Farrakhan wins battle to visit UK
LONDON, England -- U.S. black political leader Louis Farrakhan has won his battle for the right to visit the UK.
The Nation of Islam leader had been banned for 15 years by successive home secretaries (interior ministers) because of fears that anti-Semitic remarks he made in the past could stir up racial tension and spark public disorder.
Mr Justice Turner ruled at London's High Court that the ban must be quashed and said he would give his full reasons at a later date.
"This is a sad day for all of us in Britain who worked for good race relations," said Lord Greville Janner, chairman of the UK-based Holocaust Educational Trust.
"In the past, Farrakhan has stirred up racial tension especially by his thoroughly nasty references to Jewish people. If he does come to Britain, I hope he will not be here to stir up ill will," Lord Janner told The Associated Press.
After the ruling, the Muslim leader told the BBC: "I really don't think that there is any evidence in the 47 years of my ministry in the USA and in other parts of the world that any violence follows my speeches or follows my teaching."
He said Islam was not a racist religion, and that his message to Britain was one of "atonement, reconciliation and responsibility ... a theme that is much needed in the UK."
Farrakhan's lawyers had argued that the latest decision to maintain the ban, taken by the then Home Secretary Jack Straw last November, made Britain appear "an over-protective nanny state."
"It is an over-protective response without real foundation," said Nicholas Blake QC, appearing for the Chicago-based black spiritual leader.
Farrakhan, now aged 67 and battling cancer, wants to visit his supporters in the UK to speak about spiritual values for the black community -- not about Israel, the Jewish people and the history of black America, Blake said.
He wants to talk about the need for self-reliance, dignity, atonement and repentance.
The lawyer asked whether there was anything "peculiarly fragile" about Britain that it was necessary to ban a man who had already visited other countries, including Israel itself, without stirring racial conflict or public disorder.
Earlier in July, David Pannick QC, representing the Home Office, said Straw -- now the UK Foreign Secretary -- had been fully entitled to reach the conclusion that Farrakhan's previous remarks had been racially divisive and that his presence in the UK "was not conducive to the public good."
Pannick said Farrakhan had, through his QC, expressed regret to the court over the language he had used in past remarks about the Jews, while adding that they were not as bad as they were painted if put into context.
But he did not say anywhere that he was withdrawing or retracting his past comments, which included referring to Judaism as "synagogues of Satan."
The ban was first imposed in 1986 by the then UK Home Secretary Douglas Hurd, following opposition to Farrakhan's presence in Britain by the Board of Deputies of British Jews who cited his "anti-Semitic and racially divisive views."
Farrakhan -- whose black separatist movement has attracted controversy for many years -- has made many outspoken remarks about Jews, whites, Catholics, women and homosexuals.
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