Nearly 2,000 people packed an auditorium at Howard University last night to hear Khalid Abdul Muhammad, the former top aide to Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan whose rhetoric in recent months has been both praised as a tool for black empowerment and criticized as virulently racist.

Muhammad, who on Monday toured the Holocaust Museum with his son, spoke late in the program after an enthusiastic, overflow crowd heard several other speakers. He compared the Jewish Holocaust with what he called the "black holocaust."

"You talk about the death marches. What about the death marches in Africa?" Muhammad said. "You said that by the summer {of 1937}, there were over 400 ghettos. We, the sons and daughters of Africa, are still in the ghettos."

Muhammad was interrupted numerous times by thunderous applause.

He bemoaned the fact that the federal government gave the Holocaust Museum $21 million for operating expenses, "but not one dollar has been put aside for our holocaust, which is still taking place."

Muhammad said, "I am going to be like a pit bull. That is the way I am going to be against the Jews. I am going to bite the tail of the honkies."

Unlike in his last speech at Howard,in which he emphasized black power but stayed away from the kind of rhetoric that got him removed from his post as spokesman for the Nation of Islam, Muhammad went on the offensive, saying at one point that he "loves Colin Ferguson, who killed all those white folks on the Long Island train. God spoke to Colin Ferguson and said, 'Catch the train, Colin, catch the train.'"

Earlier yesterday, about 100 students and faculty members gathered at Howard to reaffirm the school's commitment to free speech and fighting prejudice and to make clear that Muhammad and the students who support him do not speak for the whole university.

"Each of us has a responsibility to speak out loud and clear ... to say we disagree with" those who make racist remarks, said Franklyn G. Jenifer, Howard's president.

"This is just the beginning. Every time haters come to campus, we will present them with love and truth."

The event earlier in the day was organized by the College of Arts and Sciences faculty in response to television and press reports about campus visits by Muhammad and antisemitic remarks by some Howard students.

Outside the auditorium before last night's speech, Rabbi Avi Weiss, president of the Coalition for Jewish Concerns, held up a sign in protest of Muhammad's speech.

"I am out here because Khalid Muhammad is a bigot and a racist," Weiss said. "Howard University has a double standard of freedom of speech. They have invited him for the second time."

At one point, nearly 40 people gathered around Weiss, shouting, "Lies, lies, lies."

"This is a hate fest," said David C. Friedman, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, who attended the program. "It is the closest thing to a Nuremberg rally that I have ever seen."

Several Howard University security guards stepped in and took the signs from Weiss and his small group of protesters.

"I had to do it because once you get an uncontrolled crowd, you have injuries, " said Lt. Robert Cyrus, a security supervisior for Howard University.

The Nation of Islam's security force frisked those coming into Crampton Auditorium, and at one point, as the hall was filling, black men were allowed in before others. Still, security officials said, no one who bought a ticket was turned away from the $10-a-person event.

The manager of the auditorium said it appeared that only a small number of those attending the event, about 100, were Howard students.

"This is not a huge event in the lives of Howard students, but Howard gets a bad rap," said Howard student Naima Welcher, 20, who attended the speech last night. "I don't take everything they say to heart, but I am glad we have different voices."

"Howard University has become an open-air marketplace for the peddlers of hate, and it must stop," Thaddeus H. Garrett, a member of the Howard Board of Trustees, said last night. Garrett, reached at his home, said he intends to introduce a resolution at this weekend's board meeting that will establish a more restrictive "code of conduct" for organizations on campus and the speakers they sponsor. He said the university should more closely monitor groups who invite speakers to campus.

The speech last night was sponsored by a student group called Unity Nation.

The controversy over Muhammad has engulfed much of the university for weeks. Students said they have discussed it in class and over meals. Some have written letters of protest about the media coverage to newspapers and television shows. Others have had to defend their school to family and friends. Many believe that Howard has been unfairly singled out.

"They have controversial speakers at other schools, so we shouldn't be attacked," said freshman Tuaranna Patterson, 18, who did not attend the forum. "Part of being in college is to be introduced to things you ordinarily wouldn't be {exposed} to."

Students and faculty members in the forum yesterday defended Howard's decision to allow Muhammad to speak as part of the university's commitment to free and open discourse. "Part of being a scholar is to listen to all voices," said English major Imani Tolliver. "We have to be open to many debates." But they also urged the Howard community to make it clear that it does not support hate speech.

Some students and faculty said the controversy has hurt Howard's reputation. "Students are losing internships and business opportunities as a direct result," said Afro-American Studies professor Charles Metze II. "Job offers have been questioned."

Although such cases are the exception, Jenifer said he has been getting calls from all across the country and has received more than 1,000 letters.

The media coverage "portrays Howard to be an intolerant institution, and we're as tolerant as any school in the nation, if not more so," said senior Jeff Barnett, 22.

Staff writer Brooke A. Masters contributed to this report.