British Ban On Farrakhan Lifted

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CBS
London's High Court slapped down Tuesday a 1986 government ban against political leader Louis Farrakhan, reports CBS News Correspondent Kimberly Dozier. British officials had argued that the American activist might trigger public disorder here, saying his views are anti-Semitic and racially divisive.

Farrakhan, 67, Chicago-based head of the Nation of Islam, has been excluded from Britain since 1986 after the government raised concern about his effect on community relations.

He went to court earlier this month in a bid to rip up the ruling. On Tuesday, Justice Michael Turner overturned the ban at London's High Court, saying he would give his reasons for doing so later in the year.

"My decision is that it should be quashed," he said.

The High Court judge has delayed enacting the order until October, giving Britain's Home Secretary time to appeal. Officials are certainly considering it, reports Dozier: They say, after recent race riots in Northern England, Britain has enough problems already.

Lawyers for Farrakhan had argued that former Home Secretary (interior minister) Jack Straw, who is now Foreign Secretary in the Labor government, was wrong when he upheld the ban on Farrakhan last November.

The judge had been told at the hearing earlier this month by Nicholas Blake, Farrakhan's lawyer, that the activist had "moved on" and was now a prominent spiritual, religious and social leader who was seen as a significant spokesman for the U.S. black community.

He said Farrakhan particularly regretted the offense and hurt he had caused the Jewish community. Farrakhan has been accused of anti-Semitism for frequent criticism of U.S. Jews.

Jewish community leaders in Britain remain unconvinced.

"Louis Farrakhan has long espoused racist and offensive views," said Neville Nagler, director of the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

"His message of racial segregation will in the current climate do more harm than good to race relations in Britain."

British representatives of Farrakhan's group hailed the court ruling.

"As Muslims we are grateful that our leader will be able to come and give us much-needed and valued guidance and instructions," said Hilary Muhammad, the British spokeswoman for the Nation of Islam.

"This is a democratic society that we live in and as black people, we should be able to choose who we listen to and make a judgement ourselves whether that person is speaking in our interests or otherwise."

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