WASHINGTON -- Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, calling the District of Columbia the 'world capital of murder and mayhem,' Tuesday announced his own drug treatment program and called on the city to implement it on a large scale.
Standing before a crowd of about 200 followers and residents at the Mayfair Mansions apartments in the Northeast section of the nation's capital, Farrakhan called drug use 'a local disgrace and a national disgrace.'
As of Tuesday -- the 348th day of 1988 -- the city had recorded 347 homicides, most of them linked to District's growing drug wars and crack trade. There were 227 homicides in the city in all of last year.
'(It's) the world capital of murder and mayhem,' Farrakhan said.
The drug problem contributed to Mayor Marion Barry's decision this week to cancel the city's official New Year's Eve celebration at the Old Post Office Pavilion.
Farrakhan said 10 people are currently enrolled in his drug treatment program operated at Mayfair Mansions, including his son Joshua, 29, a city resident and a former alcohol and cocaine abuser.
'I did not know it had entered my family,' Farrakhan said of drug use. 'It always drives the point home deeper than ever when this problem enters your own home.'
The Black Muslim leader refused to outline specific details of his new program, saying only that drugs will not be used as a part of the rehabilitation process.
He did, however, call on Barry and the City Council to examine the project and consider implementing it on a large scale.
'We are not asking the city to fund our religion,' Farrakhan said. 'We are asking the city to fund a program.'
Farrakhan and the security branch of the Nation of Islam, known as the Fruit of Islam, gained national prominence during the 1984 presidential campaign when its members provided protection for Democratic candidate Jesse Jackson.
The controversial group, which for decades has had a strong anti-drug reputation, also gained popularity among many Washington residents in April when they began patrolling Mayfair Mansions -- a longtime drug haven despite police crackdown efforts -- and virtually eradicated drug dealers from the area.
Other neighborhoods have since invited the Muslims to patrol their areas in the face of drug traffickers.