Farrakhan Condemns U.S. Airstrikes
NEW YORK--UPI -- Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan on Saturday condemned the U.S.-led bombing of Afghanistan, saying that Washington had not proven its case against Osama bin Laden.
Farrakhan told a gathering of religious leaders that the U.S. government hadn't shown the evidence to Afghanistan's Taliban rulers, sharing it only with allies.
"You show your friend (British Prime Minister Tony Blair) the evidence, but not the people you're about to bomb?" he said.
While criticizing the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan as part of a sustained campaign against Islam, the leader of the nation's largest Muslim group also condemned the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.
"It was so horrific to me that for the first 48 hours I could not speak," he said.
Farrahkan took pains to praise Christianity and Judaism in his remarks, but noted that more than 1.5 million Iraqis had died under sanctions imposed after the 1991 Gulf War "while we are crying over 5,000," referring to the death toll in the Sept. 11 terror attacks at the World Trade Center in New York and at the Pentagon in Washington.
Farrahkan was the keynote speaker at a conference organized by the Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace, a group created by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, founder of the Unification Church. His 100-minute speech drew a standing ovation.
The conference attracted more than 100 religious and political figures, including former Vice President Dan Quayle and former Indonesian President Abudurrahman Wahid. Also attending were the former presidents and prime ministers of Guyana, Guatemala, Barbados, Seychelles, Nepal, and St. Kitts and Nevis.
Those at the conference spent much of the weekend examining the roots of global violence and trying to chart a path beyond it.
Quayle, who served as vice president under the elder George Bush, urged the religious leaders to preach messages of tolerance.
Quayle also blamed Hollywood for giving foreigners a distorted picture of the United States.
"Have you ever seen a movie that made the military look good? That looked favorably upon religion? That showed the cohesiveness of the family? No, and why not?" he asked.
"If you were a person who had never been to America, you'd see a different country than it actually is."
Quayle, who left the conference before Farrakhan's speech, had earlier rejected suggestions that U.S. foreign policy in Iraq and the Middle East had provoked terrorist attacks.
"This is the time to be morally clear," he said. "Nothing justifies terrorism."
Moon, in a speech to the group, called upon world leaders to repudiate national self-interests and hatreds, and for the religious leaders to cooperate and seek reconciliation.
"If religions demonstrate love for each other, cooperate with each other, and serve each other, putting the higher ideal of peace ahead of particular doctrines, rituals and cultural backgrounds, the world will change dramatically," he said.
Wahid, a Muslim cleric who served as president of Indonesia from October 1999 until July 2001, said he supported the American military offensive in Afghanistan -- which are unpopular with Indonesians -- but he warned against hegemony.
"What the United States is doing is honorable, but ... it is important to remember the multilateral framework," Wahid said. In an interview he said Washington "needs to listen to other people, and they need to listen to the United States."
The former presidents and prime ministers of several Latin and Caribbean nations said it was important to look at root causes of terrorism. They said contributing factors are poverty, poor education and an absence of hope.
"We all hoped that at the end of the Cold War, peace would have had a chance to break out," said Lloyd E. Sandiford, former prime minister of Barbados. "But efforts to increase development and relieve poverty and other social blights are again delayed."