Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan delivers his annual Saviours Day speech. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
ROSEMONT, Ill. (AP) — Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan said Sunday that he considers Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi a friend and won't distance himself from him despite the deadly crackdown on protestors in the turbulent North Africa country.
Farrakhan didn't talk specifics about the uprisings in Libya as he spoke to thousands of followers during his Chicago-based organization's annual convention in the Chicago suburb of Rosemont.
"Name one ruler that has the 100 love of his people," Farrakhan said. "You can't find one."
Gadhafi is in the midst of a desperate and increasingly violent bid to retain power, and has used his military and foreign mercenaries to try to crush the revolt.
Farrakhan, 77, visited Gadhafi in the 1980s and has since considered him a friend. He said that if Gadhafi is persecuted for crimes against humanity, the same should apply to former President George W. Bush for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He also said the U.S. shouldn't intervene in Libya with an armed response.
"I'm warning you this is a Libyan problem, let the Libyans solve their problem," he said.
Farrakhan also said he expects that uprisings happening in the Middle East will soon come to the U.S. He mentioned Tunisia, Egypt and other countries but didn't offer specifics on his stance on the unrest, except to say that leaders should not attack innocent protesters.
Farrakhan's speech Sunday capped off a weekend of events celebrating Saviours' Day, which celebrates the movement's founder. Muslims at the four-hour speech — women dressed in white skirt suits with matching hijabs and men in Nation of Islam uniforms — frequently cheered the minister.
The Nation of Islam has espoused black nationalism and self-reliance since it was founded in the 1930s, though in recent years has included other groups including Latinos and immigrants.
Farrakhan's speech touched on a wide range of historic topics through the lens of the Nation of Islam, including several severe weather incidents and a history of Shriners and freemasons. He also spoke at length about Scientology; Farrakhan has recently embraced some concepts of the religion.
Farrakhan also spoke of the Nation's belief in UFOs and the belief that sightings are on the rise.
The group has long believed in an unidentified flying object called "the wheel" or "The Mother Plane." A Saviours Day session on the topic Saturday attracted a standing-room-only crowd.