[Editor’s note: In 1986, the British Government imposed a ban on travel by Minister Louis Farrakhan
to the United Kingdom. That travel ban stood until the July 31, 2001 lifting of the ban by UK
Justice Michael Turner. The British Government now has the option to file an appeal. Sarah
Baxter of The Sunday London Times had a year-end interview where Min. Farrakhan
addressed these issues. The following text is excerpted from that Dec. 17, 2001 interview. ]
Sarah Baxter (SB): Let me start by asking you about Britain because our readers will want to know about the history of you not being let in and how you felt about that. For some time you’ve been hoping to visit Britain. Were you surprised in the first instance  all those years ago when you were stopped from entering? It must have been a bit of a shock.
Minister Louis Farrakhan (MLF): No. The climate after the Jesse Jackson [1984 Presidential] campaign was such that the labeling of me as an anti-Semite and the polemic of that time put me in a position where Jewish persons felt somewhat threatened by my presence or what I might say. So I was banned from Bermuda, from Great Britain, but no other place that I can recall. They recently lifted the ban in Bermuda, maybe seven years now. But in Great Britain, I’m still hoping that I will be able to come.
SB: What led you to the legal action to apply for the ban to be lifted? You were invited or what was going on?
MLF: I did have an invitation from Oxford to speak. They did not know there was a ban on me. And some of the followers of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad under my leadership in the UK decided that they would like to pursue it legally. They came to me and asked if I would permit them to do that. It was not my thought. I thought that they should just continue to do the work of reforming and transforming the lives of our people and that eventually the ban would be lifted. But Minister Hilary [Muhammad] was so strong in his spirit to get this ban lifted and to take the appropriate legal action to do so. After I saw that strong spirit in him to do it, I permitted him to do it. He marshaled the believing community and many who were non-believers who know of me [came onboard] and they pursued this so far to a favorable outcome.
SB: It seems a bit anachronistic that you would be banned all through this time. You’ve been all over the world. You’ve even been to Israel, so I don’t know why we are still hung up about it.
MLF: We were so warmly and friendly treated at the point of entry and we never had a moment’s trouble while we were in Israel. I did wish to see Prime Minister [Benyamin] Netanyahu at the time but Mr. Arafat, who was my host, could not secure me into Jerusalem because they have to have a pass and a lot of his people did not have that pass. I did not wish to create an international incident since my mission was peace, so I decided not to go to Jerusalem. But I can tell you truthfully I was very, very well treated in Israel.
SB: Our Home Secretary or two Home Secretaries have said they would still like to stop you from coming. Are you puzzled by that or offended that they should still be so?
MLF: I don’t really think they have anything to fear from my presence. But if the members of the Jewish community feel somewhat threatened by my presence, then their political strength and influence is what I think politically they do not wish to offend. But I can assure you that should I be permitted to come to Great Britain, the Jewish people will have nothing to fear from what I say or what I do. And I said I would be willing to meet with the Jewish deputies and leadership. And so we will see what happens.
SB: Some of them [Jewish leaders] have said, ‘oh, his views are insulting and degrading to us, etc., that’s why we don’t want him to come in.’ They have been published saying that recently. Do you think that even if your views were offensive there would be no reason to stop you just on the freedom of speech issue?
MLF: I would say that some of my views may be controversial and may be offensive. That is not my intention. I’m sure Prime Minister [Tony] Blair, as he speaks, sometimes offends certain groups that politically are not aligned with him. Who can speak today and uphold a cause without offending somebody who’s in disagreement with that cause, that ideology, or that philosophy? The beauty of a democracy, which I feel very blessed to live in, is that you are not afraid of another point of view because in a democracy it presupposes the level of intelligence of the citizenry, that the citizens would be able to determine whether the person’s speech is what they wish to listen to, approve of, or disapprove of. And the people that live in Great Britain, a nation that has ruled nearly seven, eight, nine-tenths of the world, have had knowledge and experience. They are not stupid people that I could come to England and say things and you have to protect the poor little Black people, and the poor little Brown people, and the poor little Jewish people from Louis Farrakhan. That’s demeaning. They will listen to me and put me in a category either of somebody that they would like to hear and never hear again or somebody that is an asset. But they need to have that chance to make that determination for themselves and not that the government should make that determination for the citizens. If there were a track record that I initiated violence or did things that promoted violence, then you would have an issue to keep me out because of that kind of track record. But I have been preaching for now nearly 47 years—not one incident of violence. If I am such a rabid hater of Jewish people, or White people, or Catholics or gays, which is really ridiculous, why is there not one record of anyone who follows me being guilty of a hate crime? Not even have we been charged with that, much less found guilty. The people of Great Britain have nothing to fear from my presence, but probably a lot to gain from listening to what God has revealed to the Honorable Elijah Muhammad for the good of the total human family.
SB: So when are you going to come?
MLF: When they permit me. I don’t want to presume that because Justice [Michael] Turner has lifted the ban that the government will not pursue an appeal.
