Date: Sun, 15 Sep 1996 15:32:13 -0500
> S * IN ACTIV-L
> print 08936
)------- Forwarded Message Follows -------
Nation of Islam chief visits Cuba
By Karen Lee Wald, Havana, 6 September 1996
Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, and a delegation of 20 members of the American Muslim movement, called for an end to US use of its military might and economic embargoes against countries such as Cuba, Libya and Iraq, claiming these causes great and needless suffering among their peoples. He urged President Clinton to allow him to help build bridges based on truth and justice instead of military force.
His words came at the close of a whirlwind 24 hour stopover in this Caribbean nation after returning from Libya, where he was awarded a special human rights prize, and before proceeding to other island nations on the Caribbean leg of a fact-finding mission to countries affected by US blockades.
Another group of Nation of Islam members led by Farrakhan had visited Cuba last June, to learn about the health and education systems here. The religious leader said he hoped to duplicate the Cuban health and educational examples in the Nation of Islam's schools and health services. He also suggested the American public school system could benefit from the same model.
On this second trip, Mr. Farrakhan was able to meet and talk with Cuban President Fidel Castro -- a meeting which he described as "wonderful". He said they spoke mostly of "ethics", indicating that they concurred in considering immoral the US government's attempts to impose a particular political system on the Cuban people. The Islamic leader urged President Clinton and other policy-makers to instead consider trying to set a good example.
The organizer of last year's Million Man March on Washington made both open and veiled criticisms of the Helms-Burton law, America's newest legal instrument imposing economic penalties on Cuba. Comparing the US to the ancient city of Babylon, he recalled that Babylon was ultimately rejected by all its neighbors due to the arrogance of its king.
Questioned regarding the possibility that the Clinton administration might attempt to confiscate their passports as a result of this trip, the Muslim minister admitted that the US government had the power to do so, but added "I don't think it would be wise". He noted that "the passport belongs to the United States government. I do not". Having his passport confiscated for befriending peoples of other countries would put him in a class with men like W.E.B. DuBois and Paul Robeson -- a not disagreeable association.
Following is the complete text of his Sept.4 press conference:
I will make a brief statement and then answer questions. On behalf od the whole delegation we are very very happy to have been here in Cuba As you may know we have been visiting those countries that are under sanctions and embargoes. We visited Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan now Cuba, and we hope soon to visit North Korea.
We are primarily on a fact-finding mission to see the effects of embargoes and sanctions on the people who are under these harsh penalties.
The United States is a country based on religious values that are Judeo and Christian. President Clinton in his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention said that he wanted to build a bridge to the future.
This bridge to the future, we would like to help him to build, but the bridge to the future will not be built on might, but only on right. As the only remaining superpower America must use more morality and less show of the force of her great military power.
It is very sad to see that in a political year, that President Clinton would use the enormous military power of the United States to add more pain and suffering to the Iraqui people, interfering in their sovereignty.
As a Muslim I am very concerned about the human suffering imposed by sanctions and embargoes. This country is 70% black and brown, or more, but Cuba has removed much of these barriers between people. And it is very painful to see the suffering of Cuban people under this embargo. I would like in closing to appeal to the President of the United States by giving him a biblical example that I think President Clinton and Senator Dole and those ruling America should study.
America must remember the ancient city of Babylon. Babylon was a great city that became wealthy and strong because of her great international trade. But in the midst of Babylon were the Hebrews that they had taken out of their original land and from among their original people. The King of Babylon, named Nebuchadnezar, became so arrogant in his power that God took out of him the heart of a human and gave him the heart of a beast.
These qualities from the Babylonian king upset the neighboring nations and all of the neighboring nations turned against Babylon. There is no doubt that America is the greatest country on earth, but because of her greatness she must not suffer from spiritual diseases of arrogance and spiritual blindness.
It appears that the heart of the American leadership is not a heart of compassion for human suffering. There is no way that the American leadership could be compassionate and not feel the pain and the suffering of the people of Cuba, the people of Libya, the people of Iraq, the people of Iran, and those who are suffering from unjust policies produced in the United States.
It appears that you don't have the heart of a human being, but you may be going in the direction of having the heart of a beast. And some of the laws that Congress is passing reflect an uncompassionate heart that is not human.
The Helms-Burton bill for example is now beginning to turn the neighboring nations against America. Canada, Mexico, many of the Central and South American countries disagree with this bill and even France and other European nations think that this bill is interfering in their sovereignty.
And the bombing of Iraq is causing many nations to wonder what is happening to the government of the United States. My appeal to President Clinton: Let me help you build a bridge to the future. But that bridge must be built on truth and justice. And if our government continues in the path that it is going, I fear for the future of America and I believe that America as a great nation, if it continues on this path, may go the way of ancient Rome, Babylon, Egypt, Sodom and Gomorrah.
