Darcus Howe on Louis Farrakhan

Blunkett has banned a black man who could easily be a new Labour supporter

Buried beneath an avalanche of race and immigration analysis is the banning of Louis Farrakhan from the UK. Farrakhan is head of the Nation of Islam, a black nationalist Muslim group based in the United States. A branch here in the UK, led by Hilary Muhammad, a Brixtonian born and bred, attracts young people mainly of Caribbean descent.

Farrakhan is not conducive to the public good, says the Home Secretary. He is likely to create disorder. At first, a judge over-ruled the Home Office, but the government has won on appeal.

I am puzzled. This is an old and sturdy civilisation; its police and armed forces governed millions across the globe. It has a war machine ready for Iraq, a capital city that bustles with financial trading, a judiciary that bleats its independence at every turn. How can Farrakhan threaten this mighty civilisation?

David Blunkett's lawyers brought evidence of Farrakhan's vile anti-Semitism. It is undeniable that, in the context of landlord-tenant relationships in the US inner cities, particularly Brooklyn, there was tension between Jews and blacks, because the latter felt exploited. Farrakhan took advantage. But city halls have since taken these properties under their wing - nationalised them, in effect. The basis for the tension no longer exists, and Farrakhan has visited synagogues and played host to rabbis.

I have no truck with Farrakhan. I am an atheist with deep socialist roots. He has more in common with new Labour than I could ever have. He is in favour of faith schools and corporal punishment. He is an activist for the capitalist system, seeking to build small businesses. He has championed privatisation. (His quasi-military Fruit of Islam could easily compete with Group 4, and keep black prisoners in place with huge doses of religion.) And he is against welfare. In the current debate on punishing parents for the wayward behaviour of their children, Tony Blair has a towering ally. Farrakhan thinks that welfare supports poor blacks in a permanent state of dependency and that removing it will force them to drag themselves up.

But I wish to break through the cocoon of anti-racism, in which blacks hang on to the coat-tails of their patrons within both parties. Why can't blacks debate these things with each other as whites do? Why are we so distrusted? Does Blunkett think blacks are so uncontrollable that, upon hearing Farrakhan speak, they will attack Jews in Golders Green and Tottenham?

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