The controversial leader of the Nation of Islam is scheduled to appear at a local college campus next month, but backlash against that visit continues to grow as local Jewish groups mount pressure on the school.
Louis Farrakhan has accepted an invitation to speak at Alabama A&M University on April 10th. WHNT News 19 first reported details of Farrakhan's visit earlier this week, which was greeted with dismay and disdain by the Huntsville-North Alabama Jewish Federation.
The Alabama A&M Poetry Club and Alabama A&M College Democrats extended an invitation to Farrakhan earlier this month, spotlighting a speaker who has a long history of anti-Semitic remarks.
Campus administrators granted permission to use Elmore Gymnasium for the event. An Alabama A&M spokesperson told WHNT News 19 that the university itself has no involvement or sponsorship of Farrakhan's visit, but Jewish Federation Board Member Max Rosenthal said the Alabama A&M was still responsible and called on the university to reconsider hosting the event.
"They had to approve the invitation," said Rosenthal. "Once you agree to using the facilities at A&M for him, that's tantamount to saying 'Hey, we approve of this man. This is the kind of man we want to come to our university to speak...I think the ball is in A&M's court now. They've got to make a decision, ask themselves 'How do do we want to be perceived in the community having invited a man like Louis Farrakhan?"
Rosenthal said a planned meeting between the Jewish Federation and Alabama A&M President Dr. Andrew Hugine had been cancelled Wednesday due to a scheduling conflict Hugine had. The meeting has been rescheduled for next week. WHNT News 19 has been attempting to contact Hugine since Monday, but so far we have not received a response to our interview request.
Alabama A&M students we talked to said they were curious about Farrakhan, with some considering attending next month's event.
"I'm not against him coming, but I'm not for what he believes in," said A&M junior Shannon Warren. "I've heard that he has made racist comments, but I have not personally heard that, so I would see for myself."
Earlier this week the A&M poetry club defended their decision to invite Farrakhan, saying he would bring a positive and uplifting message to campus.
Farrakhan stirred controversy last month by saying Jews had complete control of the U.S. government and media in what he called “an agreement with hell and covenant and death.” He has also previously referred to Jewish groups as a “synagogue of Satan,” and called white people “potential humans who have not fully evolved.” The Anti-Defamation League also reports that Farrakhan has accused white Republicans of praying for President Obama’s death.