Tag Archives: Linda Sarsour

Omar Suleiman’s indirect response to my Algemeiner article

A few days ago, The Algemeiner published my article on Omar Suleiman, a very popular Palestinian-American imam whom Linda Sarsour has repeatedly praised – and who has also expressed admiration for her. When I researched Suleiman’s views on Israel and on Jews, I quickly found a lot of alarming material: he posted an image signaling support for the Muslim Brotherhood; he repeatedly called for another intifada and tried his best to incite religious passions; he also compared Israel to the Nazis and to Taliban-affiliated terrorists who had perpetrated a horrendous massacre in a school in Pakistan. But what shocked me most was listening to some of his religious teachings that are available on You Tube. The example I cited in the article was from a lecture series on the Bani Israel that he gave a few years ago, and in the introductory lecture, he very clearly blamed the Bani Israel – literally the “sons of Israel,” i.e. the Jews – for the fact that food decays. Quite obviously, this is no less pernicious than the medieval blood libel.

Now I just discovered that, without tagging me or linking to my article, he has posted a text on his Facebook page that seems to be an indirect response to my piece – and I have to say that I found much of it quite impressive, certainly compared to Linda Sarsour’s pathetic habit to dismiss all criticism as “alt-right” and “Islamophobic.” You can read Suleiman’s post here or in the screenshot below.

Omar Suleiman Algemeiner response

Of course, I did not ‘intentionally decontextualize’ anything Suleiman said or wrote. And I think it’s not convincing to describe the material I documented as ‘slip ups,’ since in most instances, he repeatedly expressed the same or similar views. I am also working on documenting some other material from Suleiman’s lectures that I found very disturbing and that in my view is central to the Muslim unwillingness to accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state in any borders.

It should go without saying that I do not “hate” Omar Suleiman, and I do not “want to bury” him in his “past mistakes.” But quite obviously, it can have far-reaching consequences when an imam who has more than a million followers on social media makes “mistakes” and writes things he now wishes he “never wrote.” Indeed, some of the things I exposed were “liked” or shared by tens of thousands of people.

But I found it moving and very dignified that Suleiman wrote:

“Maybe thats a lesson though that we need to always be more responsible with our words. That even before social media, your words were being recorded and saved. That everything you’ve ever said may have impacted someone for years after even if you moved on. That we should heed the prophetic advice to not say things today that we will have to apologize for tomorrow.

I pray that I’ve written and said more good than evil, and that my carefully archived scrolls will be a proof for me rather than against me.”

Suleiman is very young – just in his early thirties, and from what I’ve seen, I do think his record includes a lot of “good.” But as I’ve already noted, I still think that he also promotes some very problematic views which I plan to document further. If he wishes to clarify or revise his views, he has many platforms to do so. And he has already shown that he is sometimes willing to change: e.g., he seemed prepared to tone down his previous condemnation of homosexuality – though only he can know if it is out of conviction or because of political expediency. But if he revises some of the views I have documented, and still plan to document, I would regard this as a small, yet still hopeful, step that could only help to improve relations between Muslims and Jews not just in the US, but perhaps even in the Middle East. After all, Suleiman is young, clearly very talented and very ambitious, and if he were to revise some of his problematic views, he could become a moderating voice that is desperately needed when so many religious leaders are eager to incite their followers by demonizing the Jews and denying their long historical attachment and rights to the land of Israel.  

Update:

Several people have told me that they feel I’m too conciliatory here, because Suleiman after all did not explicitly renounce any of his views; one person also criticized that he didn’t delete any of the offensive posts I cited (and archived). But I think only time will tell if I was too conciliatory. Even if he deleted the posts I exposed, it wouldn’t change the fact that when he published them, many thousands of people read, liked and shared them, and the incitement can’t be undone. Yet, I think compared to the reaction Linda Sarsour regularly offers when she is facing criticism, Suleiman’s vague acknowledgment that he regrets some of the views he expressed, should be appreciated — though, to be sure, Sarsour is setting a very low bar.

