New Jersey's political establishment turned out in force Monday to denounce bigotry in anticipation of a speech by a controversial member of the Nation of Islam.
Khallid Abdul Muhammad, former national spokesman for the group, was invited to appear at Trenton State College on Monday, his first public speaking engagement in New Jersey since his Nov. 29 polemic attacking Jews, Catholics, homosexuals and some black leaders.
Politicians from Republican Gov. Christie Whitman and Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley on down attended panel discussions, made speeches and attended prayer vigils to counter Muhammad's presence. The state Legislature convened a special session to allow members to speak out against hate speech.
Bradley defended Muhammad's right to speak but in the same breath defended his own right to counter Muhammad's attacks on other groups.
Whitman appeared with survivors of Nazi concentration camps and American internment camps for Japanese in a panel discussion on tolerance in Edison.
After the panel discussion, a free screening was held of Schindler's List, Steven Spielberg's Oscar-nominated film about the Holocaust.
Muhammad attended a paid showing of the movie at a theater in West Windsor.
"I was moved. I was touched and we, the black nation, always have been sympathetic to human pain and suffering and felt the loss," he said.
Muhammad, speaking at Kean College in Union on Nov. 29, called Jews "bloodsuckers" of the black community and the pope a "no-good cracker." He also urged blacks to kill all whites in South Africa, including women and children.