December 1997


State Dept. concedes World
Friendship Tour violates no U.S. laws

by Tyrone Muhammad
Staff Writer

WASHINGTON--A Nation of Islam delegation met with officials from the U.S. State Department on Dec. 1, in a near two-hour briefing concerning the World Friendship Tour of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and his planned travel to Iraq.

According to State Department Director of Public Affairs of the Near East Bureau, Andrew Steinfield, the policy guidelines of the U.S. government regarding travel to nations under U.S. government sanctions, was the major concern. "In general, the view of the United States government is that visits to states like Libya and Iraq are not helpful," commented Mr. Steinfeld in his opening remarks. It was eventually conceded by State Department officials that a visit to these nations by Min. Farrakhan would give those nations a greater sense of credibility and legitimacy, while the current policy of the United States is to sanction, isolate and discredit Libya and Iraq.

However, at the conclusion of the briefing, U.S. government officials categorically admitted that Min. Farrakhan's World Friendship Tour was well within a substantial "legal" framework. Commenting on the findings of the Department of State, East Coast Regional Minister Benjamin F. Muhammad, who led the delegation representing Min. Farrakhan affirmed that "in spite of the U.S. government policy objections, clearly the Minister's tour has the blessings of Allah."

Accompanying Min. Benjamin were Mid-Atlantic Regional Minister Abdul Khadir Muhammad, General Counsel Abdul Arif Muhammad, Regional Captain Deon Muhammad and Tyrone Muhammad, Washington correspondent of The Final Call. Joining the session via telephone conference call from the Nation of Islam's national headquarters in Chicago were Chief of Staff Leonard Farrakhan Muhammad and Attorney Rufus Cook, a legal counsel for the Nation of Islam.

State Department officials coordinated the briefing hours before Min. Farrakhan departed the United States beginning his tour. The United States government, through U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson, first referenced the briefing. On Nov. 30, in an appearance on NBC's weekly Meet the Press television program, Mr. Richardson suggested that the head of the Nation of Islam receive a briefing before his departure, particularly where it related to Iraq.

The next day, Min. Farrakhan directed Min. Ava Muhammad, to respond to the intimation of the ambassador by personally appearing at the U.S. State Department building in Washington, D.C. While in New York City, at the United Nations, Min. Benjamin and phalanx of men from the Fruit of Islam, were met by dozens of reporters, cameras and law enforcement personnel as he hand delivered to the UN Ambassador's Chief of Staff Rebecca Cooper, a letter addressed to Ambassador Richardson. Ms. Cooper cordially met the minister, thanking him for responding to Mr. Richardson's appeal and stated that the official briefing would take place later that afternoon in Washington.

"We really have a sacred duty like any other religious order in the world," stated Chief of Staff Leonard Farrakhan Muhammad responding to earlier placed concerns of whether or not the Minister's visit to the nations in question would be "helpful" to U.S. interests. He continued by citing the tradition of Black leaders who have declared their God-inspired responsibility to challenge the "wrongness" of U.S. governmental policy when those policies were at variance with their understanding of God's justice and righteousness.

Much to the surprise of government officials, the briefing ended on a solemn and sacred note with a call to prayer by Min. Benjamin, asking Allah's protection of Min. Farrakhan as he embarked on his mission of encouraging friendship and world peace. "Oh, Allah, we are thankful for this day you have made. We pray for a successful and safe journey of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and his World Friendship Tour. We are thankful for the exchange of information we received today," he prayed.

"I'm glad it happened," mentioned one of the State Department officials at the close of the meeting. "At least we have begun to have constructive dialogue," the official concluded.


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