The past can’t be undone, but if Suleiman will now avoid calling for another intifada and stop describing Israel in terms that echo the Nazi slogan “The Jews are our misfortune,” I for one would find that a very positive outcome, since the 1.2 million (and counting) people who follow him will not be poisoned by such incitement from a religious leader they adore. Incidentally, it is very interesting to check out the comments responding to his post: most people accept very graciously that the imam they admire expresses regret about going public with some unspecified views and that he simply encourages everyone to learn from what he presents as his own learning experience.  

Having said all this, I don’t have any illusions about how deep-seated Suleiman’s anti-Israel — and arguably anti-Jewish — resentments are. I have watched some of his relevant lectures and found it all in all a rather depressing experience. But more on this in a follow-up article later this month.

 

 

 

What CUNY role model Linda Sarsour really stands for

The zealotry of über-progressive students turning against their progressive professors has occasionally attracted coverage by the mainstream media. The most recent example is the bullying of Evergreen State College biology professor Bret Weinstein, who recounts his ordeal in the Wall Street Journal under the grim title “The Campus Mob Came for Me—and You, Professor, Could Be Next.” But as James Kirchick showed in a recent article, some universities actually encourage and reward this kind of behavior.

The City University of New York (CUNY) is arguably going to do its part when it honors Linda Sarsour by hosting her as a speaker at the commencement ceremony of the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy on June 1. While Sarsour has been described as “an arsonist in our midst,” criticism of the decision to invite the controversial activist was firmly rejected by CUNY chancellor James B. Milliken, who wrote that Sarsour was chosen “because of her involvement in public health issues in New York City and her position as a leader on women’s issues, including her role as co-chair of the recent Women’s March in Washington.” The chancellor also highlighted that “Ms. Sarsour has been recognized by President Obama at the White House as a ‘Champion of Change’ and was recently named one of Time magazine’s 100 leaders and Fortune magazine’s 50 global leaders.”

In short, as far as CUNY is concerned, it is fully justified to ignore all criticism of Sarsour and to present her as a role model for the university’s graduates.

As Michael D. Cohen of the Simon Wiesenthal Center acknowledged when he recently denounced Sarsour as “an arsonist in our midst,” she is “a brilliant tactician who manipulates the media to gain attention and sympathy for her cause.” One might add that the media love to be manipulated by her, without asking tough questions about what exactly Sarsour’s “cause” is and how she pursues it.

During one of the recent controversies, Sarsour declared that she wants to be judged by her own words, but it is abundantly clear that she also wants people to ignore plenty of her own words that actually tell us a lot about Sarsour’s “cause” and her activism.

So let’s look at a small sample of those of Sarsour’s own words that are arguably very revealing, even though she will lash out at anybody who quotes them to her.

Indeed, Sarsour was recently recorded berating a student who asked her about her notorious tweet from 2011, when she declared that prominent women’s right activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali and strident Islam critic Brigitte Gabriel “don’t deserve to be women;” therefore, Sarsour wished she “could take their vaginas away.” If we take Sarsour’s response to the student who asked about this tweet seriously, White men (capital W, please!) have no business being disturbed by her vile outburst – an answer that reflects the divisive identity politics Sarsour often employs when it suits her, while calling for unity and solidarity when this seems more opportune.

But as the Dartmouth students who enthusiastically applauded Sarsour’s put-down of their impertinent White male fellow student illustrated, many people are all too willing to ignore an obscene six-year-old tweet posted when Sarsour was almost 31 – not, as she falsely claimed, in her twenties. Moreover, in spring 2011, Sarsour reportedly already served as director of the Arab American Association of New York; she was also about to be named “a fellow at the NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service Women of Color Policy Network” and boasted about her excellent access to the Obama administration.   

