Linda Sarsour wants to make sharia kosher

“This term sharia is the Arabic translation of the Hebrew word halakhah.” Linda Sarsour

Once upon a time, when being a leftist and a feminist meant something very different than what it means today, I happily considered myself both. But when someone like Linda Sarsour is cheered as a leftist feminist icon, I can only feel politically homeless: I want no part of Sarsour’s left, and I most definitely don’t support the crowd assembled by the notorious Pamela Geller for a protest that the New York Times (NYT) was only too happy to cover – after all, it was a good opportunity to tell readers that Sarsour’s “critics are a strange mix, including right-leaning Jews and Zionists, commentators like Pamela Geller, and some members of the alt-right.” Newsweek readers were also informed that “Feminist activist Linda Sarsour has become one of the far right’s favorite targets.”

As it happens, the NYT and Newsweek are simply parroting what Sarsour has told her fans countless times. The most recent example is a Facebook post from May 25, where Sarsour also claims that her evil right-wing detractors are using her “as a symbol to silence the communities I come from.” She then goes on to assert:

“When they chant or say they are ‘Anti-sharia’ that means anti-Muslim – plain and simple. This term sharia is the Arabic translation of the Hebrew word halakhah. It’s a set of guidelines that Muslims and Jews follow respectively. ‘Banning sharia’ means infringing on the rights of Muslims to worship freely – let’s call it out for what it is.”

I’m quite sure Sarsour is intelligent enough to know exactly what she’s doing by equating Islamic sharia and Jewish halacha.  She knows full well that, no matter how benign her own personal interpretation of sharia may be, the application of sharia results in terrible oppression and gruesome human rights violations all over the Muslim world. And she knows full well how disingenuous it therefore is to claim – as she also did when she recently re-tweeted one of her fans – that “Sharia is to Muslims what Canon Law is to Catholics what Halakah Law is to Jews.” And yes, I responded with a really snarky tweet.

sharia like halakhah

I’m not religious myself and neither qualified nor inclined to defend any religious laws – indeed, for someone like me, who was a leftist and a feminists before Sarsour was even born, it’s inconceivable to do so. To be sure, by now I’ve learnt to accept that many people find meaning in following the religious laws of their faith to a greater or lesser degree, and obviously, religious rituals can offer a lot of consolation to believers when life brings sorrow and bereavement. But that is no reason to forget that Christianity and Islam also have a very long and bloody history of religious coercion. That Sarsour insists on defending sharia while completely ignoring the sadistic cruelty of traditional sharia punishments and the misery that continues to be inflicted, particularly on women, in the name of sharia is one of the major reasons why I find it so appalling to watch her being made into an icon of everything that is supposedly progressive, good and just.

So I completely agree with Emma-Kate Symons – who must be a dreadful right-winger, but was inexplicably and scandalously allowed to criticize Sarsour in the NYT 

“Linda Sarsour is a religiously conservative veiled Muslim woman, embracing a fundamentalist worldview requiring women to ‘modestly’ cover themselves, a view which has little to do with female equality and much more of a connection with the ideology of political Islam than feminism. Could we imagine a wig-wearing Orthodox woman emerging from a similar ‘purity’-focused culture predicated on sexual segregation and covering women, headlining such an event [as the Women’s March]? No, because she is rightly assumed to be intensely conservative, not progressive on issues surrounding women’s roles and their bodies.”

Symons seems unrepentant, judging from her response to the NYT’s recent effort to promote Sarsour as a rising progressive star whose only critics are contemptible right-wingers.

Symons vs SarsourSymons vs Sarsour2

It may well be that Sarsour would argue that all the Muslim judges who use Islamic law to justify the oppression of women, or sadistic punishments like public floggings and beheadings, have no clue about sharia. I would be most happy if Sarsour embarked on a tour of the Muslim world to enlighten these guys – indeed, I hereby pledge that I would generously donate to help make such a tour possible.

Let’s conclude with a horrifying thought experiment: imagine the world’s only Jewish state would apply halacha as sharia is applied in Muslim states like Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates. Is there anyone who believes that in this case, Linda Sarsour wouldn’t be very very busy denouncing Jewish law as a terrible human rights disaster that must be fought tooth and nail?

6 responses to “Linda Sarsour wants to make sharia kosher

  1. On the Sharia:Halakah analogy, Ms. Sarsour is entirely in the right (I’ve often said that one can tell the legitimate versus bullshit critiques of Sarsour based on whether they pull the “Sharia” card) .

    Yes, there are fundamentalist interpretations of each, and yes, these interpretations tend to be particularly retrograde when it comes to women (ironically, Symons affirms this analogousness between Halakah and Sharia in the block quote you provide). This is clearly in evidence in countries like Iran, and it is sadly becoming more evident in more fundamentalist sectors of Israeli society as well.

