Nation of Islam leader to speak at Tuskegee as ADL voices concerns

Font Size:

Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan is scheduled to address students during a three-day visit at Tuskegee University this week, prompting the Anti-Defamation League to voice concerns about the “bigoted and anti-Semitic” positions he has publicly advocated.

In a letter to Tuskegee University President Gilbert Rochon, ADL Southeast Regional Director Bill Nigut explained that while the ADL recognizes the importance of free speech, Farrakhan has often voiced offensive positions, mainly against the Jewish people.

“Farrakhan’s bigoted and anti-Semitic rhetoric has included statements calling whites ‘blue eyed devils’ and Jews ‘bloodsuckers’ who controlled the slave trade, the government, the media, Hollywood and various Black individuals and organizations,” Nigut said in the letter, dated March 15. “He frequently denies that Jews have a legitimate claim to their religion and to the land of Israel.”

According to the university’s event announcement, the Nation of Islam leader is scheduled to visit the historically black Alabama college from March 20-22.

“In addition to meeting with students and faculty, he will speak to Tuskegee University about education, the need for Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and his plan to improve the economic conditions of black Americans,” the announcement reads. “There will also be a viewing of the film, ‘World Friendship Tour,’ a documentary about the leader’s post-Million Man March visits to Muslim nations. Afterward, there will be a question and answer session with Farrakhan.”

The Tuskegee University Muslim Student Association and the Black Belt Deliberative Dialogue group invited Farrakhan.

While Farrakhan is scheduled to speak largely on education, the ADL explained that they still have concerns about the possibility he will veer into anti-Semitic territory.

“While news reports indicate that his topic apparently will be the role of Historically Black Colleges in higher education — a topic that clearly would be of great interest to students, faculty and others on your campus — I write to caution you that in ADL’s experience, Minister Farrakhan rarely misses an opportunity to pepper his speeches with virulently anti-Semitic messages and broader derogatory rhetoric about white people in general,” Nigut wrote.

They encouraged the university to consider ways to distance itself from hateful statements Farrakhan might say.

“I would urge you in advance of his visit, you find an appropriate public vehicle for strongly disassociating yourself and the University from Minister Farrakhan’s hateful rhetoric.,” Nigut wrote.

Nigut’s letter also requests that the university rescind its invitation to Macon County high school students to attend one of the leader’s speeches, explaining that while college students might be “mature” enough to judge “hateful messages,” high school students might not.

Tracy Boleware, a Tuskegee spokesperson, explained to The Daily Caller in a statement that the university did not invite the high school students, but rather is “providing a venue for this address at the request of our two student organizations that are hosting the overall visit,” adding that the Macon County students were given permission slips for their parents to sign to allow them to attend.

Boleware added that the university expects Farrakhan to focus on the topics related to historically black colleges, his documentary and “enhancing sustainable agricultural development for small farmers.”

“It is our responsibility to expose our students to a wide range of speakers that represent a diverse set of ideologies,” she continued in her statement. “Tuskegee University has played host to a variety of speakers including: the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; the president of the Progressive National Baptist Convention, Rev. Carol Baltimore, Sr., Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus and President Obama adviser, Valerie Jarrett, to name a few. All of our students are global ambassadors and as an institution of higher learning it is imperative that we cultivate a culture of open mindedness.”

Nigut told TheDC that the university has not yet responded to the ADL’s letter of concern.

Follow Caroline on Twitter