(CNSNews.com) - The message of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. transcended political lines, said African-American conservatives who honored him Monday.
The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) held a reception in New York City that also featured a notable human rights activist.
Somalia-born Ayaan Hirsi Ali received the Martin Luther King Heroes Award for her activism. Ali, a former Dutch lawmaker, faced death threats for her outspoken criticism of Islamic fundamentalism and has since moved to the U.S.
CORE chose to honor her "because of the courage shown in standing up for her point of view and values against the tyranny that many face around the world," said Roy Innis, the group's national chairman.
CORE is considered a conservative-leaning black group when compared to the NAACP or to liberal leaders such as the Rev. Jesse Jackson or Rev. Al Sharpton, although Innis and other CORE supporters resist the label, preferring to call it an organization that believes in uniting people.
That's sometimes missing among more liberal black leaders today, Innis said in an interview.
"The neo-racism of today - the view that racism in the past gives you the moral right to be racist today - is not something Dr. King would have stood for at all," he said.
While Innis hopes to see more progress for equality, he said immense progress has already been made.
He noted the top positions held by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her predecessor, Colin Powell, who was also formerly the nation's top military officer.
"In the last election we saw strong Senate candidates in Maryland and Tennessee. [Illinois Senator] Barrack Obama has been touted as a credible presidential candidate. He's not a Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton candidate."
CORE represents a spirit more reflective of King's legacy, said Herb London, president of the Hudson Institute and coordinator for the CORE King Day event.
"Compared to the rabble rousers and their radical point of view, it may be a conservative group on that relative scale," London said of CORE. "Martin Luther King wanted to unite people. These guys [Jackson and Sharpton] are about dividing and separating."
In a world separated by global conflict, King would be a welcome force today, said the Rev. Samir Habiby, a retired Episcopal priest and Navy chaplain who knew King.
"Martin Luther King would be a very vital person today in promoting global humanity," Habiby said. "He could do the kind of things I wish the United Nations would do more of in terms of promoting equity and religious freedom."
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