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Tuesday, 31 July, 2001, 10:39 GMT 11:39 UK
Profile: Louis Farrakhan
Minister Louis Farrakhan
Farrakhan draws loyal support and deep controversy
Minister Louis Farrakhan is the Nation of Islam's spiritual and political leader, and a community leader for African American Muslims.

His message of personal responsibility, especially for black men, and black communal self-sufficiency has a wide appeal among urban black Americans, Muslims or not.

Controversy seems to follow Mr Farrakhan closely.

He has been accused of appealing to black racism and anti-Semitism, and numerous inflammatory remarks are attributed to him - including expressions of admiration for Adolf Hitler.

Mr Farrakhan is also an outspoken critic of US foreign policy and advocates American reconciliation with states such as Libya, Iraq and Cuba.

New name

He was born Louis Eugene Wolcott in New York in 1933. He trained to be teacher, and worked as a nightclub singer in the early 1950s.

Farrakhan facts
Born Louis Eugene Wolcott in 1933
Joined Nation of Islam 1955
Emerged as Nation of Islam leader in late 70s
'Million Man March' 1995
In 1955 Malcolm X, a minister for the Nation of Islam, convinced Wolcott to join the organisation.

Like many black American Muslims, Wolcott dropped his last name and became known as Minister Louis X. The dropping of a persons' family name was seen as a rejection of names imposed on black Americans when they were slaves.

He later adopted the name Abdul Haleem Farrakhan and came to be known as Louis Farrakhan.

In 1963, a split developed between Malcolm X and Elijah Muhammad, the leader of the Nation of Islam. Mr Farrakhan sided with Elijah Muhammad, and in the late 1970s emerged to lead the organisation at time when it was becoming more mainstream.

Million man march

In October 1995, Farrakhan organised the "Million Man March" to Washington DC.

During the celebrations that concluded the march, hundreds of thousands of black men vowed to renew their commitments to family, community, and personal responsibility.

Though less than a million men participated in the march, it was widely regarded as having shown the strength of Mr Farrakhan's power base and brought him closer to the political mainstream.

In January 1996, Farrakhan made a 20-nation "world friendship tour" that took in Iran, Libya, and Iraq - all states the US regards as rogue nations and sponsors of international terrorism.

Mr Farrakhan underwent surgery to treat prostate cancer last year. He resumed public appearances early in 2001.

A ban on Mr Farrakhan's entry into the UK, imposed in 1986, was lifted after 15 years by the British High Court.

See also:

31 Jul 01 | UK
Farrakhan UK ban overturned
15 May 00 | Americas
Farrakhan in Malcolm X 'apology'
27 Feb 00 | Americas
Farrakhan bid for Islamic unity
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