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Farrakhan army flanks star

New York Daily News, USA
Jan. 17, 2004
Tracy Connor
www.nydailynews.com

ReligionNewsBlog.com • Monday January 19, 2004

The Nation of Islam‘s involvement in Michael Jackson’s affairs was on very public display yesterday.

Outside the courthouse, stern men in dark suits with walkie-talkies were posted every few feet and formed a human wall around the singer.

And there they were again at Neverland Ranch, wordlessly keeping invited guests away from the house.

Their front-and-center presence raises new questions about whether Louis Farrakhan’s group is secretly in charge of Jackson’s empire.

“They are in control. Their influence is very substantial,” insists Stuart Backerman, who was ousted from Jackson’s team two weeks ago.

“They’re in essence making most of the decisions regarding the communications strategy. They are overseeing some of the financial decisions.”

Jackson’s current team insists the radical Muslims’ only role is handling security, but some say the sect’s role is much broader – with Farrakhan aide Leonard Muhammad controlling access to Jackson.

“I wouldn’t say he’s kept ‘semi-captive.’ But he has certainly been isolated by the Nation of Islam,” Backerman told “Good Morning America.”

Jackson was raised a Jehovah’s Witness but left the faith in the 1980s. His brother, Jermaine, converted to Islam and is thought to be behind the Nation’s involvement.

Not so, says Backerman.

“The culprit, so to speak, behind this was Grace Rwarmba, who is Michael’s nanny,” he said.

The ex-flack thinks his former employer should distance himself from the baby-sitter’s religion.

“I care for Michael Jackson. I love him and I worry about him and I worry about the impact of the Nation of Islam on his reputation, regardless of his exoneration,” Backerman said.

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