And soon enough, Sarsour would also boast about being victorious over Hirsi Ali. In fall 2012, Sarsour was still jealously wondering “What does Ayaan Hirsi Ali got that I ain’t got? Front page covers and shit. #MuslimRage;” but by the spring of 2014, Sarsour was able to celebrate a blow against her nemesis, and she jubilantly announced on Twitter: “Online activism WINS again. @BrandeisU does the right thing and rescinds honorary degree 2 hatemonger Ayaan Hirsi Ali;” she also added: “Hats off 2 @BrandeisU 4 rescinding honorary degree 2 Ayaan Hirsi Ali. U have restored integrity of your institution;” and she thanked the university’s president: “Thank you @PresidentFred for making the right choice today and rescinding honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali. We are all very grateful.”

on AHA

Isn’t it deeply ironic that CUNY would so strongly defend its decision to honor Sarsour who celebrated so enthusiastically when she and other activists succeeded in denying a similar honor to Ayaan Hirsi Ali?

Sarsour’s “#MuslimRage” was apparently not diminished by the fact that Hirsi Ali established a foundation that has been working since 2007 “to end honor violence [including Female Genital Mutilation] that shames, hurts or kills thousands of women and girls in the US each year, and puts millions more at risk;” the foundation also promotes “the belief that there is no culture, tradition or religion that justifies violence against women and girls.”

But very different from Hirsi Ali, Sarsour is eager to defend the conservative traditions of Muslim societies, even when they are clearly harmful to women. Sarsour has asserted that “shariah law is reasonable,” ignoring the widespread and well-documented human rights abuses committed in Muslim majority states in the name of sharia. Sarsour has even gone so far as to praise Saudi Arabia – where women are completely dependent on the whims of their male guardians: “10 weeks of PAID maternity leave in Saudi Arabia. Yes PAID. And ur worrying about women driving. Puts us to shame.”

Since Sarsour often emphasizes her Palestinian Muslim identity, it is also interesting to note how Palestinians view sharia. As documented in a Pew survey from 2013, 89% of Palestinians want sharia law; 66% endorse the death penalty for Muslims who convert to another religion; 76% support mutilation as a punishment for theft, and a shocking 84% want adulterers stoned to death. The survey also shows that less than half (about 45%) of Palestinian Muslims reject so-called “honor killings” as never justified, and 87% insist that a wife must always obey her husband.

Given that CUNY has explicitly stated that they want to honor Sarsour as a “leader on women’s issues,” it is also noteworthy that she has repeatedly defended arranged marriages like her own, in which her parents married her off at the age of 17. In late 2007, Sarsour told Al Arabiya News: “Every year, we see more than a hundred arranged marriages in our community alone […] In our community […] you not only have to find a spouse who is Arab and Muslim; that person also needs to be Palestinian and from the same village as you.” According to the reporter, “Women like Linda accept being set-up because they don’t really believe in ‘love story weddings’.” And as Sarsour reportedly added to explain the benefits of arranged marriages: “If I fight with my husband, I can always run to my father because he is the one who chose him for me.”

But Sarsour has also defended the practice recently: in an interview with the Mecca Post on March 8, 2017, which begins with a related question, Sarsour answered by asserting: “I feel I have become mature much earlier in life than may be other sisters who are still in high school or in college.”

Well, maybe CUNY should start a “Sarsour Program for Arranged Marriages” to benefit female students in their last year of high school?

The Mecca Post interview with Sarsour includes also plenty of other interesting material. She dismisses her critics as “right wing supremacists” who “engaged in alternative facts and false accusations” and asserts that “there really is nothing that they said that really is true.” She also confidently claims Jesus was “a Palestinian Jewish refugee” who is “very co-essential to us Muslims” but misunderstood by many “who call themselves Christians.” She then proceeds to press Islam’s founder into the service of her agenda, breathlessly describing Muhammad as her “inspiration”:

“he was an activist he was a human rights activist, he stood up for the poor, he wanted to stand up against tyrants and oppressors, he loved animals he loved earth and taking care of the earth, he talked about environmental justice […] He talked about racial justice, and uplifting people regardless of what colour their skin was. […] I also think about Islamophobia now, the man who experienced the most Islamophobia they did not call it Islamophobia 1400 years ago was our beloved Prophet (SAW).”

