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Sunday, 27 February, 2000, 13:56 GMT
Farrakhan bid for Islamic unity
W Deen Muhammad and  Louis Farrakhan
W Deen Muhammad (left) joined Louis Farrakhan at his convention
US black Muslim leader Louis Farrakhan has brought his Nation of Islam movement back towards the country's Muslim mainstream.

Minister Farrakhan is a great leader. Our friendship has not died, and it will not die

W Deen Mohammed, Muslim American Society
At the organisation's most important annual gathering, Saviours' Day, Mr Farrakhan has shared the stage with Imam W Deen Mohammed, head of the rival Muslim American Society.

Mr Farrakhan welcomed him with a promise of unity.

"From this day forward, Imam Mohammed, whatever our small problems, we'll work them out for the glory of Allah," he declared.

Mr Mohammed responded warmly: "Whatever has troubled us in the past, I think we can bury it now and never look back at that grave," Mr Mohammed said, as he and Mr Farrakhan embraced on the Saviours' Day stage in Chicago.

Changed man

Mr Farrakhan was stricken with near-fatal prostate cancer last year, and since his recovery he has declared himself a changed man, more devoted to unity than the radical preaching for which he became famous.

The reconcilation comes exactly 25 years after the death of Mr Mohammed's father, Elijah Mohammed, who had been Mr Farrakhan's mentor.

Sayyid Syeed
Hearing the call: Sayyid Syeed is to join the other Muslim leaders
In 1978, Mr Farrakhan broke away from W Deed Mohammed to revive Elijah's teachings, reviving the original Nation of Islam which had been established in the 1930s.

Nation of Islam's radical message - including a belief that whites are "devils," - has kept the two movements apart.

Mr Farrakhan has also been criticised for anti-Semitic comments.

He gained wider prominence as a black leader in 1995 by organising the "million man" march in Washington.

Different styles

Mr Farrakhan is a fiery orator who tightly controls a paramilitary-style organization, while Mr Mohammed is a quieter spiritual teacher who has all but abandoned any national organisation.

In the Nation of Islam's theology, Elijah Muhammad's teacher in the 1930s, W D Fard of Detroit, was given divine status and Elijah Muhammad himself is the final prophet to mankind.

Orthodox Muslims believe the final prophet was Mohammed who founded Islam in Mecca, who in the seventh century.

In his reconciliation speech, Mr Farrakhan made an important concession to Orthodox belief: "Allah sent Mohammed with the final revelation to the world. ... There is no prophet after the Prophet Mohammed, and no book after the Koran."

The Muslim American Society, which represents more than two million American Muslims, while the Nation of Islam is estimated to have fewer than 200,000 members.

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