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The Rhetoric of Hate

March 9, 1994



THE anti-Semitism of influential leaders of the American black Nation of Islam worries many Jews, and understandably so. But it ought to concern all Americans interested in a future progressive civil society that values fairness and tolerance.

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In recent months, the rhetoric of hate and racism voiced by Minister Louis Farrakhan and Khalid Abdul Muhammad, a rising star in the Nation and a possible challenger to Minister Farrakhan, has become far more flagrant. A November speech by Mr. Muhammad at Kean College in New Jersey contained dozens of gross ethnic slurs. It was later denounced by most acknowledged American black leaders. Vice President Gore asked Farrakhan to condemn the speech. Farrakhan temporarily suspended Muhammad but then implied he agreed with the speech.

This did not stop Muhammad, who spoke at a recent rally on his behalf at Howard University, during which a student leader led a packed audience in a call-and-response exercise with questions such as: Who killed Nat Turner? Who controls the Federal Reserve? Who controls the media? And who was responsible for Martin Luther King's death? They were answered with enthusiasm - ``Jews!''

Such rantings do not deserve a platform and must be condemned.

But the issue goes past the ravings of one or two separatist leaders who believe that inciteful hate speech is acceptable if one is a member of a group with legitimate grievances. An effort is underway to influence the minds of the next generation of blacks. The war is being fought with distorted scholarship and philosophical treatises, and a twisted analysis of black-Jewish history and black-white relations that claims to be more honest and powerful than anything contemporary civil rights leaders can offer young blacks.

Last week Farrakhan was the sole guest on Arsenio Hall, a popular late-night TV show, to plug ``The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews,'' a book that black Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates describes as ``one of the most influential books published in the black community [and] one of the most sophisticated instances of hate literature yet compiled.''

Sadly the NAACP, with long-held Jewish ties, has invited Farrakhan to a leadership conference this spring. Is this capitulation to an increasingly popular separatist message? Has Farrakhan earned the opportunity to use the NAACP's platform? The NAACP and its new leader Benjamin Chavis ought to consider speaking against the dangers of exploitative hatred - and for a realistic multi-ethnic America.