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Farrakhan criticizes Bush about Iraq

Emphasizes unity in last major talk

Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan gave the keynote address at the Saviour's Day convention in Detroit. Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan gave the keynote address at the Saviour's Day convention in Detroit. (Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

DETROIT -- Denouncing President Bush for the war in Iraq and calling on Muslims and Christians to stop killing one another, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan led thousands of followers on a spirited tour of his views of God and the world yesterday in an address described by aides as his last major appearance.

Farrakhan, 73, who has been battling prostate cancer for nearly a decade, spoke about international conflict and personal responsibility. He gave no hint that he was ailing.

He urged young people who would join the military and fight in Iraq to stay away: "This is going down, and if you're going, you go down with it. God is angry."

He called on Democrats unwilling to impeach Bush to at least censure him: "Stop pussyfooting around."

To people of faith who are at one another's throats, Farrakhan called for unity: "How come we the people of God cannot embrace each other?"

Farrakhan, who has delivered a message of black pride for decades, did not repeat previous incendiary remarks about "white devils" or Jews, whom he has called "bloodsuckers" who prey on the African-American community.

He denied he is antiwhite, antigay, anti-Semitic, or anti-American. He said those labels were produced by critics "in hopes that somebody would rise up to kill me."

Farrakhan sounded yesterday like the man who, after organizing Washington's Million Man March in 1995, said, "To some I'm a nightmare. But to others I'm a dream come true."

Detroit is where the Nation of Islam got its start in 1930. The group was rebuilt by Farrakhan in the late 1970s after W.D. Mohammed, the son of leader Elijah Mohammed, moved his followers toward mainstream Islam.

Members of a crowd that flowed to the Detroit Lions's indoor stadium on an icy afternoon to celebrate the Nation's Saviours' Day said they came in expectation that this would be Farrakhan's final big speech.

Facing serious abdominal surgery, he recently handed control of the group to an executive committee, fueling questions about his future and speculation about the organization's prospects without a leader as contentious or charismatic.

Farrakhan criticized Muslims in Iraq for the sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shiites. He said it was time for followers of the prophet Mohammed to live as he had, and for Christians to live more like Jesus.