[Editor’s Note: In a much talked about interview, the Honorable Louis Farrakhan appeared April 13, 1997 on NBC television’s “Meet the Press.” He was interviewed by Tim Russert and David Broder. The following text is the first part of excerpts from the interview.]
Tim Russert (TR): Bob Novak heard you speak in Florida recently and wrote a column entitled, “Farrakhan and the GOP.” And he says that, Farrakhan is knocking on the door of the Republican Party, the first modern Black leader to do so. But who will open the door and sit down and talk to him?” You just heard (Congressman) John Kasich, whom you praised. Jack Kemp, last night, said it’s impossible to sit down with you because of things you’ve said. Are you trying to reach out and play a role in the Republican Party?
Minister Louis Farrakhan (MLF): First, let me say that when men of high political standing say that it is impossible to sit down with Farrakhan because of the things he has said, should I then say, “It is impossible to sit down with white people for the things that they have done?” I speak words, and I believe my words are truth, but what my people have suffered and continue to suffer in America is very real. So, if there’s going to be some meeting of the minds, intelligent people should sit down and not give me pre-conditions, but sit down and talk about the future of this nation and the future of suffering people in America.
TR: In preparing for this interview I read the literature that your organization puts out and publishes … and I’d like to go through it to find out what you believe and how it affects America. This is your newspaper (The Final Call), which comes out once a month, and on the back page …
MLF: Once a week.
TR: Once a week. On the back page is The Muslim Program, “What the Muslims Want.” And if I can go through a few of these–let me put one on the screen and get your reaction. The first is in terms of territory, and you’ll see, “Since we cannot get along with them in peace and equality, we believe our contributions to this land and the suffering forced upon us by white America justifies our demand for complete separation in a state or territory of our own.” Is that your view in 1997, a separate state for Black Americans?
MLF: First, the program starts with number one. That is number four. The first part of that program is that we want freedom, a full and complete freedom. The second is, we want justice. We want equal justice under the law, and we want justice applied equally to all, regardless of race or class or color. And the third is that we want equality. We want equal membership in society with the best in civilized society. If we can get that within the political, economic, social system of America, there’s no need for point number four. But if we cannot get along in peace after giving America 400 years of our service and sweat and labor, then, of course, separation would be the solution to our race problem.
TR: You told The Washington Times a few years ago, “We have no hope that we can effect true reconciliation between blacks and whites in this country. The answer, ultimately, is going to be separation.”
MLF: It appears that way. America, right now, is faced with the same problem that it faced in the 1860s with Abraham Lincoln. You have a country, a great nation, but it is divided. So, at that time it was North and South, and in the middle of that divide was the question, “What are we going to do with slavery?” Today, America is suffering the same problem, the racial divide, and in the center of that, what are we going to do about justice for the black, and the red, and the brown?
TR: Last year you gave an interview to Henry Louis Gates, a professor from Harvard, in New Yorker magazine where he asked you whether you still subscribe to the teachings of Elijah Muhammad on Yakub, a Black scientist who 6,600 years ago created the white man, and that by the end of the 20th century, a spaceship will come and rain down upon white people and people who don’t embrace Islam. Do you subscribe to the teachings of Yakub, that Yakub, the black scientist, created the white man?
MLF: I subscribe to every word that the Honorable Elijah Muhammad taught us. You know, it’s not unreal to believe that white people-who genetically cannot produce yellow, brown or black-had a Black origin. The scholars and scientists of this world agree that the origin of man and mankind started in Africa and that the first parent of the world was black. The Qur’an says that God created Adam out of black mud and fashioned him into shape. So if white people came from the original people, the black people, what is the process by which you came to life? That is not a silly question. That is a scientific question with a scientific answer. It doesn’t suggest that we are superior or that you are inferior. It suggests, however, that your birth or your origin is from the black people of this earth; superiority and inferiority is determined by our righteousness and not by our color.
TR: Elijah Muhammad also said that whites are blue-eyed devils. Do you believe that?
MLF: Well, you have not been saints in the way you have acted toward the darker peoples of the world and toward even your own people. But, in truth, Mr. Russert, any human being who gives themself over to the doing of evil could be considered a devil. In the Bible, in the Book of Revelation, it talks about the fall of Babylon. It says Babylon is fallen because she has become the habitation of devils. We believe that that ancient Babylon is a symbol of a modern Babylon which is America. America has become a land of people who want to do their own thing, and their own thing is in direct contravention and rebellion against the will of God, which makes any rebel against God an agent of Satan.
