LETTER: The Million Man March: Farrakhan's words offer renewal

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From Ms Linda Bellos

Sir: The Independent is to be congratulated for printing excerpts from Louis Farrakhan's speech (18 October) on Monday at the Million Man March. From my reading of what he said, there was no hint of race hatred or anti- Semitism.

I have heard Farrakhan's utterances in the past about the Jewish faith and the Jewish community in America, and they are unacceptable and offensive. It is also the case that he has distanced himself from these earlier views. He still has far to go to allay the legitimate anxieties of Jewish people, but at least he has offered to engage in dialogue.

What has been distressing about the coverage of the Nation of Islam is the way that both its leader and its message have been distorted. To assert that America is a racist society is not itself racist; it is instead a statement of fact - if, that is, one is black.

It took particular boldness to call for spiritual renewal and for a Million Man March. Is it such a bad thing that Farrakhan achieved this? Would it be preferable for the message of renewal to be delayed until the messenger is acceptable to those who are not black?

I, for one, was particularly impressed by the non-sectarian call by Farrakhan for black men to join organisations, to register to vote, and to join religious groups, whether Christian, Jewish or Muslim. Far from separatist, this is about participating and, as such, it should be applauded or at least respected.

Yours sincerely,

Linda Bellos

London, N4

18 October

The writer is treasurer of the Africa Reparations Movement (UK)