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Farrakhan calls for calm following anti-Islam film

By Andrea Rodriguez

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Sept. 20 2012 7:25 p.m. MDT

Surrounded by bodyguards, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, center, arrives to attend a press conference in Havana, Cuba, Thursday, Sept 20, 2012.

Ramon Espinosa, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

HAVANA — Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan said Thursday that he hopes the violence that has erupted over a film disparaging the Prophet Mohammed will die down.

The 79-year-old religious leader, often an outspoken critic of Washington's policies, said the U.S. government was not responsible for the short film's content, but he hinted that he felt it bore some responsibility for what he called an atmosphere of intolerance that helped engender it.

"This is a teaching moment for America and as well a teaching moment for us (Muslims)," he said.

Farrakhan, who has enjoyed a long friendship with Cuba's Communist leaders, was in Havana to meet with President Raul Castro and island religious leaders.

Farrakhan denounced the amateurish anti-Muslim film that was posted on YouTube, but he added that it was "shameful" that some Muslims had used their outrage over its content as an excuse to harm others.

He said he hoped his fellow Muslims would soon realize that nothing in the 14-minute film could possibly leave any lasting mark on the reputation of Islam's founding prophet.

"I hope that as tempers calm down that reason will prevail because there's nothing that film has done to mar the nobility and the beauty of the character of the man who is the foundational stone of modern Islam," Farrakhan said.

After meeting Cuba's president for more than an hour, Farrakhan said they talked about the 50-year-old U.S. embargo on Cuba. He urged Washington to eliminate the sanctions and enter into dialogue with its old Cold War enemy.

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