Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan was seated on the stage at Aretha Franklin’s memorial alongside Bill Clinton, Rev Jesse Jackson and Rev Al Sharpton.
Photos and livestream video show the controversial religious figure and black nationalist front and center at the star-studded service honoring Franklin, who died aged 76 from pancreatic cancer on August 6.
At points during the five-hour-long service, Rev Sharpton appeared to be leaning away from Farrakhan and whispering to Rev Jackson to his left, who is seated next to former President Clinton.
Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan (left) was seated next to Rev Al Sharpton, Rev Jesse Jackson and President Bill Clinton at Aretha Franklin’s memorial service in Detroit on Friday
Farrakan, fellow religious leaders Sharpton and Jackson and former President Bill Clinton snagged coveted spots on the stage at Greater Grace Temple during the star-studded service
At points during the five-hour-long service, Rev Sharpton appeared to be leaning away from Farrakhan and whispering to Rev Jackson on his left
Farrakhan detailed his long relationship with Franklin in a statement issued after her death earlier this month.
‘In 1972, when I was minister in New York City, Temple No 7, the police attacked our mosque. Within a few hours, Aretha Franklin came to the mosque, to my office, and said that she saw the news and came as quickly as she could to stand with us and offer us her support,’ Farrakhan wrote.
‘She asked me if Rev Jesse Jackson had been there to show support. I said, not yet. She said, he’ll be here within 48 hours. Rev Jackson came and stood with the Muslims.
‘We marveled at her show of courage, fearlessness which was rooted in her profound love for her people and her desire for justice for us.
‘Her activism, her selflessness caused her to stand with Dr. Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement as she joined the struggle of our people for liberty, equity and justice.
Farrakhan tweeted the statement calling Franklin: ‘Our Queen And Our Giant In The Black Struggle.’
Farrakhan detailed his long relationship with Franklin in a statement issued after her death earlier this month. A tweet linking to the statement is pictured above
Farrakhan was all smiles during the Aretha Franklin benifit concert in Detroit on Wednesday
Farrakhan arrives at the funeral service wearing a striped suit and red bowtie (left) before taking his seat front and center inside Greater Grace Temple (right)
The Islamic leader’s presence at Franklin’s funeral has sparked outrage on social media from people who say Farrakhan shouldn’t have been invited given his history of anti-Semitic remarks.
CNN reporter Kate Bennett tweeted: ‘Was enjoying coverage of aretha franklin’s (sic) funeral until i saw louis farrakhan (sic) seated prominently and now that’s enough of that.’
Founder of Turning Point USA Charlie Kirk likewise wrote: ‘It is disgrace to the beautiful Aretha Franklin to have the con artists Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton sit front row at her funeral alongside anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan next to impeached President Bill Clinton.
‘Aretha was a wonderful talent and her legacy is better than this.’
Jewish filmmaker Jeremy Newberger also tweeted: ‘I love Aretha Franklin and this big tribute is wonderful to see, but Louis Farrakhan? His views on Jews, gays and immigrants show a complete and total lack of R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Someone should call him an Uber the F out of there.’
Farrakhan’s presence at Franklin’s funeral has sparked outrage on social media from people who say Farrakhan shouldn’t have been invited given his history of anti-Semitic remarks
In June, Farrakhan had his Twitter verification revoked after he tweeted a link to a video of his May 28 sermon about Harvey Weinstein, with the headline: ‘Thoroughly and completely unmasking the Satanic Jew and the Synagogue of Satan’.
In the video of the sermon at a Chicago mosque, Farrakhan addressed everything from President Trump, anti-semitism, the #MeToo movement, as well as Weinstein.
‘The couch where you have to sit is called the casting couch,’ Farrakhan said in a three-hour sermon.
‘See? That’s Jewish power,’ he continued.
‘It’s hard to tell a Jew that he’s wrong when the Talmud in which he believes has taught him that gentile women — and black women in particular — you can do anything to them you want because they’re partly animals.’
Farrakhan been head of the Nation of Islam, an American religious group, since the 1970s, a position that made him a highly influential figure on the political landscape particularly in the 1980s.
He is a longtime acquaintance of Rev Jesse Jackson – who was sitting just one seat away from him at the memorial – having supported Jackson’s presidential bid in 1984 and subsequently threatened the Washington Post reporter that reported the notorious story about Jesse Jackson using anti-Semitic language in private.
What is the Nation of Islam?
The Nation of Islam is a religious and political movement that started in the early 1930s by W D Fard Muhammad. Muhammad’s goal was, according to the Nation of Islam website, ‘to teach the downtrodden and defenseless Black people a thorough Knowledge of God and of themselves, and to put them on the road to Self-Independence with a superior culture and higher civilization than they had previously experienced’.
Muhammad reportedly disappeared in 1934, and his disciple Elijah Muhammad took over. The organisation rose to prominence when Malcolm Little, later to be Malcolm X, joined, with its numbers swelling to tens of thousands by the 1970s. Muhammad Ali was one of its most famous members.
Despite an ongoing battle with prostate cancer, Farrakhan has continued to be active in American political life across the last three decades.
He is perhaps best known for a photo of him with Barack Obama at a 2005 Congressional Black Caucus meeting that many say would have ruined the then-Senator’s shot at becoming president if it got out.
Throughout Obama’s presidential campaign, conservatives pushed multiple conspiracy theories about Obama’s religion and supposed ties to Islam.
At a 2008 presidential debate in Cleveland, Obama said he had ‘been very clear’ in his ‘denunciation’ of Farrakhan’s remarks in the past.
In January of this year journalist Askia Muhammad finally released the photo that he had been forced to bury at the time of Obama’s campaign.
Muhammad said he ‘gave the picture up at the time and basically swore secrecy’ out of concern that it could have ‘made a difference’ and damaged Obama’s political future.
Muhammad recalled on Thursday that a ‘staff member’ for the CBC contacted him ‘sort of in a panic’ after he took the photo.
‘I sort of understood what was going on,’ Muhammad told Talking Points Memo.
A 2005 photo of Barack Obama and Farrakhan, both pictured in 2008, was buried amidst fears that it could ruin the then-Senator’s chance at the Oval Office
Farrakhan, who has been an influential voice in American politics for decades, is pictured (center) with black nationalist leader Malcolm X (left) in 1963