Farrakhan Calls Street Crime Number One Issue

Speech Sunday will urge followers to take action

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    Minister Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, says street crime is the number one issue in America.

    Minister Louis Farrakhan said earlier this month that the beating death of a Chicago high school student, captured on video as he was stomped and struck with splintered railroad ties, should be a call to action in a city where youth violence has escalated.

    When the 76-year-old Nation of Islam leader takes the stage in Memphis, Tenn., on Sunday, he is expected to urge followers to help reduce crime in neighborhoods across the country.

    ``We want to help with the situation with crime among our people, crime in the streets. That's the No. 1 issue,'' Leonard Muhammad, an adviser to Farrakhan, told The Associated Press. ``We are looking forward to working with mayors across the country to try and bring peace in our neighborhoods.''

    Farrakhan will deliver the keynote address at the Nation of Islam's Holy Day of Atonement, which also will commemorate the 14th anniversary of the Million Man March, when hundreds of thousands of black men gathered in Washington, D.C. to promote self-reliance and responsibility to the family.

    ``We need to revisit that pledge and rededicate ourselves to the principles that the march was all about,'' Muhammad said.

    Farrakhan is known as a fiery orator, and past speeches have touched on issues including the disparities blacks face in areas such as education, health care, voting and incarceration.

    The Nation of Islam, founded in the 1930s on the ideals of black nationalism, has made efforts to recruit other ethnic groups to its cause in recent years, including Latinos. The highly secretive group does not release its membership numbers, but it has one mosque and several study groups in Memphis.

    Muhammad said Memphis was chosen to host this year's Holy Day of Atonement because thousands of men from the city attended the 1995 march.

    ``We believe that it is also in the South where our people, in many ways, need encouragement. We've had meetings in the North, commemorating on many occasions,'' he said. ``This time we decided it would appropriate to be in the South.''

    Muhammad did not give details about the Chicago-based Nation of Islam's plan or focus for crime reduction. But in recent weeks, Farrakhan has had a strong presence at events addressing a rise in youth violence.

    Farrakhan spoke at the funeral for the slain Chicago teen, Derrion Albert, saying he was ``deeply pained'' by the boy's violent death. Four teens have been charged in the boy's death.

    ``Let's go get our young people,'' Farrakhan said.