Originally published by Fran Spielman from City Hall Reporter
Jul 26, 2012
Ignoring Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan’s history of anti-Semitic remarks, Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday welcomed the army of men dispatched to the streets by Farrakhan to stop the violence in Chicago neighborhoods.
Ald. Debra Silverstein (50th), an Orthodox Jew, has said it’s good that Farrakhan is “helping” in the fight against crime, “but it doesn’t eradicate the comments that he’s made about the Jewish community.”
Emanuel offered no such caveat. Although Farrakhan has a history of making anti-Semitic statements, Chicago’s first Jewish mayor has no interest in revisiting that controversy.
He’s more concerned about reducing a 40 percent surge in Chicago homicides that’s become a media obsession and threatens to undermine his efforts to market Chicago to international tourists.
“People of faith have a role to play and community leaders have a role to play in helping to protect our neighborhoods and our citizens. You cannot get there on just one piece of an anti-crime strategy,” the mayor said.
“The police have a role to play. Tearing down abandoned buildings has a role to play. Shutting liquor stores that are a cancer in the community have a role to play. Community leaders have a role to play. Pastors have a role to play. Principals have a role to play. And most importantly, parents have roles to play. They have decided, the Nation of Islam, to help protect the community. And that’s an important ingredient, like all the other aspects of protecting a neighborhood.”
For the last two Mondays, black men in dress suits and bow ties fanned out across violence-plagued Chicago neighborhoods — first Auburn-Gresham, then South Shore — to form a human wall of protection against any sudden outbreak of gunfire.
The army of men, know as the Fruit of Islam, were led by Farrakhan, who ordered the show of force in response to last month’s brutal murder of seven-year-old Heaven Sutton.
Emanuel’s decision to steer clear of Farrakhan’s history of anti-Semitic remarks is a far cry from the 1994 controversy that followed former Mayor Richard M. Daley’s private meeting withFarrkakhan.
During the meeting, Daley prodded Farrakhan to work out his differences with Jewish leaders in talks arranged by the Commission on Human Relations. Daley even hinted that if those conversations did not take place, the Nation of Islam would have trouble winning the city approval needed for its planned development along the 79th Street commercial strip.
Jewish leaders refused to engage in the dialogue. They were so concerned about the mayor’s private meeting with Farrakhan they demanded an audience of their own to clear the air. Daley used that meeting to deny ever suggesting the give-and-take.
“There’s been a rather longstanding pattern where Minister Farrakhan has talked about wanting dialogue. There have even been a couple of instances where members of the Jewish community have met with him,” Michael Kotzin, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council, said at the time.
“Invariably, he’s been unchanged after that. They have felt betrayed by things he said to them. Been there. Don’t want to be there again and be put in that kind of box. All that happens is that he gains from those kinds of meetings a kind of credibility, legitimacy and stature. That’s all that would come of it.”