Linda Sarsour’s Address At CUNY – Why Not, It’s Free Speech, Right? – Maybe Not

by Richard Cameron


Palestinian – American political activist, Linda Sarsour, will be addressing the commencement ceremony for the City University of New York’s (CUNY) Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy on June 1st.  Her scheduled appearance is prompting a firestorm of opposition.

Who is Linda Sarsour and what do her critics and supporters think she is? First, what does Ms. Sarsour identify as? Beyond that, can Ms. Sarsour lay claim to the normal arguments that she should be entitled to speak on anti-censorship grounds?

Sarsour, 35, a Brooklyn native of Palestinian immigrants, executive director of the Arab American Association of New York (AAANY) and a director of the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC),  represents herself as a “progressive activist” and an advocate for Muslims generally and Palestinians in particular.

Opinions vary as to whether she is a radical or moderate Muslim, depending on to whom the question is posed. You will find few people who have a neutral view of her due to the fact that she is a public figure who is seen by some as courageous and others as militant. To all though, she is a polarizing element in the debate about Islam and terrorism.

‘Intersectional Politics’

Examining her history of political activity, it is not a stretch to conclude that she is an opportunist. One example is Ferguson, Missouri and the Michael Brown episode. Sarsour seized on the  furor that erupted as a gambit to insert herself and political Islam into the controversy and leverage the emerging Black Lives Matter movement. In this, she was successful.

Sarsour claimed that, “My radicalizing moment was when Mike Brown was shot”.  It is of small consequence to her or the circles in which she moves, that at least in the case of Michael Brown, the “victim” was a violent thug, who ignoring orders to stop, continued menacing the officer and was only shot when Officer Darren Wilson concluded that his own life was in danger as the testimony of black witnesses confirmed in court.

It is not within the scope of this article to re-litigate the Michael Brown incident. It does however, illustrate Sarsour’s sense of strategically leveraging other political movements – referred to as ‘intersectional politics’, to further her agenda.

Moderate Muslim?

Another aspect of Ms. Sarsour’s  public reputation that is subject to dispute is her positioning as a “moderate muslim”.  But this cannot be taken at face value, because Sarsour keeps company with a crowd that holds raw animus for Jews – the likes of Nation of Islam  leader Louis Farrakhan  — described by the ADL as “the leading anti-Semite in America”.

She has also evaded the truth of her family situation. Sarsour’s brother -in-law was convicted and sentenced for using the shell organization “Holy Land Foundation” to funnel money to Hamas, a Palestinian terror organization.

Some in the Jewish community have even been persuaded that she is a moderate. Rabbis Barat Ellman and Ellen Lippmann recently wrote an editorial in the NY Daily News, in defense of Sarsour. Among their comments:

“She is a longstanding partner of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, an organization on whose rabbinic council we sit and about which she said, “I love this organization from the deepest of my heart”.  And as emcee at the 2017 May Day rally in Foley Square, Sarsour affirmed her commitment to supporting the rights of immigrants, workers, black people, Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs and Jews.”  

Curiously absent from the list of groups Ms.Sarsour “supports the rights of”, are Christians.

Rasmea Yousef Odeh

One of her mentors is a woman that was convicted of participating in a bombing  in Israel in 1969, that resulted in the deaths of two Hebrew University students, Leon Kanner and Eddie Joffe, and critically injured 9 others. That woman is Rasmea Yousef Odeh.

Odeh, the associate director of the Arab American Action Network and leader of that group’s Arab Women’s Committee, was sentenced to life in prison, but released in a prisoner exchange to Jordan. From there, she falsified immigration documents and was convicted in Detroit of failing to inform immigration officials that she had a criminal record that included homicide and terror.

At a conference in Chicago in April, hosted by the so-called “Jewish Voice For Peace” (with which Ellman and Lippman are no doubt affiliated ), Sarsour had glowing praise for Odeh, saying  “I am honored and privileged to be here in this space, and honored to be on this stage with Rasmea.”  Some  honor.  Odeh was involved with Sarsour in the organizing of the Women’s March on Washington.

Terry Joffe Benaryeh, a family member of one of the victims of the bombing Odeh planned and executed, wrote in Huffington Post:

“Explain to me how Odeh, who was a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a U.S. designated terrorist group, was chosen to represent American feminists who seek to peacefully stand up for women’s rights. The Women’s Strike lists as its Principle #1 that ‘Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people. It is a positive force confronting the forces of injustice and utilizes the righteous indignation and spiritual, emotional, and intellectual capabilities of people as the vital force for change and reconciliation.’ Rasmea Odeh signed her name to this movement. And she did so with blood on her hands.  Why doesn’t Sarsour’s alleged feminism have any room for truly oppressed women in the Middle East – even in Palestine, where women have no identity of their own and where over two dozen women a year die at the hands of fathers or other male family members in “honor killings”?

Much has been made of Sarsour’s raising of funds to restore synagogues that were burned and cemeteries that were desecrated, but such tactics are understood by Islamist clerics as a clever form of Taqiyya – deception of unbelievers, for the purposes of establishing false confidences with them – something the Quran recommends.

