Nation of Islam: 2 Members of Illinois Hate Crimes Panel Resign

Springfield, Ill. (AP) — Two Jewish members of a state hate crimes panel resigned in disgust, saying it was impossible to serve with a National of Islam member appointed to the group.

Richard Hirschhaut, executive director of the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, and Lonnie Nasatir, a regional director for the Anti-Defamation League, both resigned Thursday. They said the commission’s work has been compromised.

“The work of this commission is far too important to have been hijacked by one polarizing and divisive figure,” Hirschhaut said.

Sister Claudette Marie Muhammad, director of community outreach for the Nation of Islam, was named to the Governor’s Commission on Discrimination and Hate Crimes in August. Her presence was unknown to most people — including Blagojevich — until last month, when she invited members of the commission to attend a speech by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.

In the speech, Farrakhan accused “Hollywood Jews” of “promoting lesbianism, homosexuality” and other “filth.” That angered some commission members who publicly complained Muhammad’s work for Farrakhan clashed with the panel’s goals.

Blagojevich said he did not know he had appointed Muhammad and wished his staff had discussed it with him. His office would not comment on the controversy except to say the governor had accepted Nasatir’s resignation. He quickly filled the vacancy with Rep. Lou Lang, but did not return repeated calls Thursday evening seeking comment on Hirschhaut’s resignation.

Lang, a Democrat and leader in the Jewish caucus, was among some lawmakers who called for Muhammad to denounce Farrakhan’s comments, but he said he will give her the benefit of the doubt.

“I’m going to assume for the moment that this person is not espousing hate,” he said.

Muhammad issued a statement Wednesday supporting “fairness to all people regardless of race, creed, color, national origin or religious beliefs.” She did not return a message left at Nation of Islam headquarters seeking comment.

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
AP, via, USA
Mar. 3, 2006
Anna Sanner, Associated Press Writer

Religion News Blog posted this on Saturday March 4, 2006.
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