Farrakhan Says Obama ‘New Beginning’

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    The Big One


    In a Sunday address celebrating President-elect Barack Obama, Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan said Obama has a God-given capacity to handle any burdens he’ll face as the nation’s leader.

    Farrakhan added that Obama will only be able to make positive changes with help from “God and people of good will,” and he urged the Chicago-based movement’s followers to do their part.

    “President-elect Obama has energized all segments of the depressed, downtrodden, rejected and despised,” he said in a 90-minute speech at Mosque Maryam on the city’s South Side. “Now it is up to us to take the new energy that he has given us … and channel that energy into making ourselves better.”

    Dressed in intricately decorated red and gold robes and matching fez, the once-ailing 75-year-old leader spoke to more than 1,000 followers in an address called “America’s New Beginning: President-elect Barack Obama.”

    Farrakhan, who said Obama draws a “oneness of spirit” from all people, admitted he stayed quiet about his support for Obama during the past few months out of fear his words would harm the Illinois senator’s bid for the White House.

    In February, Farrakhan praised Obama calling him “the hope of the entire world that America will change and be made better” at a Saviours’ Day event in Chicago.

    On Sunday, Farrakhan said Obama faced unfair scrutiny for his associations with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s former pastor who was shown making fiery statements about the U.S. government in widely circulated video clips. Obama was also criticized because of the Rev. Michael Pfleger, a Chicago priest who mocked Clinton at Wright and Obama’s former church, Trinity United Church of Christ.

    “For nine months, I kept quiet because I saw that the good words that I spoke about this beautiful young man at our Saviours’ Day convention and the way they were misused,” Farrakhan said of Obama. “I decided it would be better for me to just be quiet rather than be drawn into the controversy that was swirling around his pastor, Father Pfleger, and others.”

    Farrakhan then added with a smile, “I feel freer today to say the things that are in my heart.”

    Farrakhan said Obama’s historic win as the nation’s first black president does not make the Nation of Islam — which espouses self-reliance and black supremecy– and civil rights organizations, like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, irrelevant.

    “All of us have been risen by his rise,” Farrakhan said. “It is not for Mr. Obama to do the job for us. Now we must shoulder the responsibility to raise our people up. We have to double our effort to get our people ready for whatever opportunity can be provided for all Americans to benefit from and not look for special favors.”

    He thanked black leaders including the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, for laying the foundation for Obama’s victory, which he called Divine.

    “Because if God is involved, and He is, then it is God who has laid on this young man this horrible burden at the worst time in the history of America and the world,” he said. “But it was also God that has given this young man, this tremendous capacity to handle what God has put on his shoulders.”

    In 2006, a gravely ill Farrakhan ceded leadership of the movement to a board as he recuperated from complications due to prostate cancer. Months later, he quietly retook full responsibility.

    This year, appearing healthy but more subdued than his past speeches, he has made several public appearances, including one last month at a rare open-to-the-public event at Mosque Maryam deemed a “new beginning” for the movement.

    Farrakhan delivered a message of unity and encouraged followers to get back to the basic tenants of the religion. But he did not lay out specifics for a shift in direction for the movement, which has been marked by divisions since it was founded in the 1930s.

    Last week, in a private sermon at the mosque, which was called the second part of the “new beginning” speech, he further clarified his message.

    He said Nation of Islam mosques “are committed first and foremost to the resurrection and transformation of the Black people in America and throughout the world,” according to the movement’s newspaper The Final Call.

    (In other news regarding Iran, Obama said “I will be reviewing the letter from President Ahmadinejad, and we will respond appropriately,”, leaving open the question about whether he will reply. President Bush chose not to respond to a rambling 18-page letter he received from Ahmadinejad in 2006, but during the campaign Obama indicated he would be willing to meet with Iranian leaders. During the campaign, Obama offered to conduct direct talks with Iran, a statement that unnerved European allies invested in the diplomatic approach.)

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