What makes such magnanimous gestures questionable is Sarsour’s calculated reluctance to condemn human rights abuses in the Middle East and North Africa – particularly Saudi Arabia. While Ms. Sarsour masquerades as a ‘progressive’, the reality is that with her transparent affinity with the substance and cultural trappings of Sharia law – she is patently a regressive.

Sarsour deflects when confronted with the treatment of women under Islamist governed communities, including such atrocities as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).  Christina Laila, a critic of subjugation, says, “I reached out to Linda Sarsour on Twitter to confront her about the utter abuses of women under Islam. I also brought up the fact that child marriage is abhorrent yet sanctioned under Sharia law”.

How did Sarsour respond when asked “if she denounces these abuses”? Laila reproduced Sarsour’s Twitter reply:

You are blocked from following @lsarsour and viewing @lsarsour’s Tweets.

Also powerfully contradicting her Muslim ecumenical gestures is her affiliation with Louis Farrakhan, trash talking, Jew hating leader of the Nation of Islam, accepting his invitation to speak at a recent Nation annual assembly, the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March.

Sarsour and her ideology reject freedom of expression

Some have reacted to the move to convince CUNY to cancel Sarsour’s address, claiming that it is censorship – an abridgment of free speech. Whatever the merits of that argument might be, it is enlightening to note that Sarsour incessantly engages in those very tactics of public pressure against speech. She applauded the censorship movement that was successful in canceling the screening of “Honor Diaries” at the University of Michigan, Dearborn and the University of Illinois in March.

Sarsour was also part of the effort to pressure Brandeis University into canceling a speaking engagement by Ayaan Hirsi Ali and withdrawing an honorary Doctorate.  Ms. Sarsour, in her support for the censoring of “Honor Diaries”, justifies her position, saying, “The problem we have with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, is not that we invalidate her own experience, but she equates violence against women to Islam.”

The trouble is that it is not at all difficult, when examining the record, to equate violence against women to Islam.  Some say culture, not Islam, is the inspiration for the violence, but Islam and Sharia law are the underpinnings and reinforcement of the violence.

“Muslim Feminist”?

Sarsour lastly, but perhaps most significantly, represents herself as a feminist. It’s difficult to see how that is possible without turning the commonly understood sense of that term on its head. Sarsour not only vigorously opposed the Honor Diaries, but created a Twitter hashtag to denigrate the narrative of the film – #DisHonorDiaries.  

Further, she is on record as demeaning genuine defenders of women’s rights such as Brigitte Gabriel and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. In one example, a Tweet that she deleted from her account, but was captured in screenshot – she launched this 140 character tirade:

When you see her endorse Islamist clerics like Yasir Qadhi, it is simply laughable to see Sarsour as any kind of feminist. Qadhi, in his writings, tells women to:

“…Stay at your house. Your food and drink will come to you. What more do you want? Your husband will provide for you all that you need … you take care of the small, little things of the house. You please your husband. And in return your husband will give you the far more difficult things to do of earning money and doing this and that.”

Is not Qadhi’s vision the real embodiment of the repression and subjugation of women that has captured the public’s imagination in Margaret Atwood’s  dystopian fiction, “The Handmaid’s Tale“?

Linda Sarsour – Social Justice Warrior?

Progressives that have hopped into bed with Sarsour are either ignorant of the base intolerance at the root of her Islamist values or they prefer to remain so.  It’s not because her extremist affiliations and sentiments aren’t hidden in plain sight. Sarsour is affiliated with the Islamic Society of North America, the Muslim Students Association, American Muslims for Palestine, the Muslim American Society and the Islamic Circle of North America. All of these are connected with or were founded by the Muslim Brotherhood and tied to leaders of Wahhabist mosques that foment sermons advocating Jihad against unbelievers.

But to challenge her on any points of her “advocacy” is to be pigeonholed as ‘islamophobic’.

Sarsour has no moral authority to claim that her voice would be silenced by not speaking at CUNY. She was one of the organizers of the Womens’ March on Washington that forbid pro-life women from participating – telling them,  “If you want to come to the march you are coming with the understanding that you respect a woman’s right to choose”, meaning of course that if you don’t support abortion, you’re not marching.

Sarsour is an exponent and an apologist for Sharia law, the repressive judicial code of Islam that requires stoning, beheading and imprisonment for both infidels (non Muslims) and for wayward Muslims.  In a tweet from September of 2011, of Sharia, Sarsour exclaims – “Sharia law is reasonable and once you read into the details, it makes a lot of sense.” Reasonable? Makes sense? Not to anyone who cherishes Western Civilization, democratic traditions and free will.

Sarsour claims to be pro-choice, but has never repudiated forced marriages such as the one imposed on her by her Muslim family. Where is the choice for women in such arrangements?

ADL National Director Emeritus Abraham Foxman, in an April 30 interview with The Algemeiner, cautioned against canceling the invite to Sarsour, arguing that doing so would turn her into a “free speech martyr”. But, Foxman said, the invite should not have been extended in the first place.

National Compass contributor, Cindy Grosz, creator of “Cindy’s Corner”, author of “Rubber Room Romance” and active in conservative New York political circles, explains why she believes Sarsour’s speaking engagement should be rescinded:

When free speech invites violence, then it is not protected by our laws and our forefathers never intended free speech to go against the pro American freedoms they fought so hard for when establishing our country

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