News & Politics

Anti-Semitic Nation of Islam Receives Federal Funds To Proselytize to Federal Inmates

Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan delivers a message to President Donald Trump during a press conference on November 16, 2017 at the Watergate Hotel in Washington DC. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press) (Sipa via AP Images)

Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the U.S. government “to teach religious study programs for federal prison inmates,” the Washington Examiner reported in an exclusive Wednesday. Since 2008, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons and Department of Justice leaders have given at least $350,000 to Farrakhan’s black nationalist group according to records obtained by the Examiner.

The Anti-Defamation League calls Farrakhan “the lead­ing anti-Semite in Amer­ica,” who for 30 years “has espoused and promoted anti-Semitism and racism” and “has repeatedly alleged that the Jewish people were responsible for the slave trade, as well as the 9/11 attacks.”

The black nationalist preaches that white people are “blue-eyed devils” and Jews are “the synagogue of Satan,” and once even called Adolf Hitler “a very great man” who “raised Germany up from nothing.”

Farrakhan has long preached to his followers that “a mother wheel” hovers over the Earth — “a heavily armed” spaceship of death that will “rain destruction upon white America, but save those who embrace the Nation of Islam.”

“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,” said Farrakhan during a “Savior’s Day” address in February of this year. More recently, Farrakhan traveled to Iran where he called America the “great Satan” and led “death to America” chants.

Ironically, Farrakhan has instructed his followers to not accept money from the U.S. government. Said Farrakhan in a Dec. 14, 2013 statement: “If they offer you anything, look carefully into it, lest the Nation will no longer be tied to the principles that the Hon. Elijah Muhammad desired for us: to make us an independent nation on some of this Earth that we can call our own.”

Despite the group’s stated beliefs and intentions, Nation of Islam leaders “have received at least $364,500 in contracts and awards from the U.S. Bureau of Prisons and the Department of Justice between fiscal 2008 and fiscal 2019,” according to the report:

The funding was designed to provide “Nation of Islam religious services,” “Nation of Islam spiritual guide services,” “Nation of Islam study services,” and other related programming led by the organization’s leaders, according to Bureau of Prison records. The Nation of Islam has been labeled a hate group by the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center.

This news came as a surprise to New York Republican Peter King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, who told the Washington Examiner the funding was “beyond the pale.”

“Categorically, no group or entity or individual associated any way with Farrakhan or the Nation of Islam should receive any federal funding. What Farrakhan preaches is hatred and anti-Semitism and racism, and to use any federal money for any group that he’s involved with that does any type of teaching or proselytizing is just wrong,” he said.

Coming from the left, Mark Potok — former senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center and current senior fellow at the Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right — called the funding “really outrageous and remarkable.”

Potok noted that in 2003 a court ruling prohibited federal prisons from banning Nation of Islam reading materials on First Amendment grounds. However, that’s a far cry from requiring the U.S. government to provide money to the anti-Semitic organization.

“I can’t imagine the reason why the federal government would have any obligation to give any money to the Nation of Islam or its proponents, and it seems quite incredible if they do,” said Potok:

The Bureau of Prisons on Wednesday declined to provide any details about the contracts, including what year they began and what Nation of Islam reading materials were used for the program. “Contracts are retained six years after final payment, so we are not able to provide details regarding the original contract on which the Nation of Islam began contracting with the Bureau of Prisons,” said a spokesperson.

The spokesperson cited a regulation that federal correctional institutions “may contract with representatives of faith groups in the community to provide specific religious services which the chaplain cannot personally deliver due to, ordinarily, religious prescriptions or ecclesiastical constraints to which the chaplain adheres.”

While declining to comment on what the Nation of Islam provided to prisoners, the bureau cited a federal statute that said religious materials must “be previewed by [Bureau of Prison] staff, or any other staff-designated volunteers, prior to distribution” and “materials shall not denigrate or disparage any other religion or religious groups.”

King said the funding raises concerns about the federal vetting process for prison chaplains in light of reports that prisons can be a breeding ground for radicalization.

In 2010, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee released a report that found “as many as three dozen U.S. citizens who converted to Islam while in prison have traveled to Yemen, possibly for Al Qaeda training.” The issue has drawn recent attention in Europe, after a gunman who attacked visitors at a Christmas market in France was reported to have been radicalized during a prior stint in jail.

“Since there have been too many instances of radicalization occurring in prisons, that, to me, is a public concern as to what is being taught,” King said. “To me, once you’re associated with Farrakhan, that, to me, would end the vetting right away.”

Federal spending records reviewed by the Washington Examiner show that the funding dates back at least to fiscal 2008, with some contracts apparently approved in 2007.

The North Memphis Study Group, the Nation of Islam’s chapter in Memphis, reportedly received $23,430 between 2008 and 2010 for “Nation of Islam services” at Forrest City federal penitentiary in Arkansas.

The chapter recently featured a “video of the week” on its website titled “SOS: Synagogue of Satan”:

In total, the Bureau of Prisons contracted with over a dozen organizations and individuals to specifically provide Nation of Islam programming for inmates. One of these individuals was Verbon Muhammad, a Nation leader in Monroe, La., who received over $60,000 to “provide Nation of Islam religious services.” Muhammad told a reporter at the Louisiana News Star last year that white people are not allowed to attend Nation of Islam religious services.

“We don’t allow white people in our meetings, period,” said Muhammad.

While the funding began during the George W. Bush years, it ramped up during the Obama years. The highest spending occurred in 2012 when the federal government gave over $47,000 in contracts to Nation of Islam programs, according to the report:

Funding has dropped, but has not yet been eliminated under the Trump administration.

“In 2018, the programs received $17,000 and the total obligation for 2019 is $8,250,” the Examiner reported.