`Nation' mirrors its leader

RUPERT CORNWELL

Washington

The Nation of Islam, the sect headed by the leader of yesterday's Million Man March, is in the image of Louis Farrakhan himself: conservative but militant, propounding family values with the zeal of a Dan Quayle, yet ever ready to resort to mysticism, pseudo-science and hate-dripping rhetoric to press its message of black separatism.

On the public platform, Louis Farrakhan and his lieutenants denounce Jews and Catholics, claiming that the white race was created 6,000 years ago by a black scientist called Yakub, and that Aids and drugs are plagues engineered by whites to decimate the black race. As they do so they are flanked by bodyguards drawn from the Nation's own paramilitary guard, called the Fruit of Islam - sinister young men turned out in well-cut suits, gleaming white shirts and neat coloured bow ties.

But even Farrakhan's enemies acknowledge the effectiveness of the programmes against drugs and crime run by the Nation in depressed inner-city neighbourhoods.

The Nation's historic home is New York and Harlem, the fief of Elijah Muhammad, the sect's most famous leader, who died in 1975.

Louis Farrakhan himself joined the Nation of Islam in 1955, a protege of Malcolm X, with whom he later fell out. Malcolm X was murdered in a Harlem ballroom on 21 February 1965 .

Upon Elijah Muhammad's death, leadership passed to his son, Warith Deen (Wallace) Muhammad. But he broke with Louis Farrakhan and set up his own group, Al Islam, to which the boxers Muhammad Ali and the recently-freed Mike Tyson belong.

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