Farrakhan declares he is committed to non racialism after meeting Mandela

 

AFTER meeting President Nelson Mandela, the black American leader, the Rev Louis Farrakhan, has affirmed his commitment to non racialism, sexual equality and religious toleration.

Speaking to reporters after the 40 minute meeting in Johannesburg yesterday, Mr Farrakhan rejected any suggestion that he had ever felt any differently. Despite widespread claims in the US that he is anti Semitic, anti white and sexist, Mr Farrakhan said it was impossible for any practising Muslim to espouse such views.

"Islam is a religion which if practised, disallows racialism racism, injustice, tyranny and oppression," he said.

Mr Mandela's decision to meet Mr Farrakhan had been widely questioned in the South African media, which pointed to the African National Congress leader's long commitment to non racialism, equality and peaceful reconciliation. Mr Mandela said yesterday, however, it was his policy to meet people of all political views.

"I immediately agreed to meet him because in the course of my career as leader of the ANC and president I have accommodated a wide range of views. I have met people whose views were diametrically opposed to mine," Mr Mandela told reporters at his home in northern Johannesburg.

Mr Mandela said he had informed Mr Farrakhan during their meeting of the ANC's commitment to non racialism and gender equality.

"In the 1950s one of the principles we established was nonracialism. We have defended that policy without fear and we have now triumphed. We are building a non racial society in this country," President Mandela said.

Mr Farrakhan said he and his movement agreed with everything that Mr Mandela had said. His movement was seeking to liberate and uplift blacks, Arabs, Muslims and other oppressed peoples, but not at the expense of others' liberty.

The meeting with the ANC leader is a publicity coup for Mr Farrakhan. Despite his very different approach to racial politics, which seeks to erode race distinctions by stressing reconciliation and co existence, Mr Mandela remains an icon of struggle for radical blacks in the US. Mr Farrakhan yesterday renewed his call for a homeland for American blacks to be created somewhere in Africa, should white society fail to atone for and remedy the crime of slavery.

Mr Farrakhan, with a large delegation of family and supporters, is touring Africa to promote his idea of a world day of atonement for slavery, to be held on the anniversary of last year's Million Man March in Washington. So far he visited several African, nations, including Libya, Nigeria and Zaire.

Mr Farrakhan said it would be improper for him to comment on Nigeria's military dictatorship, which faces international condemnation for ordering the execution of nine black human rights activists last year. All he knew about Nigeria was what he read in the newspapers, he said, and as the victim of media bias, he considered it would be unwise to comment on what he read.