    But it is not just that, and no one is bound to accept these interpretations as more authentic than progressive alternatives. There absolutely are Orthodox Jewish feminists, and I would never question their feminist credentials on basis of how they dress. And likewise, there are non-Orthodox Jewish feminists who identify strongly with Halakah and have just as much right to claim it as their Orthodox brothers and sisters. Such persons frequently dissent from orthodox views, as they are entitled to do (as I usually join them in doing). But for the most part they can tell the difference between a principled critique coming from the inside and external trolls who draw out and elevate the most objectionable strands of Halakah to primacy. The latter is a form of cheap shot antisemitism. We have no trouble recognizing it as such, and when it is labeled as such we do not assume that the labelers endorse every retrograde variant of Halakah that exists. Ditto Sharia.

  2. I’m not sure I understand your argument — or maybe you don’t understand mine. My point is that sharia — like halacha — includes many elements that, as they are usually interpreted nowadays (mostly by men), are anything but progressive. Can we agree on that?
    In addition, I argue, or rather, state the fact, that there are many Muslim countries where sharia is interpreted in a way that leads to atrocious punishments and human rights abuses — which is NOT the case for halacha. Are you disputing this?
    My problem with Sarsour’s claim that sharia is nothing more than halacha is plainly enough that she ignores all the horrific abuses justified by Muslim men in charge of interpreting and administering sharia. She has stated elsewhere very generally, that “sharia is reasonable” — without any reservations. She didn’t say “sharia, as I personally interpret it, is reasonable, but there are countless sharia judges that see things very different and use sharia to justify terrible abuses.”

  3. I’ll add one more point: you write “no one is bound to accept these [fundamentalist] interpretations as more authentic than progressive alternatives” — well, that’s exactly the difference between sharia and halacha: no one is bound to accept fundamentalist interpretations of halacha as authentic — if you don’t, you can just say so, and if worse comes to worse, your family might be angry and disown you, which can of course be hard. But if you live in Saudi Arabia, or the UAE, or Yemen, or Aceh province, or many other Muslim countries/areas and you reject fundamentalist interpretations of sharia that are enforced where you live, you are likely to face imprisonment, maybe public floggings or worse.

  4. Brian Goldfarb

    Further to PMB’s comments, even in Israel, the state will not (and will oppose) extra-judicial punishments for breaches of halakah. When was the last time we read of judicially and state approved punishments of the sort that are meted out to breaches of sharia in Muslim-majority countries in Israel?

    How long do we wait for an answer?

  5. What a nasty wholly self-indulgent reading of PMB’s post. Sharia as practiced today is anything but mild mannered, nor is it women friendly. Moreover, to say that sharia is like Jewish law or Church law, is to ignore the reality that both Judaism and the Catholic church have gone through a reformation and a renaissance, that has taken both religions out of the biblical interpretation of reality. Something Sharia law has not gone through.

    The entire idea behind “modesty” in Islam is to protect the honor of the male members of the family. It has nothing to do with the rights or humanity of the women who are forced to veil. In fact, for the majority of Moslem women veiling is not a choice. For them it is either veil, or be honor murdered, or thrown in prison. Why don’t we ask Dina Ali what it is to live as a woman in a Sharia compliant nation, if she isn’t dead already at the hands of her male family members, for the crime of wanting to run her own life. Which is a crime in Saudi Arabia. You know, KSA, the nation that Sarsour defends because it gives women 10 weeks maternity leave. (PS she can say its snark all she wants, but those of us who read the original tweet know better since it lines up with all her other proKSA Sharia tweets. And she was not a child but a grown woman when she wrote all of her tweets.)

    The reason women in Orthodox Jewish communities practice tsinuis (modesty) is to bring about a more “holy” world. It has nothing to do with how others view them in as much it has to do with their own spirituality. The idea that women dress modestly in Judaism is so that that thoughts of sexuality do not pervade an otherwise religiously devoted life. They are not going to be killed nor are they going to be put in prison if they do not comply. The worst that will happen to them in their communities is that they will be made cherem, or banished. While this is also a nasty bit of reality, it pails in comparison to the harsh choice, of veil or be killed, that are forced upon the majority of Moslem women. You can also see the progressiveness of Orthodox Jewish feminists, as the first female Hasidic judge just took up her position in NY. Where are there any women judges in the Moslem world outside of Israel?

