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Illinois taxpayers footing at least $500,000 bill for group inspired by antisemitic Nation of Islam

The investigative project Focus on Western Islamism has the receipts.

Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan speaks about the Kyrie Irving and Kanye West antisemitism scandals, Nov. 10, 2022. Source: The Collective 9/YouTube.
Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan speaks about the Kyrie Irving and Kanye West antisemitism scandals, Nov. 10, 2022. Source: The Collective 9/YouTube.

Throughout its nearly 95-year history, the Nation of Islam has been “notorious for its antisemitism, homophobia and anti-white bigotry,” the Southern Poverty Law Center notes.

The Chicago-headquartered religious group has “a consistent record of antisemitism and bigotry,” and its leader Louis Farrakhan has said contemporary Jews are “not really Jews but are in fact Satan” and “the enemy of God and the enemy of the righteous,” among many antisemitic statements, the Anti-Defamation League adds.

The sixth most-populous U.S. state and its Jewish governor appear to have missed the memo. In 2021 and 2022, allocated half a million dollars to the Nation of Islam, and it re-allocated the same amount to fund the hate group this year. This support in taxpayer monies comes at a time when antisemitic incidents in the U.S. have hit an all-time high.

Chicago has had its share recently of synagogue desecrations, vandalism and violent attacks against Jews, and Gov. J.B. Pritzker and other Jewish state lawmakers have been targets of antisemitism.

Yet a report by Focus on Western Islamism—a project of the Middle East Forum—revealed that Illinois is paying out substantial amounts of money to a group that is inspired by the Nation of Islam.

Susannah Johnston, an investigative reporter for the one-year-old site, which Daniel Pipes publishes, found via public records that the Build Illinois Bond Fund—established by the state in the mid-’80s to promote economic development—gave $500,000 to the Coalition for the Remembrance of Elijah Muhammad (CROE) in 2021 and 2022. The state intends to give $500,000 to that group this year.

Ben Isabel, chief of staff to State Sen. Laura Fine (D-Ill.) told JNS, “This group has been appropriated $500,000 from the Illinois capital budget. That is a one time appropriation that was set aside for this group when the capital plan passed in 20109. The $500,000 appropriation has been included in multiple budgets, because the group has yet to receive the funds.” That is why in the 2023 financial year budget, which passed in 2022, says the funds are “reappropriated,” he said.

Isabel added that Illinois is three years into its five year budget plan, and he doesn’t know if the funding has been released yet. “You have about a 50-50 chance either way,” he told JNS.

Muhammad, who died in 1975 and was a disciple of Nation of Islam founder Fard Muhammad, has his own hateful track record. The Nation of Islam leader, who appointed Farrakhan, “promoted the idea that white people were created by an evil Black scientist and that Black people are the superior race,” according to the ADL.

A man who answered the phone at the Coalition for the Remembrance of Elijah Muhammad but did not give his name said the coalition is “the archives for the Nation of Islam.”

Per the CROE website, Halif Muhammad, its co-founder and secretary, joined the Nation of Islam in 1968. Of Shahid Muslim, its co-founder and director and a Nation of Islam first lieutenant, the CROE website states, “Ask Shahid a question about the Nation of Islam under the Messenger and it will spark a passionate and loving monologue of a time gone by.” By “messenger,” it means Elijah Muhammad.

The Southern Poverty Law Center notes that Elijah Muhammad “invited American Nazi Party boss George Lincoln Rockwell to the NOI’s 1962 Saviours’ Day Convention. Rockwell spoke at the event, christening Elijah Muhammad ‘the Adolf Hitler of the black man.’” Muhammad preached that Jews are greedy and that they killed Jesus, per the SPLC.

Mosque Maryam, the Nation of Islam headquarters in Chicago. Source: Wikipedia Commons.

Johnston told JNS that the Illinois governor’s office and state legislators have chosen to ignore the facts presented to them.

“It’s very concerning that the Illinois government is financially supporting a group with such deep-rooted antisemitic and racist beliefs,” she said. “Illinoisans should hold their representatives accountable.”

So why is the state funding antisemitic groups in already-dangerous times? The governor’s office did not respond to phone and email requests for comment from JNS. Reached by email, the Jewish United Fund, Chicago’s Jewish Federation, declined to comment.

Leonard Matanky, a rabbi and the dean of the modern Orthodox high school Ida Crown Jewish Academy in Skokie, near Chicago, was unaware he and fellow Illinois residents were paying at least $500,000 to a group that is aligned ideologically with the Nation of Islam.

“If such a thing has occurred, I would be very concerned,” he told JNS. “The hate speech by Farrakhan is clearly beyond the pale, and the Nation of Islam, as a result, has always been a concern for our community.”

Were Farrakhan’s followers to act on his teachings, they would exacerbate an already-deteriorating situation with rising U.S. antisemitism.

At Congregation KINS of West Rogers Park, where Matanky has held the pulpit since 1994, there has been vandalism, including broken windows.

“There is no synagogue in this state where the doors are unlocked,” he said. “This is not the case for Muslim or Christian places of worship, even if they are right next to a Jewish house of worship.”

The only way to combat antisemitism effectively in Illinois, and the rest of the country, is via education and working with communities, according to Matanky.

“There needs to be a strong message that antisemitic attacks are not tolerated,” he said.

This story was updated to include comments from Ben Isabel that the state had reallocated the same $500,000, rather than a total of $1 million.

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