Originally published: February 6, 1998
MAHACHKALA, Russia (FinalCall.com) – If there was ever any doubt in the truth of the promise of Nation of Islam Founder W.D. Fard that Islam would make friends for black men and women from North America all over the Planet Earth, not just in Africa, then members of the delegation traveling with the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan on his World Friendship Tour III, saw ample proof of it in Russia, in remote Siberia, and in Daghestan in the Caucasus Mountains.
Accompanied across the frozen tundra in sub-freezing weather by the Grand Mufti of Siberia, the black men and women from America who have been the “rejected and despised” throughout the nation’s sordid history, met true friends among people who had never before laid eyes on them.
At the “Jumaat Mosque,” the “Friday Mosque” in Tumin, the capital of Siberia, old men—some with dozens of military medals and ribbons on their chests—and young men alike, with faces full of wonder, listened attentively, often cheering, as Min. Farrakhan spoke of the twin destinies of Muslims in Russia and Muslims in America.
“If you think that we are black and this is a country where there are white Muslims,” Min. Farrakhan told one group of Russian Muslims, “yet Islam transcends color. Islam transcends race. Islam transcends ethnic differences. Islam is the only force that can make all human beings the children of Adam as we began.”
In Siberia, Tartars, Mongols—Muslims with white skin and Oriental features—embraced black men and women from Chicago, New York, and Washington, like long-lost-kin, posing for photographs and home video cameras even though they only knew a few words in common: “As-Salaam Alaikum (Peace be unto you);” “Bismillah ir-Rahman, ir-Raheem (I begin in the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful);” “Allah-hu Akbar (God is Great)!;” and, “Al-Fatiha (the oft-repeated prayer).”
But just as warm and spirited as the reception was for him from the Muslims everywhere he went in the former Communist “super-power,” the official reception from the government was just as cold and burdened with “red-tape.” Beginning with the arrival in Moscow, the Nation of Islam delegation was charged an exorbitant $150 per person for visas. Normally, visas to Russia cost $25. “In all of our travels in more than 100 countries of the world,” said an official travelling with Min. Farrakhan, “we don’t know of any country which has ever charged visitors $150 per person for visas.”
Originally, the Muslim leader was scheduled to attend Salatul-Jummah in Siberia. But the official Russian bureaucratic interference made itself known again, delaying his departure for Tumim for more than four hours at the Moscow departure terminal.
Finally, when he did speak, after Salatul-Maghrib, even though his words had to be translated twice—from English into Arabic, and then again into Russian—Muslims cheered “Allah-hu Akbar! (God is Great!)” when Min. Farrakhan told them that Islam is the fastest growing religion in America, and that with Islam, Russia can regain her eminence as a world super-power.
In Mahachkala, the capital of the Caucasus Mountain region of Daghestan, Min. Farrakhan and his delegation encountered a spirit and zeal that exceeds that of the Muslims anywhere he has traveled outside of the United States, the Nation of Islam leader said, pointing out that a woman from that same mountain region was the Mother of Master W.D. Fard.
The Mahachkala arrival might have been the most dangerous incident on this Tour. Once again his departure was delayed from four to six hours, as local Siberian airport officials–freed from central-state authority under the new “capitalist-styled” free market system–demanded more and more money than what was originally announced for the private plane’s departure, while at the same time they were unable to produce receipts in a timely manner, and claimed they were having trouble converting U.S. dollars into Russian currency.
Under the command of Capt. Peverz Iqbal, a Canadian Muslim, the airplane’s first two landing approaches through clouds had to be aborted. “As soon as the plane pulled up the first time,” one passenger recalled, “I thought immediately of (former U.S. Commerce Secretary) Ron Brown.” Mr. Brown was killed leading a small delegation of business leaders to Bosnia. His plane crashed into a mountain at a fog-bound airport. Some aviation sources question the official designation of that incident as an accident, claiming that his aircraft may have been intentionally given incorrect coordinates for the landing strip while attempting to land using instruments because of poor visibility.
Later, Capt. Iqbal recalled that had he landed blindly in the fog using the original landing coordinates which had been radioed to him from the airport tower, his plane might have crashed into one of the Caucasus mountains surrounding the air field.
Still, even though his plane touched-down four hours later than scheduled, a warrior-dance troupe of young men called “The Soldiers of Islam,” greeted the Muslim leader from the U.S., performing with swords and shields and drums, while waving a flag with a star and crescent on a green field. Nineteen cars and trucks illuminated the tarmac with their headlights as the men danced.
The next morning, Min. Farrakhan’s motorcade was met at the center of town by a calvary of mounted soldiers who escorted the entourage on to the Mosque for prayer.
