhammad first came to the United States and started spreading Islam,” BSU Vice President and sophomore Mlen-Too Wesley said. “Farrakhan is going to be speaking about that [as well as] economic and political mobilization in the black community. He is not going to be bashing the Jewish or white community.”
This is the third time that Farrakhan’s Saviours’ Day speech will been shown at UR.
The first time, in 1996, Farrakhan referred to the white community as “rotten to the core” and to Jews as “wicked deceivers of the American people.”
Farrakhan’s views stem from the idea that the black community is suffering from “post traumatic slave disorder,” according to Wesley. Farrakhan blames Jews for conspiring to rule the United States and the world.
“I think it’s really sad how much this is going to divide people,” Hillel’s Vice President of Tzedek and sophomore Linsday Dalhben said.
Continuing, he said, “It’s obvious how many people are going to be offended by this. He said Hitler was a good man. Obviously people are going to be offended by that. By sponsoring him, it is saying that we [UR] agree with him and that is not right.”
Farrakhan will be speaking at Christ Universal Temple in Chicago, Ill., and the feed will be televised via satellite to places all over the world.
“I don’t think he is the first person to say ‘I hate Jews’ who has been invited to this campus,” Wesley said. “That would be bad if that is what he was saying, but his speech is about strengthening the black community. I think if this really was too controversial, the Student Activities Office would not have approved it.”
The SAO has approved the event, which required their advisor for authorization. If necessary, the proposal could be taken to senate or opened for larger discussion.
“The position that any professional has on campus is not to offend, but to educate and enlighten,” Assistant Director of Student Activity Programs Lydia Crews said. “I definitely respect a person’s right to be offended, but then I also encourage them to come to this event so that they can see for themselves. They might be surprised. Strong [Auditorium] is a safe environment.”
This event is co-sponsored with the Muhammad Mosque of Rochester study group.
“I visited the mosque last Sunday, and it is a very peaceful place,” Wesley said. “Islam does not preach the killing of white people or Jews. We might try to monitor the feed, but we don’t want to take away too much. He is one of the biggest black leaders here, but if he didn’t bash white people, more people would listen to him.
“If there is any way to block out the ‘blonde hair blue-eyed devil’ stuff, the message he is bringing here is very important.”
This year is the 10th anniversary of the Million Man March.
The Nation of Islam played a pivotal role in the first march, which was sponsored by Farrakhan, who wants to continue getting people involved in that cause.
Many students are nervous that those views are not what is going to be voiced in his speech.
“It is important to have different perspectives and views on campus that people wouldn’t necessarily agree with,” BSU Educational and Political Chair and sophomore Marquis Harrison said. “BSU has a responsibility to represent all views of the black community. I see racism everyday at this university, like the [affirmative action] bake sale and I am always told to see the educational side.”
The money from the tickets is being used to cover the event.
“The BSU is helping the Islamic community of Rochester,” Harrison said. “This is the crowning event for the Nation of Islam.”
It is open to the entire Rochester community, not just UR faculty and students.
Some students, however, are unhappy with the choice of the speaker, claiming it does not properly culminate the diversity that Black History Month celebrates.
“Instead of celebrating black culture and history and the strides the black community has made over the past half century, Louis Farrakhan promotes a hate agenda against whites and Jews,” freshman Robbie Raphael said. “I am disappointed that this man is being welcomed to our campus.”
However the BSU is optimistic.
“We hope that even if Farrakhan does not agree with a student’s views, they will come to the speech at least to check it out because there is value in learning about others and listening to what they have to say,” Harrison said.
Paret can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.