By Keegan Hamilton
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By Village Voice staff
By Tessa Stuart
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"You should look at us as activists representing a universal opinion of Torah Jewry as it always was presented," Fryman added. "We wanted to counteract the negative influence of the media and Zionist lobby."
Farrakhan intimated that "the unfair and false attacks on him by members of the Jewish community were hurtful," the newspaper stated. "But when you try your best to serve the one God, He insulates you from the insults, the maligning, the evil spoken words and attitudes of those who either purposely misrepresent the truth or in ignorance misrepresent the truth," the minister said. Farrakhan reiterated that black Muslims display a profound respect for synagogues. "This is why no matter what we have suffered from the misrepresentation of the Zionist-controlled media, you have never heard of an incident where one of my followers ever attacked a person because of their faith tradition," he told the rabbis.
Over the years, Farrakhan has come to differ with Jesse Jackson on the definition of Zionism. Jackson has praised Zionism as "a liberation movement . . . whose goal it is to affirm the identity for its people, to develop a homeland for its people, a place free of persecution, must be seen as that, and not all the negative connotations attached to it." Based on The Final Call's interpretation of the minister's remarks at the meeting, Farrakhan is closer to Neturei Karta's view of Zionism. "The issue is the mistake in the notion that Judaism and Zionism are synonymous," said Rabbi Fryman, who, according to The Final Call, attended Israeli-Palestinian peace conferences in Madrid and Washington, D.C., to "rebut the Zionist Prime Minister [of Israel] that he is the representative of the Jews." Rabbi Fryman added: "I am overwhelmed by the terrible suffering and the crimes committed by the Zionist occupation and the settlers in the Holy Land, unspeakable crimes which the media are aware of."
** Winning the freedom of the Iranian Jews accused of spying certainly would help Farrakhan's image among American Jewry. But he might face opposition among some Orthodox Muslims, depending on their interpretation of a pastoral letter Farrakhan circulated to his followers at Saviour's Day services in February. "I am deeply concerned that you do not go dressing, in a superficial manner, merely imitating our brothers and sisters in the East," Farrakhan wrote in the February 27 missive. "I am deeply concerned that you do not fasten your minds so much on the Arabic language that you forget the Mission of the resurrection of the dead."
Although couched in the doublespeak typical of Nation of Islam pronouncements, the letter is viewed by some insiders as Farrakhan's latest attempt to rein in followers who may be gravitating toward Orthodox Islam. "I have attempted, over the last twelve or fourteen years, to forge links with the Muslim World without destroying the principles contained in the Teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, which I believe totally to be correct," Farrakhan wrote, adding that he began to notice that "whenever the wisdom of one prophet or messenger is exhausted, then the people begin to cling to rituals." Since announcing last year that he has cancer, Farrakhan has struggled to maintain unity within his Nation. Disgruntled members began defecting to Orthodox Muslim groups like the American Muslim Mission, once considered the Nation's staunchest Islamic rival. Farrakhan has tried gingerly to woo back the so-called "Lost-Founds" while not appearing to discredit their new alliances.
"This Marvelous Book, Qur'an, was given to us by Allah, through Prophet Muhammad . . . who gave us a marvelous and noble example of how this Qur'an should be lived, but, beloved Muslims, that was fourteen hundred years ago," he wrote. "We have had many, many great and profound Islamic Scholars since then. They have done their best to bring out of the Holy Qur'an the gems of knowledge that would make the Muslims better, stronger, more united and a great spiritual, political, economic force for change in the World. But, now our great World of Islam is fragmented. Not because Prophet Muhammad was incorrect; not because the Holy Qur'an is incorrect; not because the Sunnah is incorrect . . . what has happened is that our interpretation of the Qur'an has run out of its time to do the job that it did fourteen hundred years ago. We need a new and better understanding of the scriptures."
Farrakhan urged his followers to "hold fast to the Teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, and hold fast to what I am teaching of His Teachings, because it is as clear as day that He taught much and left much for us to study and develop more." While remaining true to Elijah Muhammad, Farrakhan seemed to be trying to modify some of the patriarch's racist philosophy. "I am not saying these things for vain purpose," he declared. "I know why He said we are gods. I know why He said that the Caucasian is the devil. I know why He called us the original man. It is so much deeper than what we have understood of the past."
Farrakhan challenged followers who refuse to accept new scholarship regarding Elijah Muhammad's teachings. "If we are intellectual cowards and only want to repeat what we heard the Master say and not take into consideration the context in which He said what He said, the time in which He said it, and the forces that were present at the time He spoke it, then, we will stay in this level of comfortability in the past," the minister declared. "We will not grow. We will not grow into a mature understanding of the Word of Allah."