Minister Farrakhan gives his last public speech


Published: Thursday, March 1, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, February 28, 2007 at 4:01 p.m.
Louis Farrakhan, the departing leader of the Nation of Islam, gave what was billed as his last major public address here on Sunday, with his extended illness throwing into sharp focus the question of whether the group will shift toward more mainstream Islamic teachings to survive once it loses its central charismatic figure. There had been some speculation that Farrakhan might use the farewell speech to lay out a plan shifting the Nation's teachings, or to name a successor.f-z Farrakhan, 73, looking fairly robust for a man who emerged from major surgery six weeks ago, spent most of his two-hour address denouncing the war in Iraq and calling for the impeachment of President Bush.
''If you don't want to impeach him,'' Farrakhan said, ''censure him. Say to the world something went wrong with our leadership and we repent after our wrongdoing.''
He also made an appeal for religious unity in the address before thousands at Ford Field, home to the Detroit Lions football team, capping an annual convention of Nation of Islam members.
It was his first major speech since August, when health problems forced him to turn over control of the Nation of Islam to an executive committee.
His health problems stemmed from radiation seeds implanted a decade ago to combat prostate cancer, said Ishmael Muhammad, the organization's national assistant minister. The treatment obliterated the cancer but also damaged nearby organs.
Given his age and health problems, and the lack of an obvious successor, questions loom large about the future and direction of the Nation of Islam. Nation members dismiss the notion that the organization's viability is linked to one man. But academic experts and black Muslim leaders say they believe that without Farrakhan's leadership, the Nation - which has been divided over its teachings in the past - will shrink even more dramatically unless it shifts toward mainstream Islam's beliefs.f-z The 77-year-old Nation of Islam once enjoyed a near monopoly over interpreting Islam for black Americans, using the faith as a vehicle to promote black separatism.
But it now competes with sects that branched away, and with groups ascribing to the more traditional and inclusive Islam followed by millions of Muslim immigrants and their offspring.
Along with a significant block of former Nation members, many of these Muslim branches oppose crucial aspects of the organization's beliefs, including an emphasis on black separatism.

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