Minister Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, canceled three scheduled campaign appearances last night on behalf of 5th District congressional candidate Abdul Alim Muhammad. A spokesman said he had been unable to catch a flight from an undisclosed overseas location.

Farrakhan's visit would have marked his first appearances in Prince George's County where Muhammad, his national spokesman, is challenging Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who is chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, in the Democratic primary on Sept. 11.

Farrakhan's daughter, Minister Donna Farrakhan of Chicago, spoke in his absence at one of the events, a campaign rally at Reid Temple AME Church in Lanham.

Farrakhan's absence prompted some political observers to raise questions about the Nation of Islam leader's commitment to the campaign. Farrakhan "usually lets everyone know he's coming," said Obie Patterson, a member of the Democratic Progressive Alliance in Southern Prince George's County. "There are usually signs and placards everywhere. We didn't see that in this case and it just makes you wonder."

Muhammad said Farrakhan "fully supports and endorses" his campaign and will reschedule his visit before the primary.

A surgeon who is running as an independent Democrat, Muhammad said his campaign was ushering in the end to "machine politics" in Prince George's County. Running on the slogan, "Put a Doctor in the House," Muhammad criticized existing black leadership in Prince George's County at last night's campaign appearances.

"There are astute, smart black politicians in this county who desire to do the best for the people, but because of plantation politics they are not able to do what they want or say what they want," Muhammad said. He chastised black politicians for "currying favor with white politicians rather than seeing to the needs of their constituents."

Muhammad's campaign has prompted Hoyer to buy TV ads for the first time since he was elected to Congress nine years ago.

Hoyer's campaign bought $115,000 worth of television time for the commercials, which will air mainly near local news programs. Although the total price tag is large, Charles Siegel, a spokesman for Hoyer, said that "because of the expense of television in the Washington market, this is really a very light buy."

The ads emphasize Hoyer's record, particularly on human rights. Muhammad is the first black to run against Hoyer and he has campaigned extensively in Prince George's black community.

Staff writer Kent Jenkins Jr. contributed to this report.