The following are excerpts from articles which appeared in the Egyptian English weekly, “Al-Ahram” of Al-Ahram Weekly 8-14 January 1998, “Africa encounters Farrakhan” by Gamal Nkrumah
Louis Farrakhan’s recent world tour was part of his effort to bring Africa, the Muslim world and Black America closer together.
In an interview with Al-Ahram Weekly, Farrakhan stressed that he had “never made contact with Al-Gama’a Al-Islamiya or any other such organization.” Al-Gama’a Al-Islamiya, Egypt’s largest militant Islamic group, claimed responsibility for the Luxor massacre — saying it was meant to secure the release of its leaders imprisoned in American and Egyptian jails….
“I do not advocate violence. I cannot condone violent acts except in self-defense. Even when it concerns our struggle in America….
“I can overthrow the system by means of the Qur’an. Over 80 percent of the two million African-American men who answered my call to demonstrate in Washington against racial oppression in America were Christian. The Reverend Benjamin Chavis, who was instrumental in organizing the March, is now a Muslim. Islam is the fastest growing religion in America today.”
In Cairo, Farrakhan did not meet with top-level political personalities, but he did meet with the Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar, Mohamed Sayed Tantawi. He was unable to meet with Grand Sheikh Nasr Farid Wassel, the Grand Mufti of Egypt, but met with leaders of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood and members of the Islamist-oriented Labour Party at the home of the party’s leader Ibrahim Shukri.
Farrakhan has set himself a difficult task: he is currying favor with the secular establishments of predominantly Muslim nations, with socialist and nationalist patriotic groups as well as with Islamists. He says that so far his tour has been successful. What seems to have not gone down so well are the accusations swirling around that Farrakhan has been hobnobbing with militant groups.
Before he left his headquarters in Chicago, Farrakhan said that he is on a 52-nation world tour that will take him to several countries dubbed by Washington as “rogue states”, including Iraq, Iran, Libya, Sudan, North Korea and Cuba. Farrakhan explained that he did not use his American passport to travel to Iraq, and therefore, did not violate the U.S. travel ban on Iraq…. Farrakhan was accompanied by an entourage of about 50 people.
Elegantly dressed in his trademark bow tie, he spoke to representatives of the international media at a well-attended press conference. He also lectured at the African Society, a historical landmark which housed many of Africa’s liberation leaders in the ’50s and ’60s. His audience at the Africa Society were mainly representatives of Al-Azhar University’s 12,000-strong African student community, and he spoke about Islam and Pan-Africanism. He paid tribute to Egypt’s late president Gamal Abdel-Nasser, who had received both Elijah Mohamed and Malcom X in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
“Living up to history” — and interview of Foreign Minister Amr Moussa by Hosny Guindy and Hani Shukrallah,
Moussa: I must say that this policy of Netanyahu’s has not been entirely a bad thing because it has brought into sharp focus the real Israeli demands under the Likud, with no sugar coating on them — none whatsoever. So, it has all become very clear. As such, you either have to deal with it, challenge it, or succumb to it. This is what makes the situation critical… And this is why I say we are approaching the moment of truth.
Reporter: This seems to imply that Netanyahu did not create a new reality — he simply revealed what was already there?
Moussa: No, not exactly. I do not think that he created a complete new reality. But certainly the policy and approach of the Labour party are different from those of the Likud.
At any event, this is what Netanyahu has confronted us with. He is telling us: this is it.
Now you are asking could the previous government have reached the same point? There are different schools of thought on this matter.
Some would argue that yes of course the previous government would have brought us to where we are now. They use the example of [the massacre of 100 Lebanese civilians] in Qana to substantiate this point. Indeed, some would also question the fundamental difference between someone who wants to give you 10 percent [in West Bank redeployment] and another who wants to give 20 percent. True, 20 percent is better than 10 percent, but both are entirely inadequate in terms of the decent and reasonable requirements of a balanced approach to peace.
The problems with Oslo, the settlements and the redeployment were there long before the [recent] cabinet crisis.
It is true that one of the pretexts that Mr. Netanyahu liked to use was that he was having a hard time pleasing all the members of his coalition. But the answer to this [argument] is that you either see yourself as dealing with a major problem, which is Middle East peace, of great regional and international importance, and [accordingly] you act as a statesman or you concern yourself with votes here and there and use the local Israeli scene to justify your inability to embark on a balanced peace process.
If this is the case then let us talk frankly and say that this peace process is not going to work, or that it needs greater decisive US intervention in terms of evenhandedness, as I said before.
Israel as a state and not as a Jewish people — Arab Jews were always a part of this region — has no such common history with the Arab world, but is seeking to establish new bonds with us.
So, there are already long-standing foundations for Arab-Iranian and Arab-Turkish relations, but not for Arab-Israeli relations.
The Israelis, however, seem ignorant of the fact that they are not, especially right now, laying down the right foundations on which we can build a healthy relationship. Instead, they are laying down the wrong foundations and as a result our relations with them will always be tense, as long as they continue to pursue their course in the same manner as heretofore.
The Israelis are ignorant of the facts of history — an ignorance that could perhaps be attributed to a certain type of arrogance on their part. This, in fact, is Netanyahu’s biggest error. It is a strategic and an historic error.
It is not just a mistake that he makes when it comes to the treatment of the Palestinians or procrastination with the Syrians. It is rather a major strategic error whose long-term impact Netanyahu cannot see.
We accept that Israel is in the region to stay; but we are talking about it as a destabilising force in the region or as a constructive force?
If we are talking about it as a destabilising force, than this is a different story altogether.
But the future of the region should be based on cooperation between all its inhabitants. This is a matter that Rabin and Peres were getting to understand. But the Likud seems unable to grasp it.
Therefore we should work on formulating healthy and balanced relations that are based on common interests.
We have to have a relation where we can say that the Israelis are treating the Palestinians fairly.
But as long as Arab citizens say that Israel is being unjust to the Palestinians, there will never be a harmonious regional community. It is just not possible.
Reporter: As regards the dialogue between Hamas and the PLO which is reportedly due to open soon in Cairo, what is the Egyptian role in this process?
Moussa: This is a dialogue that has been going on for a long time. They were here for talks about two years ago.
We support all efforts that aim at closing Palestinian ranks because any rift or strife between the Palestinian political forces can only harm the Palestinian cause.
It does not matter which Palestinian forces we are talking about because the Palestinians still have no state. They are struggling to achieve self-determination and an independent state.
In the course of this struggle, it is in the interest of the Palestinians to close ranks behind Yasser Arafat.
All groups should refrain from squabbling because any rift would only serve the interests of the other side.
Our thanks to Dr. Joseph Lerner, Co-Director of IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis) for sharing these pieces with us.