Washington marks Farrakhans call for Day of Atonement

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WASHINGTON — The mayor of the nation's capital is coming under fire for calling on all its residents to observe Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan's "Holy Day of Atonement."

In addition to issuing a proclamation this week supporting Farrakhan, Marion Barry granted all city employees a day off without pay on Thursday.

This would enable them to heed Farrakhan's call to fast for 24 hours and stay home from work and school, Barry said. Farrakhan's holiday was timed to celebrate the second anniversary of the Million Man March.

Farrakhan has acknowledged that he borrowed his idea of a day of atonement from Yom Kippur.

In a sharply worded statement, the Anti-Defamation League labeled Barry's proclamation "disappointing and disturbing."

The ADL also accused Barry of "sanctioning and legitimizing" the Nation of Islam.

Last year, local Jewish officials clashed with Barry after the mayor invited Nation of Islam representatives to sit on a religious council.

In the end, the Jewish representatives resigned from the committee.

The District government was allowing all employees to take the day off without pay under a "liberal leave" policy.

In an ironic twist, one Jewish official in Washington quipped, the organized Jewish community accidentally observed Farrakhan's call.

Because the Nation of Islam holiday fell on the first day of Sukkot, most Jewish organizations were closed.