    Laws themselves are never stand alone. It is never the ideas themselves that are at question, but the reasoning behind the ideas that are the important factor. Like with US law, when the plain meaning is misunderstood, judges who interpret the law, can look to the legislative intent. Here the legislative intent of the reason for modesty in Islam and Judaism is wholly different, and that is a relevant factor in the discussion, in addition to how the communities would react to such a violation.

    Moreover, Judaism itself has gone through a renaissance of sorts. Rabbis, since the middle ages have rejected the biblical interpretation of Jewish Law for a more updated version. Jewish sages for eons have not promoted animal sacrifices, nor do Jews promote stoning people, selling their daughters or any other myriad of biblically based laws. In fact, at present, your Orthodox feminists have taken aim at the outdated divorce laws and are fighting back against this practice. Orthodox Jewish women are not afraid to speak up and demand an accounting from those that interpret Jewish law.

    Where in Sarsour’s Sharia has she fought back by the way? She proudly states how when she went to work she got written permission from her husband, proudly shows off her dowry, and discusses how forced marriage at 17 was a terrific thing for her. At what point did this Moslem hijabi feminist ever denounce any part of how women are treated under Sharia? She in fact has gone so far as to say that Mohammed, who sold the Jewish women he captured into sex slavery, was the world’s first feminist. Was he showing his feminist side when he kept one of the Jewish captives for himself? How about when Mohammad said that it can only be considered rape if 4 men witness the rape, and that a women’s testimony is worth less than a man’s. Some feminism that Sarsour supports.

    I have yet to read of any time that Sarsour came out against a practice in Sharia or stand up for those Moslem feminists who are against sharia. We all know about her vile attitude towards Ayaan Hirsi Ali. But when did she approach true hijabi feminists like the ones that appeared in the Honor Diaries? Oh yeah, she said that that movie was Islamophobic. I think the hijabis that appeared in that movie seem to have a real handle on what it means to think of women as full human beings with the right NOT to be murdered by male members of their family.

    Additionally, there is more than one branch of Judaism, and each branch interprets Jewish law differently. Each interpretation becoming more and more modern, and washing away the idea that women are chattel and that they have lesser rights than men. Where is this interpretation of Sharia? Where is the Sharia practiced that is analogous to the reform movements or conservatives movements interpretation of Jewish law? Where in Sarsour’s world does she actually ever say that the Wahhabi interpretation of Sharia, which is what has pervaded the world, is incorrect and that there are other interpretations? Where is her modern Sharia? She has never pointed it out nor has has she pointed out its practitioners. Where is this modern view of women under Sharia, actually practiced? Who has authored any new guidelines for it?

    There are numerous texts on the discussion of Jewish law and Canon law that discuss the differences in past and present, as well as modern interpretation. There are arguments and beyond arguments that cause discussion and consternation among the Jewish and Catholic religious groups trying to interpret the law. Where is this in Sharia? Again, where exactly are the moderates that Sarsour keeps discussing or alluding to? The truth is that the only place you will find a practicing moderate form of Islam is in Israel, which just appointed it’s first female Sharia court judge. That woman, and not Sarsour, is a Moslem hijabi feminist. And remember it is Israel, that Sarsour wishes to destroy.

    In other words, it is the liberal democratic nation that allows for many views of the interpretation of Islam, that this so-called Moslem feminist Sarsour wishes to ethnically cleanse of it’s inhabitants. I don’t see her calling for the destruction of KSA, Iran, or even moderate Indonesia which just sentenced a christian leader to 2 years in jail for blasphemy. I don’t see her calling for the destruction of Pakistan or Bangladesh, which have slid into the radical Islamist camps.

    To say that Jewish law is the same as Sharia is to ignore the reality and the history of how Jewish law has changed, modified and been reinterpreted over the eons of the Jewish people’s existence. While there are some Jews who abide by the absoluteness of Jewish law, the majority do not and even those who abide by the absoluteness have no fear from society if they decide to question the authority of the rabbis. To equate Jewish law and Sharia is disingenuous at best, wholly ignorant of Jewish history at worst.

    Sarsour is an Islamist apologist, who calls for genocide against another 6 million Jews. She is many things, among them is the fact that she is a vicious anti-Semite, although not by her definition, nor the definition of other antisemites. Funny how antisemites never think Jews can define antisemitism.

    Moreover, Sarsour is NOT a feminist by any stretch of the imagination of real feminists. Real feminist are those of us who understand the reality of female disenfranchisement and make no excuses for it under any circumstances. The irony here is that according to those on the regressive Left Sarsour is a feminists. These western useful idiots, wish to be seen as progressive and inclusive, something Sharia law, and its purveyors and apologists, are not.

  6. Pingback: Linda Sarsour wants to make Sharia kosher | Liberty's Spirit

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