FEBRUARY 1998 - Web-Posted 3/10/98

Hero's welcome for Farrakhan in Australia


by Askia Muhammad
Washington Bureau Chief

Min. Farrakhan arrived to a hero's welcome in Australia Feb. 14.SYDNEY--Despite the most unrelenting propaganda attack against him in any of the 27 nations visited thus far on this World Friendship Tour III, the Honorable Louis Farrakhan arrived to a hero's welcome in Australia Feb. 14.

More than 100 cheering supporters--Muslims, Aborigines, Blacks--waited over four hours at Sydney Airport to provide a 30-vehicle-escort to take the Nation of Islam leader and his entourage to the Imam Ali Mosque in the mostly-Muslim Lakemba Residential District, where another 1,000 supporters waved banners and shouted "Allah-hu Akbar (God is Great)," when Minister Farrakhan arrived.

One airport well-wisher waved a copy of "Message to the Blackman in America" by the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, for Min. Farrakhan and for the dozens of doubting reporters representing corporate news media outlets to see.

For several days before his arrival "down under," news reports routinely quoted only the Muslim leader's more sensational remarks totally out of the context in which they were spoken. He was labeled as "the prophet of Black rage," an "anti-Semite," with a "hellish vision" and worse, who had to be "counseled on Australia's method of free speech" by the Australian ambassador in Seoul, South Korea in order to get permission to enter the country.

Though he is recognized by one influential magazine as one of the 25 most important people in America, and by another as one of the 65 most influential world leaders, Australian publications, broadcasters, and some Jewish leaders ignored Min. Farrakhan's long record of accomplishments in the area of atonement and reconciliation among troubled and sometimes violent groups in the U.S.

The leader of the B'nai B'rith Anti-Defamation Commission predicted that Min. Farrakhan's presence in Australia would be "dangerous," because of the Muslim leader's strong words. Other critics applauded the government's decision to set conditions on his entry.

"But at the same time this was asked of me," Min. Farrakhan said after praying at the Mosque, "there were no such restraints on the media.

"So they were saying all kinds of things about me that would engender dislike or hatred for me, even before I set foot in the country," the Nation of Islam leader said.

The Anti-Defamation Com-mission, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, and the U.S.-based Anti-Defamation League all mounted furious news media and political campaigns against Minister Farrakhan's visit, promising "to protest in every possible way."

In addition to the dozens of supporters who met him at the airport, at least 1,000 believers waited at the Lakemba Mosque for hours for the Muslim leader's appearance on Saturday Feb. 14, and an overflow crowd of 5,000 supporters lined the streets in front of the mosque on Sunday Feb. 15. In addition, hundreds of indigenous Aborigines followed the Muslim leader through "Redfern," the slum neighborhood known as "the Block," during an unannounced visit to that neighborhood. Only one anti-Farrakhan protester, however, appeared at any of several public events on the Minister's schedule.

Mosque spokesman Malek Oman told The Final Call, regarding of reports that even the Islamic community was divided about the appearance of the Nation of Islam leader, "The Mufti was one million percent in favor of defending the Minister for his beliefs and understanding," speaking Imam Taj Addin Al Hilali, the Grand Mufti of Australia, whose headquarters is at the Lakemba Mosque.

"The Mufti sees (Min. Farrakhan) as the mujeddid. He is the most understandable, the most knowledgeable person (from who Australians) can get insight into Islam. When (the Minister) speaks to the people it is like an eagle spreading his wings," Mr. Oman said.

During his remarks in the mosque, Min. Farrakhan thanked Australian immigration authorities for permitting his visit, then discussed the mounting tensions and build-up for war in the Persian Gulf. "The world is in deep trouble," he said.

"As I speak, warships are moving towards the Gulf. I believe that Australia has said they will send warships to the Gulf to add to Canada, Great Britain and the U.S., " he said, referring to the decision by Prime Minister John Howard to send personnel and refueling planes to join the troop build-up.

"I appeal to the government of Australia," Min. Farrakhan said at the mosque, "Iraq has done nothing to Australia. Iraq does not threaten Australia.

"My government says Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. If she does have these weapons, what have you been doing in your weapons inspections in the last seven years"? Min. Farrakhan continued.

"For seven years Iraqi people have been dying. This is the only war in history that more people have died since the war was over than died during the war. It is a war which has never ended because the West is hateful of Saddam Hussein and wants the Iraqi people to suffer and rise and overthrow leadership that the West does not appreciate.

"America has more weapons of mass destruction than any nation on earth," he said, pointing out that the U.S. had also used atomic weapons on the people of Hiroshima and Nagaski, Japan.

As Min. Farrakhan appealed to the Australian government and people to reconsider the decision to support U.S. action, opposition began to swell among Australians themselves. Even within the ruling Labor Party, Members of Parliament as well as church leaders contacted Muslim officials to organize a joint Muslim-Christian protest march against Australian military involvement in the Gulf.

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