Black leaders clash over anti-Semitism: Jesse Jackson has taken the lead in condemning the inflammatory rhetoric of the Nation of Islam group

THE Rev Jesse Jackson and several other black American leaders are calling for a halt to the anti-Semitic rants of members of the black Muslim group Nation of Islam, led by Louis Farrakhan.

In a politically risky move that may cost him support in the black community, Mr Jackson has condemned as 'racist, anti-Semitic, divisive and untrue' an inflammatory speech by one of Mr Farrakhan's aides, Khalid Muhammad. He called American Jews 'the bloodsuckers of the black nation' and accused Jews of controlling, to the detriment of black people, anything of any consequence in American life, from the Federal Reserve Board to the film industry.

This is not a new departure for members of the black Muslim group, who for several years have been blaming Jews for their problems. But Mr Jackson evidently decided that the speech had crossed some key hate-mongering line. He called on Mr Farrakhan to denounce last week's speech by Mr Muhammad.

But Mr Farrakhan has not done so. He had a good chance to make amends in Harlem on Monday night when he addressed 10,000 people at a 'Black Men Only' rally to call for an end to violence among black youth, but he did not even mention Mr Jackson.

Instead, in a two-and-a-half hour speech he again launched into an attack on the Jews, saying 'they're trying to use my brother Khalid's words against me to divide the house'. Implying that Mr Jackson had become some kind of tool of the Jewish lobby, he said that the Jewish community was 'plotting as we speak . . . they don't want Farrakhan to do what he's doing.'

Having warily embraced Mr Farrakhan's efforts to bring an end to black-on-black violence, several prominent black leaders have now also decided to distance themselves from Mr Muhammad's remarks. Besides his anti-Semitic remarks, he also attacked Roman Catholics and homosexuals.

Benjamin Chavis, the leader of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the largest black civil rights group in the country, condemned Mr Muhammad's speech, saying his anti- Semitism 'must not go unchallenged'. Mr Chavis said he was 'appalled that any human being would stoop so low to make such violence-prone anti-Semitic comments'.

Another black leader, William Gray, president of the United Negro College Fund, has also condemned the speech.

Of particular significance is the condmenation of Representative Kweisi Mfume, a Maryland Democrat, who heads the 40-member Congressional Black Caucus and has been trying to forge a partnership between the caucus and the Nation of Islam.

In addition, a Harlem Democrat, Representative Charles Rangel, said of Mr Muhammad's remarks: 'Clearly we're dealing with a person who is very dangerous, bitter and, in my opinion, very sick.'

Other less prominent black leaders accused Mr Jackson of dividing the black community, and charged that he was only challenging Mr Farrakhan for his own political gain.

Eric Adams, the leader of a black policemen's group in New York that is working with the Nation of Islam in an attempt to control violence in black neighbourhoods, said Mr Jackson's criticism of Mr Farrakhan would definitely hurt his following among black Americans. 'It's tme for us to realise what Mr Farrakhan is trying to do,' he said.

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