Q&AWHY HAVE YOU COME TO CUBA NOW AND NOT BEFORE?
I've been to Cuba before. And since I'm in the Caribbean to speak in several nations, I thought this was a very good time to come to Cuba. I'm very happy to say that we visited the mosque here in Havana and we have pledged at least a hundred Korans, and some financial aid -- a small financial aid of course, in building the mosque.WHAT WAS YOUR CONVERSATION LIKE WITH MR. CASTRO?
It was a very wonderful conversation. We talked on many subjects, but the main subject was ethics. Morals. And how people of different philosophies can arrive at the same conclusions. Some arriving through religion, some arriving through studies of history, that morality and ethics should be the base of all our social interaction.
I would say that in President Clinton's speech when he said that Cuba must become a democracy, I would also appeal to President Clinton, in the Koran, Allah says: "There is no compulsion in religion, for the right way is clearly distinct from error." Now, if there is no compulsion in RELIGION, then it is highly improper to force a NATION to bow to your system of government. If the right way is clearly distinct from the wrong way, then let America present to the Cuban people the right way, and be a good example of the right way, and perhaps the Cuban people may see the right way -- if you HAVE IT -- and follow your lead. But force of the Cuban people to accept your way of life is an imposition that is not correct for a righteous nation or a superpower. Let the Cuban people decide what form of government they will have. Leave them alone. And maybe God will be merciful to you.YOU REFER TO THE SUFFERING OF THE CUBAN PEOPLE. COULD YOU REFER SPECIFICALLY TO WHAT YOU SAW AND HOW IT RELATES TO THE US EMBARGO.
You know that if the Cuban people do not have hard currency, they cannot buy medicines, they are not as ample in food because of the embargo. The conditions under which they are living are not the best. But their will and their strength is such that their own sense of their importance, their value, to the international community and their value to themselves is what makes them believe that they will survive the embargo. And I believe that also.THERE ARE RUMORS IN WASHINGTON THAT THE GOVT IS THINKING OF MAKING AN EXAMPLE OF THIS DELEGATION AND CONFISCATING THE PASSPORTS.... WHAT'S YOUR REACTION TO THAT? IF THEY DO CONFISCATE THE PASSPORTS WHAT KIND OF ACTION WOULD YOU TAKE?
They can take the passport. That is their property. I don't think it would be WISE for them to do so, but that is entirely up to the government.
To seize our passport would put us in the good company of WEB DuBois, Paul Robeson and others who have developed friendships outside of the United States that caused the United States government great fear. And so they took their passports, but ultimately they gave them back. And I am sure that if our passports are taken that they will have to be given back, because we are not criminals, we are religious people who have a right to travel and see the suffering of others and report to the American people what we have seen.IN YOUR VISIT HERE YOU WERE INTERESTED IN HEALTH AND EDUCATION. WHEN YOU RETURN TO THE US HOW DO YOU HOPE TO IMPLEMENT THE INFORMATION YOU RECEIVED HERE? DO YOU SEE ANY PROBLEMS IN TRYING TO DO SO? Well, the Nation of Islam, first, has our own school system. And we have a Minister of Health that looks at the health conditions of all of the Muslims. And everything that we saw that can be implemented in our own system, we will do that.
We feel that if we can present a good example even to the public school system, that they may adopt that which will better the public educational system and the public health system in the United States.YOU HAVE RAISED A NUMBER OF ISSUES CONCERNING WHAT PROBLEMS THE US GOVT MIGHT FACE IN ITS RELATIONS WITH THE WORLD. BUT I WONDER WHAT YOUR CONSIDERATIONS MIGHT BE ON THE BURNING OF DOZENS OF MOSTLY BLACK CHURCHES IN THE UNITED STATES AND THE DRASTIC CUTS IN WELFARE IN THAT COUNTRY?
Well, this is what I referred to earlier, when I mentioned the heart of compassion. Because if in America the country is built on the backs of the slaves and on the backs of the poor, then any drastic cuts in welfare, the burning of churches, the cutback in affirmative action, the cutback in entitlements, shows a lack of compassion for the poor. But it also gives us a tool for the organization and mobilization of the masses of the American people to make changes not only in America's public policy but also to help America redirect or change foreign policy that is not in the best interest of her neighbors nor in the best interest of America in the long run.
I want to take this opportunity to thank the Cuban people and its president for this very warm and gracious reception. We hope soon we can reciprocate when our brothers and sisters here are able to freely travel once again in the United States. Thank you very much.
William Paris,Jr/Current Pana Corp