“As we hold hands in brotherhood,” Min. Farrakhan said to Nadyrshakh Khachilayev, the president of the Muslim Union of Russia and a member of the Russian Duma (Parliament) following the prayer, “may Allah bless the Muslims in Russia, the Muslims in America, and the Muslims throughout the world, that we will stand together in righteousness like a solid wall!
“On behalf of our entire delegation, we thank you from the depth of our heart for allowing us the privilege to be in this holy place, with these beautiful Muslims, our family in Islam,” Min. Farrakhan said.
“My translator said, ‘Insha-Allah,'” Min. Farrakhan said at one point in Mahachkala, “I didn’t say that. I didn’t say, “IF it is the will of Allah,” because I know it IS the will of Allah! It IS the will of Allah that we will master America with Islam! And it IS the will of Allah that you will master Russia with Islam! It IS the will of Allah!”
In the Caucasus Mountains Min. Farrakhan met two other very special believers: Zuhaira Abdul-Rahman, a six-year-old girl; and Shaykh Adallo Ali Muhammad. More than two years ago, when she was just 3-1/2-years-old, young Sister Zuhaira was recognized in Cairo by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak as the best female under 15-years of age at reciting the Holy Qur’an anywhere in the Muslim world, even though Arabic is not her native language.
Shaykh Adallo Ali Muhammad is the leader of what’s known as the Nation of Islam Congress of the Caucasus Mountains. This two-year-old organization, which has as its symbol a star and crescent in the identical phase as that of the Nation of Islam in America, was formed to unite the Muslims in Caucusus region—which includes Checnya as well as Dagestan.
And while the Dagestan leg of the World Friendship Tour III was the source of the most inspirational and heart-warming experiences in faith, and the place where the spirit of the local believers may be the strongest, there were even more dangerous trials ahead for Minister Farrakhan and his delegation. One member of the delegation, who attempted to join the delegation in Dagestan after remaining behind in Moscow to secure travel arrangments into other countries on the itenerary, was arrested, detained and questioned for five-hours by Russian authorities.
There was another tense stand-off involving Russian military and intelligence (formerly the KGB) forces who surrounded the Primorska (Seaside) Hotel on the banks of the Caspian Sea, placing the entire delegation—the only guests at the hotel at that time—literally under “house arrest.”
Min. Farrakhan had expressed a desire to travel to Chechnya, the break-away Muslim region which fought more than 250,000 Russian troops to a bloody truce over their desire for independence. Many Muslims from Dagestan, led by Bro. Nadyrshakh Khachilayev, fought alongside their Muslim brothers, for Chechnyan independence. The heavily armed Russian soldiers only withdrew from around the hotel, when Min. Farrakhan dropped his plans to travel to Chechnya, deciding to leave the country.
Mr. Khachilayev was one of Minister Farrakhan’s guests at the World Islamic Peoples’ Leadership Conference in Chicago last July and was the Tour’s official host in Russia. Although Mr. Khachilayev is a high-ranking official in the Russian Duma, it was only the intervention of his heavily armed militia and their willingness to defend Min. Farrakhan and his delegation with their lives, that averted a potential catastrophe: a tragedy which would likely have been explained away to outsiders as “an unfortunate accident.”
Even on their final departure from Russia the Muslims from America were subjected to a provocative search not only of each and every piece of luggage and carry-on baggage, but also an intensive search of the entire aircraft that concluded when the single Nation of Islam security member allowed to accompany the Russian officials during the intrusive search of the cabin, was ordered off the airplane, while Russian officials questioned the airplane’s crew memebers in private.
Never before, either on the first World Friendship Tour in early 1996, on the abbreviated World Friendship Tour II in December 1996 and January 1997, or at any of the two-dozen locations visited on World Friendship Tour III, had the baggage being carried on the chartered plane been so carefully examined, let alone personally hand-inspected as it was prior to the Russian departure. “These were not local officials, our interpreter told us,” a Nation of Islam security aide said, “these were what he called “Frontier Soldiers,” and they were directly from the Kremlin. Our interpreter told us not to resist, or even protest anything they ordered us to do.”
“They wanted us to leave in pieces, not in peace,” a source in the delegation said after observing Russian soldiers on the airport tarmac and on top of the airport building, release the safety-devices on their automatic weapons, and place them in firing position when the Muslim leader left the terminal, after being given incorrect instructions by a local airport official.
“Despite our rude treatment,” Minister Farrakhan recalled after leaving Russia, “I told our translator, who had tears in his eyes when when we finally boarded the plane, that our love for our hosts was not at all diminished.”