One really is left to wonder if Sarsour is too naïve to realize that if she transforms Islam’s founder into a 21st century social justice warrior, she ultimately legitimizes those who employ the norms of our time to denounce him for his marriage to an underage girl (which was then common and unfortunately remains accepted in some countries); similarly, by the standards of our time, the supremely successful warlord, who founded not just a faith, but also an empire, committed numerous atrocities.

But when it comes to anything that has to do with Islam, Sarsour is an ardent advocate of double standards. She will denounce Hirsi Ali as a “hatemonger” while uncritically embracing a group like the Nation of Islam (NOI), which, according to the the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), “has maintained a consistent record of anti-Semitism and racism since its founding in the 1930s.” The ADL considers veteran NOI leader Louis Farrakhan as “the leading anti-Semite in America;” the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) provided a similarly unequivocal condemnation, denouncing “the deeply racist, anti-Semitic and anti-gay rhetoric” of Farrakhan and other NOI leaders, whose conduct “earned the NOI a prominent position in the ranks of organized hate.”

Yet, in 2012, Sarsour embraced the NOI as “an integral part” of “the history of Islam in America,” emphasizing that “Sunni, Shia, Sufi, Nation of Islam – we are #Muslim, we are all part of one ummah, one family. #Islam.” Two years later, Sarsour insisted that it was not possible to “learn or teach about the history of Islam in America without talking about the Nation of Islam (NOI).”

on Farrakhan Nov 2016

As I have recently documented, Sarsour joined two other leading activists at a major rally organized by Farrakhan and his associates in 2015, where she delivered a strident speech that echoed Farrakhan’s antisemitic efforts to blame Jews for problems and hardships experienced by African-Americans. Sarsour also seems to share some of Farrakhan’s bigoted views on the malignant Jewish influence in America, even though she often claims that she firmly opposes antisemitism. In this context it is important to realize that Sarsour apparently does not accept common definitions of antisemitism and has instead endorsed (#73) the truly Orwellian re-definition that veteran anti-Israel activist Ali Abunimah published in fall 2012, reflecting his preposterous view that Zionism is “one of the worst forms of anti-Semitism in existence today” and that support for Zionism “is not atonement for the Holocaust, but its continuation in spirit.”

Perhaps CUNY doesn’t care much about Sarsour’s pronounced hostility to the world’s only Jewish state, but one would think they should care about this scene which happened in New York and was witnessed by Michael D. Cohen of the Simon Wiesenthal Center:

“Last September, I stood along with many of my colleagues at a New York City Council Public Hearing on that body’s resolution to officially condemn the BDS movement — a hearing at which all those in favor, including myself, were shouted down as “Jewish pigs” and “Zionist filth” from provocateurs strategically placed in the audience. It was Linda Sarsour who was at the forefront — manipulating the camera shots and sound bites. It was Linda Sarsour who sat for hours listening with great satisfaction to the libelous rants and screamed obscenities alleging that Israelis murder Palestinian babies. It was Sarsour who nodded approvingly and congratulated individuals who were kicked out of the hearing room for being out of order, for walking in front of individuals providing testimony in support of the resolution, and for shouting down our supporters with anti-Semitic slurs — all in the name of protecting free speech.”

So much more material could be cited to show how little Sarsour deserves to be held up as a role model for graduates of a respected American university, but let me just conclude with this: when Sarsour addresses her audience at the commencement ceremony of the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy and says she is honored to do so, remember that she also recently said she was “honored” to share a stage with convicted terrorist murderer and confessed US immigration fraudster Rasmea Odeh.

***

A previous version of this post was first published at EoZ.

 

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?