TR: Let me go back to The Muslim Program. One of the points also is interracial marriage, and we’ll take a look at that on our screen. “We believe that interracial marriage or race mixing should be prohibited.” Is that still your view?
MLF: Our view is that there are at least five or six black women to every black male. The black male is either in prison, in the armed forces, in the streets, or on drugs. The black woman needs a mate, and if the black man is a suitable mate, I believe I would prefer that he chooses one of his own women. Racial harmony to me does not mean racial mixing. Racial harmony to me means mutual respect of one people for another.
TR: Can you, as a black man, marry a white woman, or a black woman marry a white man, and still be in good standing in the Nation of Islam?
MLF: The mother of the Leader who came to North America to teach us, Fard Muhammad, His mother was a white woman. His father was a black man. So where there is love, love transcends our racial denomination or ethnicity. Love is the great power of transformation. I don’t think that we can say when two people are in love that they shouldn’t marry one another. But I would prefer that the black man and the black woman marry into their own kind.
TR: Let me show you two other points quick. One is on the whole idea of prisons, which I found interesting. “We want freedom for all believers of Islam now held in federal prison.” And also on taxes. “We want the government of the United States to exempt our people from all taxation as long as we are deprived of equal justice under the laws of the land.” Anyone who believes in Islam should be freed from federal prison and black Americans should not pay taxes?
MLF: If you look at Islam, (it) is a religion that absolutely reforms and transforms our life. If I might take just a moment to say something about the religion of Islam, while we believe that Christianity and the Judeo-Christian context is the most evangelical of the religions, Islam is the most ecumenical. In Islam, we believe in Moses and the Torah. We believe in Jesus and the Gospel.
We believe in all of the prophets and the Scriptures that they brought. So when a person goes to prison who has been deprived of equal justice, and because of the lack of equality of opportunity and the pursuit of happiness gets involved in social conduct that is against the law, when that person accepts Islam and their life is transformed into that of a righteous person, we believe that a righteous person should be freed from prison. And about taxation, I would respectfully say that some of the founding fathers of this great nation said that taxation without representation is tyranny, and as long as we are deprived of equal justice under the law, why should we pay taxes to a system that certainly is not good for us as it is presently structured?
TR: You are heading to south Philadelphia at the invitation of the mayor of Philadelphia to address an ecumenical meeting, because there had been some racial killings in Philadelphia, both whites and blacks. Jewish organizations refuse to participate. Yesterday, the Catholic Church refused to participate, and they cited some of the things you said in your past. I want to walk through those and find out why they are so offended and your reaction to it. You heard (Congressman) John Kasich talk about love as opposed to hate in your heart. The Catholic Church cited this in my conversations, and I’ll put it on the board. [He reads words attributed to Minister Farrakhan.]
“We just got to tell the truth. Catholicism has been by white people, for white people, to subject black people to a white kind of theology that strips us of ourselves.” That was you in 1994. And they particularly took great offense to Khallid Muhammad, your former chief spokesman, who said, “The old no-good Pope–you know that cracker, somebody needs to raise that dress up and see what’s really under there.” Do you understand why Catholics take offense and believe that you are bigoted towards them?
MLF: Do you understand why black people would be upset that we were brought to America on the slave ships run by Christians–so-called Christians–and while we were being burned at the stake and hung on trees and castrated and dehumanized, the Catholic Church did not speak out on our behalf, nor did the Christian church. And it was three centuries that the Bible was locked against us. If I might respectfully say, (Philadelphia) Mayor (Ed) Rendell is Jewish. He invited me to the city.
I hope to speak to that condition, and I would hope that the Catholic Church would not fasten on words while we (Blacks) could fasten on deeds. Do you know that the young men who ran out and beat up that young lady in Philadelphia came out of a Catholic Church? The recent incident in Bridgeport in Chicago–those young men were Catholics. I am called a hate teacher, a hate preacher, an anti-Semite, a bigot. And nobody wants to talk with me because it doesn’t appear that I have love in my heart. But look, in the 20 years that I have been the leader of the Nation of Islam there is not one single incident of any Muslim being arrested for a hate crime.
Yet, the church is the bastion of love, but all of this hate is coming toward us out of the church. I think it is a mistake that the church won’t be present. I think it is a mistake that members of the synagogue won’t be present. But that is exactly the way it has been. The members of the church abdicate their responsibility to social justice. Something has to be done, and the church has a very important role to play, not only the black church, but the white church as well.