A Nation of Islam spokesman joined with supporters of political extremist Lyndon LaRouche in a forum at the Vista Hotel last night in which they blamed the Jewish Anti-Defamation League for a host of crimes and conspiracies against African Americans.
Abdul Alim Muhammad, the Washington-based spokesman for the Nation of Islam, also used the occasion to ridicule an old rival -- Imam W. Deen Mohammed, the son of the Nation's founder. His followers, he noted, are scheduled to arrive in Washington today for a convention.
Mohammed broke away decades ago from the Nation of Islam, now under of leadership of Louis Farrakhan. Mohammed formed a movement that adheres to orthodox Islamic practices and in recent months has been publicly critical of Farrakhan.
At the Vista last night, the Nation of Islam spokesman referred to Mohammed as "this functionary of the ADL network."
About 200 people attended the forum, which threaded together a tangle of conspiracy theories about how power is wielded in the United States and the rest of the world. In interviews afterward, many in the crowd said they were members of either the Nation of Islam or of political groups affiliated with LaRouche.
LaRouche is a perennial presidential candidate who was paroled earlier this year after serving five years of a 15-year sentence for fraudulent fund-raising and tax evasion.
The Nation of Islam and the Lyndon LaRouche group share resentment of the ADL, which has issued several reports painting both groups as antisemitic personality cults.
Leaders of the Nation of Islam have stirred controversy in the past by making antisemitic remarks, even as Farrakhan has insisted his group is not antisemitic or racist.
The Schiller Institute, a LaRouche organization, paid for the rental of the room at the Vista last night.
Last night was not the first occasion that followers of LaRouche have joined forces with the Nation of Islam. According to the Anti-Defamation League, the two groups have held at least two similar joint meetings at Howard University and the University of the District of Columbia in the last two years.
Muhammad last night accused the ADL of engineering the recent removal of the Rev. Benjamin Chavis from his post as chairman of the NAACP. Chavis was ousted by the NAACP board last month after it was revealed that he secretly paid $332,000 from the group's treasury to settle a suit against by a former employee.
Muhammad said that the ADL had attacked black leaders from Booker T. Washington, to W.E.B. DuBois, Adam Clayton Powell, Malcolm X and Andrew Young. He accused the group of conspiring to assassinate Farrakhan.
"You can't think of a black leader that has not been destroyed or slandered by the ADL," Muhammad said. He offered no proof of ADL's role in Chavis's removal, saying instead, "Let the ADL prove they didn't have something to do with the downfall of Ben Chavis."
In a telephone interview after the forum last night, David Friedman, ADL regional director, said, "It's as ridiculous as all of the other conspiracy-laden fantasies that they've been broadcasting and promoting. I won't dignify it with a more elaborate response than that."
Michael 3 X, who identified himself as a leader of the group that organized the event, said that Farrakhan and Chavis "represent some hope to us, and we can't allow others to cut them down. ... We're saying to the ADL, you leave Minister Farrakhan alone. You leave black leadership alone."
Rabbi Gerald Kaplan, who said he was a volunteer with the Schiller Institute, called on the ADL to "repent," in the spirit of the Jewish High Holidays, which begin next week and include Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.
The poster announcing the Vista event identified Kaplan's title as "Brooklyn Board of Rabbis." But Rabbi Abraham Feldbin, president of the Board, released a statement yesterday saying that although Kaplan has been a member of the group for three years, he is not an officer and does not speak for the group.
Muhammad gave Kaplan a warm handshake. The two men said they had met previously in Panama, where they had been the guests of former president Manuel Noriega.
"The meeting was enlightening," LaTonya Dunham, 24, of Silver Spring, said after the event. "I think that the assumptions people had about the Nation of Islam when they walked in would be changed for the better."
Staff writer Mangai Balasegram contributed to this report.