The Nation of Islam’s Louis Farrakhan avoided the scrutiny of social media companies for years before Facebook banned him last month. News reports on Farrakhan’s banning also showed how little attention mainstream media has paid to him in recent years. The Washington Post, The Atlantic and New York Magazine lazily and laughably associated Farrakhan with “far-right” politics, despite his ties to Women’s March organizers and Democrats.
Farrakhan responded to Facebook’s decision by lying about his own anti-Semitic rhetoric last week. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Farrakhan said he wants to target “Satanic Jews” with his rhetoric not “good Jews” and claimed, “I have not said one word of hate … As long as you don’t attack us, we won’t bother you.”
Farrakhan’s lies could very well go unchallenged by tech executives and journalists who don’t understand him. But I saw the hate Farrakhan preaches up close as a teenager attending the Nation of Islam (NOI) mosque, and I aim to set the record straight about his actual ideas and why anti-Semitism is at the core of his worldview.
In 2005, at the age of 17, I first encountered Farrakhan’s teachings at the NOI mosque in Toronto. My best friend joined the NOI, and asked me to attend meetings with him. I obliged, because I was curious about the organization Malcolm X once led and also wanted to support my friend.
At each of the Friday night services I attended, a couple dozen young men gathered to watch video lectures from Farrakhan or hear messages from the local NOI leader in Toronto. They would make references to the Quran and Bible, but scripture wasn’t their primary focus. Instead, the NOI presented a political message about how blacks don’t belong in North America and Europe.
Farrakhan and his surrogates attributed every inequality in black communities to the inherent corruption of Western society, also referred to as “the white man’s” or “the devil’s” civilization. There was, unfortunately, no shortage of news stories to aid this narrative because of the many inequalities that plague black communities. Signs of progress, such as the American civil rights movement or successful black business leaders, were treated as proof of a corrupt civilization trying to trick us into thinking we had a fair chance.
It appeared to me that members of the NOI were more interested in hating the West or white people than learning anything about Islam. At that point in my life, I was also consumed by misguided resentment. Farrakhan’s words echoed my anger and affirmed my belief that my country was rigged against me. I didn’t grasp the immorality of the NOI’s message until seeing Farrakhan in action with my own eyes.
In 2007, when I was nineteen, my friend asked me to join him at the NOI’s annual celebration, called Saviours’ Day. That year it was to be held in Detroit, where the organization was founded. I agreed to go.
During his speech at Detroit’s Ford Field, Farrakhan spent a significant amount of time positioning the NOI as an ally of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Lebanon’s Hassan Nasrallah, and Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez because they shared a common enemy: the United States.
He also characterized Iraq under the leadership of Hussein as a wonderful place sabotaged by American intervention. Farrakhan then provided an inflammatory explanation of these aggressions of the U.S. as a clash of civilizations between Islam and “so-called Jews and Christians,” whom he accused of being afraid of those who want an “Islamic way of life.”
Tens of thousands of people around me applauded with enthusiasm at everything Farrakhan said. Ford Field shook as if the Lions had just won the Super Bowl. I had a different reaction to Farrakhan’s praise for dictators, terrorists and extremists: I awakened to how a conflict-oriented, resentful view of the world leads to immoral conclusions about who your friends are and aren’t. Back in Toronto, I told my friend I could no longer attend any NOI events with him again.
The hateful nature of the NOI’s ideology is rooted in its desire to see America burn to the ground. Farrakhan expertly uses horrific parts of American history and present day inequalities to foster racial and religious conflict. Rather than heal America’s wounds, he hopes to make them worse, like an infection attacking the American body from within. Farrakhan aligns with anti-American figures around the world who are also anti-Semitic and oppose the existence of America’s ally, Israel.
Hate is what Farrakhan thrives on. He is no victim.
Jamil Jivani (@JamilJivani) is the author of Why Young Men: The Dangerous Allure of Violent Movements and What We Can Do About It.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.