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Obama Condemns Farrakhan

Posted on 1/18/2008 2:46:00 PM

The Jewish community welcomed Senator Barack Obama's condemnation of Rev. Louis Farrakhan, the acting head of the Nation of Islam (NOI). The Democratic presidential candidate was responding to news that his spiritual adviser, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, had praised Farrakhan, who was known to have made anti-Semitic remarks.

Rev. Wright is the minister of Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ, of which Barack Obama is a member. Last year, Wright, in the church publication, Trumpet, honoured Farrakhan. At an awards event, he said Farrakhan "truly epitomized greatness".

However, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a group engaged in efforts against anti-Semitism, has this to say: "Farrakhan has repeatedly made hateful statements targeting Jews, whites and homosexuals. Farrakhan's bigoted and anti-Semitic rhetoric has included statements calling whites 'blue eyed devils' and Jews 'bloodsuckers' that controlled the slave trade, the government, the media and various Black individuals and organizations."

In his statement, Obama said he vehemently condemned racism in any form. "I decry racism and anti-Semitism in every form and strongly condemn the anti-Semitic statements made by Minister Farrakhan," he said and added, "I assume that Trumpet magazine made its own decision to honor Farrakhan based on his efforts to rehabilitate ex-offenders, but it is not a decision with which I agree." Obama did not clarify whether his position with regard to Wright would change. Reportedly, his campaign did not respond to phone calls seeking clarification.

Meanwhile Obama's statement drew mixed reactions. While Ken Bandler, spokesman for the American Jewish Committee, termed Obama's announcement as "sufficient", not everybody agreed.  Herb London, president of the conservative Hudson Institute, said, "Since the minister has praised and even honored Farrakhan through the church, it raises questions about his affiliations as well as his true sentiments."

Again, Abraham Foxman, national director (ADL), said, "We welcome Barack Obama's condemnation of the anti-Semitic rhetoric of Minister Louis Farrakhan, and his making clear that he did not agree with his church's decision to honor Farrakhan with the Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. Trumpeter Award." He added that issues of racism and anti-Semitism must transcend politics. "When someone close to a political figure shows sympathy and support for an individual who makes his name espousing bigotry, that political figure needs to distance himself from that decision," he said, adding that Obama had done just that.

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