SB: Have you spoken to any Jewish leaders in Britain about maybe going …?
MLF: No, but when and if it is possible for me to go, our representatives there will pursue the thought of meeting the Jewish leaders, and even of speaking in the Jewish synagogue. I don’t mind doing that. I have had rabbis come to have dinner with me in my home and at the end of the evening one rabbi said, would you speak before the Board of Rabbis? I said, if you could arrange it, I’d do it tomorrow. The other rabbi said, would you speak in the synagogue? I said, tonight, if you could arrange it. I would love that experience because I know that the Jewish people don’t know me. They know me through the media. And the media has tremendous power. They can make you look like a devil or they can make you look like a saint. It just depends on what the whim of the moment is.
SB: There have been some political racial tensions in Britain recently. I don’t know whether you have been looking at that but there have been some riots with young Muslims in Bradford and other cities in the last year.
MLF: Really? I have heard of some Asians. Are they Muslims?
SB: Yes. There are all those cities Bradford, Olgan, they are Muslim communities.
MLF: Well, what is at the root of that problem? Farrakhan has not been there so Farrakhan could not be at the root of a disturbance between the Muslims in Bradford and those with whom they have a difference. My whole idea is to heal wounds, not to exacerbate tensions. I would never come to England to feed a fire with fuel. If you are a peacemaker, then you go and you try to make peace. I think that’s what will benefit the country and it would benefit both sides in the conflict. Whatever is at the root of that conflict of which I have no knowledge, but peace would benefit the society and peace would benefit the two who are at odds with each other.
SB: Let me ask you about the Nation of Islam in Britain. Is that an important part of your organization?
MLF: Oh, yes. They [UK Believers] came to know me by means of an audio and videotape, and they began to organize around what they saw on a videotape. I was so surprised when one year nearly 500 persons flew from the UK to our national convention, never having seen me physically. That community, I think, would benefit from my presence. There are always problems that my presence might be able to solve, questions that they need answered, organizationally and structurally.
SB: What sort of problems do you think you might be able to solve?
MLF: The natural kind of problems that come when people are new at something and they have different methodologies of trying to reach a successful conclusion. And sometimes immaturity causes a break.
SB: You mean internal things within the Nation of Islam?
MLF: Yes. My presence, hopefully, will try to heal some of those internal problems so that they might be much more effective in the work of transforming the lives of those brothers and sisters there who need some intervention in the culture of drugs, in the culture of broken marriages and homes, in the culture of self hatred that manifests itself in criminal anti-social behavior. Religion is supposed to be an antidote for the poison of social misfits, and Islam has had a tremendous power to heal prisoners and those that are the most abject in this society. I’m sure that you have seen the effect of the teachings on members of the Black community in Great Britain; and it would be good for the country. I’ll put it like that.
SB: From what you understand of the problems that Black Britons go through, very similar to people in America, do they come to you and tell you their problems? Do they sound very familiar?
MLF: Whenever there are a few Blacks in a White society, we are a novelty, and the relations are not bad. That’s why many Blacks who left the United States and went to France found in France, particularly the artistic community, a refuge. And there are many Africans that came to countries in Europe and they were very well received, accepted. But, as more and more and more Blacks come in, it begins to bring out of the dominant community feelings that they might not even have known existed. Since nine-tenths, I guess, of the planet was under her [Great Britain’s] rule and she had many, many, countries in Africa and Asia and in the Caribbean under her rule, and the educational system of Great Britain, the political system of Great Britain, became the system of governance wherever Great Britain ruled—even when she left and they became independent they were part of the Commonwealth of Nations—the love of Great Britain, looking up to Great Britain, has been a part of all the colonies. Many in the colonies want to go to this great land of opportunity. So Great Britain offered to her former colonial subjects a chance to experience the greatness of the British culture. So more and more started coming; and as more and more started coming, then Great Britain became a multi-racial, multi-ethnic society. And that produces its tensions, its problems. Great Britain, like America, has to find an appropriate way to deal with the natural tensions of persons coming in to make Great Britain their home.
Then there are the interracial marriages and what that produces, and the different cultures and bringing those cultures to the culture of Great Britain. Great Britain is undergoing its own transformation. The social scientists have to find a way to help America and Great Britain—especially these two, Australia, New Zealand—deal with the reality of having had possessions and subjects.
SB: It sounds like you are being very sympathetic in that sense to the non-established White community. Or would you say, well no I’ve just got to get on with it?
MLF: I’m not trying to be conciliatory. What I am trying to be is realistic of the dynamic, the social dynamic, when so many persons from Africa, from Asia, from Pakistan, from India, come to Great Britain and Great Britain’s breast has to expand to include what she did not plan on when Britain was established. America did not plan on our being full-fledged citizens. It didn’t plan on the Asians when they came to build the railroads. Now, America has to accommodate the fact that the whole world lives inside America and the whole world lives inside of the UK. So that’s causing the UK growing pains.
SB: Thank you.