Minister Louis Farrakhan doubled down on past polarizing statements in an impassioned and wide-ranging speech Thursday evening, just one week after Facebook permanently banned him from its social media platforms for violating the tech giant’s policies on hate speech.
Farrakhan, the leader of the Chicago-based Nation of Islam, spoke at the Rev. Michael Pfleger’s St. Sabina Church amid heavy criticism of both men — Farrakhan for his past anti-Semitic and homophobic comments, and Pfleger for welcoming the divisive figurehead into his church.
“I’m here to separate the good Jews from the satanic Jews,” Farrakhan preached at the end of what had been a largely uncontroversial speech. “I have not said one word of hate. I do not hate Jewish people. Not one that is with me has ever committed a crime against the Jewish people, black people, white people. As long as you don’t attack us, we won’t bother you.
“The enemy is so hateful of me,” Farrakhan said to thunderous applause from the packed church pews. “I have never been arrested. No drunken driving. What have I done that you hate me like that?”
Farrakhan spent most of his speech speaking about injustices done to black people throughout history and especially in the United States. The minister said he was not trying to take anything away from white people and should not be considered racist for pointing out the struggles African Americans have faced.
Farrakhan, who turns 86 on Saturday,was banned last Thursday from all of Facebook’s social media platforms — including Instagram — as part of the company’s efforts to rid its websites of hate speech and “dangerous” people and organizations.
“I am dangerous,” a defiant Farrakhan said Thursday. “[But] I’m not dangerous on my own. God named me dangerous to Satan and his vermin.”
“I used that platform with respect,” Farrakhan said. “I never allowed those who follow me to become vile as those who speak evil of us.”
The website did not say exactly what led to the crackdown other than that Farrakhan violated its existing policies. The company said it has “always banned” people or groups that proclaim a violent or hateful mission or are engaged in acts of hate or violence, regardless of political ideology.
Farrakhan’s official Facebook and Instagram pages had more than 1 million “likes” and followers before they were removed. His Twitter account, with more than 336,000 followers, remained active.
Pfleger, introducing his “brother and friend” Farrakhan, called attacks on himself and the minister hypocritical.
“This past week, I have been cursed at, received an overwhelming amount of hate calls, emails, hateful Facebook postings,” Pfleger said. “It is interesting to me that those who accuse him of hate have been so hateful this past week. Oh, the hypocrisy.”
“It is dangerous to me when we begin to stop free speech and seek to silence prophetic voices,” Pfleger said. “There are many who say they do not like Minister Farrakhan because all they have heard is various sound bites. Perhaps that is why Facebook wanted to ban him — to keep people from hearing his whole talk, his entire message and the truth that he seeks to teach us.
“Minister Farrakhan has been a bold voice against injustice done against black people in this country, and his voice deserves and needs to be heard,” Pfleger said.
“I love my brother,” Farrakhan said of Pfleger. “In fact, we kissed when I came up here. This is not queer. This is straight up love.”
Farrakhan has been a polarizing figure for the better part of three decades, facing condemnation for statements considered to be anti-Semitic and homophobic. He denied all of those labels.
“I’m not a misogynist, I’m not a homophobe,” Farrakhan said. “Don’t be angry with me if I stand up on God’s word.”
In his promotion of Farrakhan’s appearance, Pfleger encouraged all attendees to stream the minister’s speech on Facebook Live, setting up a potential test of the tech giant’s policies.
Many in the pews held up their phones, appearing to stream the entire event. The stream posted on Pfleger’s Facebook page reached more than 1,000 concurrent viewers and was not removed by the platform.
“I encourage you, while this Facebook ban exists, post messages from Minister Farrakhan to your Facebook,” Pfleger said again at the end of the evening. “They cannot control all of us.”
Facebook representatives did not respond to a request for comment.
Earlier Thursday, the president of the Illinois Holocaust Museum — herself a survivor of Nazi Germany — condemned Pfleger for hosting the event.
“Totally shame on you,” Fritzie Fritzshall said in an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times. “I don’t understand Father Pfleger because I’ve always thought he was one for peace. What he’s doing today and what he’s doing with Farrakhan is giving him a platform for hatred — hatred he has spoken about for many, many years.”
In its own statement Thursday, the Archdiocese of Chicago said the event was “not sponsored” by the archdiocese, and that Cardinal Blase Cupich “was not consulted” ahead of the invitation.
The statement went on, without any further mention of either man, to support freedom of speech but condemn “discriminatory rhetoric of any kind.”
A spokesperson for Pfleger said in the afternoon that the reverend would not take questions until the event, but Pfleger issued a written statement saying he was “saddened” at the Holocaust Museum’s disapproval.
“Anyone who knows me and my life’s work knows I have sought to fight for the Beloved Community that Dr. [Martin Luther] King called us to,” he wrote.
Pfleger said he issued the invitation to Farrakhan to respond to Facebook’s action as a “defender of free speech. Too many people struggled and died for the right of free speech and I will continue to struggle to preserve it.”
Contributing: Stefano Esposito