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Farrakhan too extreme for some Navajos

Although Minister Louis Farrakhan received a standing ovation from the Navajo Nation Council and praise from many Navajos, some are questioning why a person seen as being so radical in his views was invited to speak to the Navajo Nation.
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Although Minister Louis Farrakhan received a standing ovation from the Navajo Nation Council and high praise from many Navajos, some Navajos are questioning why a person viewed as being so radical and extreme in his views was invited to speak to the Navajo Nation.

James Henderson, Navajo and former Arizona state senator, criticized Navajo President Joe Shirley Jr. for extending an invitation to Farrakhan.

''Shirley will do anything to get points for himself and that was what Shirley was doing. Farrakhan doesn't know the Navajo Nation or culture; he doesn't know beans about us,'' Henderson told Indian Country Today.

''What was Shirley looking for? If they wanted a good speaker, they should have brought in good medicine men to speak to the council. They would tell them the state of the nation and could give a few answers, too.

''Farrakhan is too radical and too inappropriate to speak to the Navajo Council. That guy is hated all over the place because of what he stands for,'' Henderson said, adding that Farrakhan's visit could have a negative impact on the Navajo Nation.

''The Navajo Nation has good relations with Washington. The president and congressmen are probably wondering what we are up to and probably think we are up to no good.''

‘Does he grow his own food?’
Shirley said he invited Farrakhan to the Navajo Nation to discuss economic development and incentives for Navajos faced with dire needs.

Henderson, however, questioned if Farrakhan had any expertise in the area of economic development. Further, Henderson said he felt Farrakhan was speaking down to the council and the Navajo people.

After Farrakhan told the council that Navajos should be growing their own food, Henderson said, ''Does he grow his own food? Looking at all those cars and everything else he has, I doubt it.''

Henderson, a candidate running against Shirley in the 2006 Navajo presidential race, said it is all about politics.

''President Shirley will do anything to get points, to promote himself; this is an election year, but the president should look into people's backgrounds before they invite them.''

Shirley said he extended the invitation as part of reaching out to people from diverse faiths and backgrounds.

''President Shirley's meeting with Minister Farrakhan continues his initiative of outreach to people of other faiths, ways of life, color, ethnicities and nationalities. Over the past two years, he's met with leaders of Latino, Jewish, Christian and indigenous organizations, as well as representatives from other countries,'' according to a written statement from the Office of the President.

Shirley said last year, the Indigenous Steering Committee of the World Summit on the Information Society asked him to represent the 370 million indigenous people of the world as spokesman before the general assembly of the United Nations meeting in Tunisia, Africa.

Henderson, however, countered and said Navajos have far more pressing and immediate needs than Shirley's travel to Africa. ''He is wasting the money of the Navajo Nation.''

Accused of condescension
Ernest Harry Begay, former tribal councilman from Rock Point and 2006 presidential candidate, agreed that Farrakhan was far too radical and that less controversial people should be invited to speak to the Navajo Nation.

Begay also said Farrakhan spoke down to the people in a condescending manner during his address to the Navajo Nation Council. ''He should be at our level,'' Begay told ICT.

Vern Lee, a heavy diesel mechanic from Kirtland, N.M., and 2006 presidential candidate, agreed with Henderson and Begay. Lee said he also felt Farrakhan's views were far too extreme.

''I disagree with him being invited to the Navajo Nation. He gets too radical and people view him as a racist. That bothers me,'' Lee told ICT.

Meanwhile, following the three-day visit hosted by Shirley, Farrakhan said he and his delegation from the Nation of Islam were received with brotherly love. Farrakhan said he came to learn of the life and present struggles of the Navajo.

''We came with questions and left with a greater understanding.''

The delegation included Mother Tynnetta Muhammad, wife of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, Farrakhan's family members and representatives of the Nation of Islam.