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October 24, 2013 0

Farrakhan’s Absence From NOI Event Spotlights Possible Successor, Ishmael Muhammad

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Ish­mael Muham­mad with Mayor Johnny Ford at 2013 Holy Day of Atone­ment in Tuskegee, Alabama

Nation of Islam (NOI) leader Louis Far­rakhan’s last minute absence from the 2013 Holy Day of Atone­ment event in Tuskegee, Alabama, on Octo­ber 20, may shed light on the future direc­tion of the group’s leadership.

Far­rakhan was not able to give his annual keynote address due to hos­pi­tal­iza­tion for “an infec­tion,” accord­ing to his daugh­ter Donna. In pre­vi­ous years, his Holy Day of Atone­ment addresses have been marked by his noto­ri­ously anti-Semitic world­view, includ­ing his two-part keynote address last year in Chicago and Char­lotte.

Ish­mael Muham­mad, assis­tant min­is­ter at Mosque Maryam, the NOI’s flag­ship mosque in Chicago, and son of for­mer NOI leader Eli­jah Muham­mad, gave the keynote address in Farrakhan’s absence.

Muham­mad was intro­duced by Tuskegee Mayor Johnny Ford as one of the “new lead­ers of the Nation of Islam” and as “a new begin­ning.” In Muham­mad address, he deliv­ered “the mes­sage that [Far­rakhan] gave to [him],” pro­lif­i­cally prais­ing Far­rakhan, and announc­ing the NOI’s new “eco­nomic blueprint.”

The day after Muhammad’s speech, he tweeted, “We showed the world on Sun­day that the Nation is not just Louis Far­rakhan, it is Allah’s!!!”

Muham­mad has long been regarded as the most likely suc­ces­sor to Far­rakhan. His pub­lic role grew in 1999 when Far­rakhan was seri­ously ill with com­pli­ca­tions from treat­ment for prostate can­cer. And in 2006, when Far­rakhan issued an open let­ter say­ing that he was relin­quish­ing his lead­er­ship role with the group after nearly 30 years due to ill­ness, Muham­mad con­tin­ued to play a cen­tral role in most major NOI events.

In 2007, W.D. Mohammed, another son of for­mer NOI leader Eli­jah Muham­mad, who rejected his father’s racist ide­ol­ogy and steered a new course away from hatred, reit­er­ated the widely held belief that Ish­mael Muham­mad is the most likely con­tender for NOI lead­er­ship. Dur­ing a lec­ture at the Clin­ton Pres­i­den­tial Library in Arkansas, W.D. said Ish­mael is poised to “clear up the destruc­tion of the reli­gion in the Nation of Islam.”

Unlike Far­rakhan, Muham­mad does not have an exten­sive pub­lic record of anti-Semitism or big­otry, but he has fre­quently defended Farrakhan’s bla­tantly hate­ful messages.

While Muham­mad has dis­cussed his reluc­tance to take on the lead­er­ship of the NOI on sev­eral occa­sions over the years, he con­tin­ues to fill in for Far­rakhan at the most crit­i­cal moments.

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