Posted Tuesday, July 31, 2001

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We remain concerned that his presence in this country, with his message of racial segregation, will in the current climate do more harm than good to race relations. -- Board of Deputies of British Jews

London Tuesday, July 31, 2001

Farrakhan UK ban overturned

Louis Farrakhan's views have sparked concern

Louis Farrakhan. Controversial US black political leader Louis Farrakhan has won his High Court battle for the right to visit the UK. The Nation of Islam leader has been excluded from Britain since 1986.
MR JUSTICE Turner, sitting in the High Court in London, ruled on Tuesday that the ban must be quashed. Mr Farrakhan, 67, will not be able to come to the UK until after the judge outlines his reasons for his decision on 1 October. Nation of Islam representatives were at court for the ruling .

The government is deciding whether to appeal against the ruling which overturns a ban imposed by successive home secretaries. Mr Farrakhan, who is suffering from cancer, challenged last November's decision by the then Home Secretary Jack Straw to maintain the ban. In November Mr Straw justified upholding the ban imposed on the grounds that Mr Farrakhan had expressed "anti-Semitic and racially divisive views". Lawyers for Mr Farrakhan argued that the ban was unlawful in interfering with the leader's right to speak with his UK supporters about spiritual values for the black community.

And they said the ban was contrary to the Human Rights Act and the common law. Home Office minister Beverley Hughes said the government was "very disappointed" by the ruling and would be considering an appeal. "We believe that it is the home secretary's right to defend the social cohesion and racial harmony of this country," she said.

David Liddington, shadow home affairs spokesman, shared the government's dismay. "I find it extraordinary that the judge is not prepared to give his reasons for his decision for a further two months," he said.

Ruling welcomed

Hilary Muhammad, spokesman for UK Nation of Islam members, pictured in blue suit

But Hilary Muhammad, UK spokesman for the Nation of Islam has welcomed the ruling. "Now the citizens of UK will have a chance in the near future to see, hear and judge the honourable Minister Louis Farrakhan for themselves," he said.

Mr Muhammad, who was at the High Court on Thursday for the decision, said that Muslims were grateful that their leader would be able to come to the UK to offer guidance.

And Sadiq Khan, the solicitor representing the Nation of Islam, described the judge's decision as "very brave and sensible". "There was no evidence at all that any of his other trips to countries around the world, including Israel .... had led to any problems whatsoever," he told BBC Radio 4's World At One programme.

Indeed he said that Mr Farrakhan had promised the British consulate in Chicago as well as the Canadian and Australian governments that he would respect and obey domestic laws and not do anything to damage race relations.

But the Director of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Neville Nagler, was among those who condemned the decision. He told BBC News Online: "We remain concerned that his presence in this country, with his message of racial segregation, will in the current climate do more harm than good to race relations."

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