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Wednesday, October 14, 1998 Published at 17:32 GMT 18:32 UK


10,000 men to march for solidarity

The Nation of Islam say they are seeking a 'day of atonement'

Thousands of black men are expected to gather in the centre of London on Saturday to take part in the 10,000 Man March.

The rally has been organised by the Nation of Islam and other black groups as a chance for British black men to gather together in Trafalgar Square and show their solidarity.

The Nation of Islam has been accused of preaching a doctrine of racial separation and hatred, but with the march it is calling for a "day of atonement and reconciliation".

[ image: Spreading the word about Saturday's rally]
Spreading the word about Saturday's rally
The Nation of Islam's Leo Muhammad said: "The black man has become somewhat delinquent and we have abrogated our responsibility.

"He's the one out on the street corner. He's the one in the bookies' shop. He's the one who is not enterprising.

"And so the focus is on him because the man is really the backbone of the family, the backbone of society.

"And we want to rebuild the black man."

A hip-hop CD has also been released to coincide with the march to help spread the message of solidarity into the mainstream and among young people.

The British rally is emulating the Million Man March organised by the Nation of Islam in Washington, DC in 1995. That gathering, too, was seen as a "day of atonement".

[ image: Men at the US march in 1995]
Men at the US march in 1995
It was the largest rally in the United States since Martin Luther King made his historic "I have a dream speech" on Capitol Hill in 1963.

The Nation of Islam, which originated in the US, has caused controversy with its views on racial separation.

The group's leader, Louis Farrakhan, has been excluded from the UK since 1988.

The group came into the public eye in the UK when its members, distinctively dressed in suits and bow ties, appeared at the inquiry into the death of the murdered black teenager, Stephen Lawrence.

Despite claims that Saturday's march is meant to promote reconciliation, some people are uncomfortable with the Nation of Islam and its criticism of the British desire to promote diversity and integration.

Theologian Robert Beckford said: "You have got to move on and you have to build alliances and you have to begin to deal with the complexity of the world.

"In black history, not all white people have been oppressors. In white history not all black people have been liberators."

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