Minister Louis Farrakhan

Nation of Islam Leader Discusses Life, Leadership

Listen: Hear an extended interview.

Minister Louis Farrakhan

hide captionMinister Louis Farrakhan

Kenneth Muhammad, 'The Final Call'

Nation of Islam leader Minister Louis Farrakhan has been praised for his messages of personal responsibility and self-sufficiency, and for his dedication to the civil rights struggles of African Americans. He also has been at the center of turmoil caused by past remarks on race and religion.

In a two-part interview, NPR's Tavis Smiley talks with Farrakhan about his life and leadership.

When asked for his assessment of the Bush administration and the U.S. war on terrorism, Farrakhan says he is disappointed. Farrakhan was quoted in October 2002 as describing President Bush as being "off-course" and "victimized by the greatness of the power of America" in his push for war against Iraq.

"I do believe there is a better way than the way we have chosen to go," he says. "Unfortunately, the war has cost America greatly — politically — throughout the world."

Farrakhan talks says much of the criticsm of the Nation of Islam is fed by what he calls misconceptions about the organization that are "promoted in the American media."

He rejects the notion that the Nation of Islam is "a hate group, that we are anti-American, that we are a fifth column within the United States that must be dealt with in this climate since Sept. 11, that we are anti-Christian.

"I think that rather than condemning Islam, Islam needs to be studied by those who are sincere," Farrakhan says.

Farrakhan says black leaders must address moral issues to make progress in the days ahead.

"Black leadership has to recognize that principles more than speech, character more than a claim, is greater in advancing the cause of our liberation than what has transpired thus far."

"Overall, the challenge of leadership is both moral and one of developing the characteristics that make us respected by one another. I think that ego-driven leaders will be a thing of the past because the masses are tired."

Farrakhan also talks about his personal life, including his recent battle with prostate cancer. He recently launched The Louis Farrakhan Prostate Cancer Foundation as part of an effort to help those with no health care insurance get the treatment they need.

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