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A Catholic church hosted Louis Farrakhan for anti-Facebook speech. At least one Jewish group was not happy about it

CNN logo CNN 5/10/2019 By Daniel Burke, CNN Religion Editor
Louis Farrakhan wearing a suit and tie: LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 11: (EDITORS NOTE: All images taken by Getty Images inside the Staples Center at Nipsey Hussle's Celebration of Life have been reviewed and approved for distribution by Atlantic Records)  Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, National Representative of The Honorable Elijah Muhammad and The Nation of Islam, speaks onstage during Nipsey Hussle's Celebration of Life at STAPLES Center on April 11, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. Nipsey Hussle was shot and killed in front of his store, The Marathon Clothing, on March 31, 2019 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images For All Money In Records and Atlantic Records) © Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 11: (EDITORS NOTE: All images taken by Getty Images inside the Staples Center at Nipsey Hussle's Celebration of Life have been reviewed and approved for distribution by Atlantic Records) Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, National Representative of The Honorable Elijah Muhammad and The Nation of Islam, speaks onstage during Nipsey Hussle's Celebration of Life at STAPLES Center on April 11, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. Nipsey Hussle was shot and killed in front of his store, The Marathon Clothing, on March 31, 2019 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images For All Money In Records and Atlantic Records)

One week after Facebook banned Minister Louis Farrakhan and others for promoting "violence and hate," the Nation of Islam leader insists that he is not a hateful person.

Farrakhan told those at Saint Sabina Catholic Church in Chicago on Thursday that he is "a hated man today."

"Saturday, God willing, I'll be 86 years old. I have never been arrested, no drunken driving," he said. "What have I done that you would hate me like that?"

Pointing to his mouth, Farrakhan said: "It's this that they fear. I don't have no army. I just know the truth. And I'm here to separate the good Jews from the Satanic Jews."

The Nation of Islam billed Farrakhan's speech as a response to the "public outrage over the unprecedented and unwarranted lifetime ban." The church's invitation to Farrakhan drew sharp rebuke from the Illinois Holocaust Museum. The organization criticized the church, saying the speech would provide a "platform for bigotry."

Facebook owns Instagram and its ban applies to both social media platforms.

Saint Sabina live-streamed Farrakhan's speech on its website and Facebook page, despite the ban on the controversial leader.

Farrakhan said he used the social media platform "with respect." "I never allow those who follow me to become vile as those who speak evil of us," he said.

Farrakhan denied being misogynistic and homophobic. He said, "The white people who think I'm a hater," don't know him.

"You've never had a conversation with me, but somebody made you hate me. But after you got acquainted with me, the hate began to be diminished and then you began listening. And after you began listening, your hate began to turn to love," he said.

Nearing the end of his address, Farrakhan said: "I have not said one word of hate. I do not hate Jewish people."

"No one that is with me has ever committed a crime against the Jewish people, black people, white people, no matter what your color is."

Before the speech, Ishmael Muhammad, an aide to Farrakhan said: "This unjust sanction deprives the American public and others of the basic right to know.

"It is an abridgement of free speech in a country that presents itself as a democracy and does no public good," he said.

The Rev. Michael Pfleger, pastor of Saint Sabina, said he has known and worked with Farrakhan for 30 years and has denounced Facebook for banning the controversial leader.

"This is a free-speech issue," Pfleger told CNN. "I don't agree with everything Minister Farrakhan has said. I don't agree with anyone on everything, but we are in a dangerous time when we can no longer have dialogue without demonizing one another."

Before the address, Flager said: Farrakhan "has been a bold voice against injustice done against black people in this country and his voice deserves and needs to be heard."

Some groups are pushing back on Farrakhan's appearance

But one local Jewish-led organization is blasting Saint Sabina for hosting Farrakhan, who has a long history of anti-Semitic statements.

"The Holocaust started with hatred and prejudice," said Fritzie Fritzshall, an Auschwitz survivor and president of the Illinois Holocaust Museum in Skokie, Illinois. The museum is holding a press conference Thursday to protest Saint Sabina's decision to host Farrakhan.

"When community leaders like Father Pfleger provide a platform for bigotry and anti-Semitism, it increases the threat against all of humanity," Fritzshall said.

Phil Andrew, the Archdiocese of Chicago's director of violence prevention, was expected to be among those at the Illinois Holocaust Museum denouncing Saint Sabina for hosting Farrakhan, according to a museum spokesman.

In a statement, the Archdiocese of Chicago that its leader, Cardinal Blase Cupich, was not consulted before Pfleger announced the event with Farrakhan and that the archdiocese is "not sponsoring" the speech.

The Anti-Defamation League said they will be monitoring Farrakhan's speech. The watchdog group has called Farrakhan, who has led the Nation of Islam since 1977, "quite possibly America's most popular anti-Semite."

"Farrakhan has alleged that the Jewish people were responsible for the slave trade and that they conspire to control the government, the media and Hollywood, as well as various black individuals and organizations," the ADL says.

The minister has long been a controversial figure

The Southern Poverty Law Center lists Farrakhan and his Nation of Islam as a "hate group," saying that the "deeply racist, antisemitic and anti-gay rhetoric of its leaders, including top minister Louis Farrakhan, have earned the NOI a prominent position in the ranks of organized hate."

In a speech in Chicago in 2018, Farrakhan said, "the powerful Jews are my enemy. "White folks are going down. And Satan is going down. And Farrakhan, by God's grace, has pulled the cover off of that Satanic Jew and I'm here to say your time is up, your world is through."

Pfleger, who has long worked with African-American leaders in Chicago, said Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam are respected locally for their anti-violence and anti-drug campaigns.

"Nobody has done more in the saving of young black men's lives and turning around lives than the Nation of Islam. His respect in the African-American community has been consistent."

But Pfleger said emails and phone calls have poured in this week criticizing him for hosting Farrakhan and threatening to withdraw donations to the church and its programs.

"If you would have heard and seen the stuff sent and spoken to me over this last week," he said. "I was shocked -- and I have gotten a lot of hate in my life. People have told me that they will destroy me."

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