Linda Sarsour

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Linda Sarsour, 2019.

Linda Sarsour (born 1980) is an American political activist. She was co-chair of the 2017 Women's March, the 2017 Day Without a Woman, and the 2019 Women's March. She is also a former executive director of the Arab American Association of New York. She and her Women's March co-chairs were profiled in Time magazine's "100 Most Influential People" in 2017.

A Muslim of Palestinian descent, Sarsour first gained attention for protesting police surveillance of American Muslims, later becoming involved in other civil rights issues such as police brutality, feminism, immigration policy, and mass incarceration. She has also organized Black Lives Matter demonstrations and was the lead plaintiff in a suit challenging the legality of the Trump travel ban.

Her political activism has been praised by some liberals and progressives, while her stance and remarks on the Israeli–Palestinian conflict have been criticized by some conservatives and Jewish leaders and organizations. Sarsour has advocated for Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied territories and expressed support for the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel. Sarsour, Bob Bland, and Tamika Mallory stepped down from the Women's March organization in September 2019 following a controversy over the organization's handling of accusations of antisemitism.

2011 Comments about Ayaan Hirsi Ali

In 2011, in reference to Somali-born activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a noted critic of Islam, and Brigitte Gabriel, a conservative activist and leader of the lobbying group ACT! for America, Sarsour tweeted:

"She's asking 4 an a$$ whippin'. I wish I could take their vaginas away - they don't deserve to be women." [1] [2]

This being a particular inappropriate comment given that Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a victim of female genital mutilation.

She had debated both women on radio or television and said the dispute centered on Ali and Gabriel's promotion of the idea that Islam is misogynistic. In response, Ali called Sarsour a "fake feminist" and criticized her for defending sharia. In 2017, Sarsour told The Washington Post that the tweet (then already deleted) was "stupid" and that she did not remember writing it. Later that year, an exchange between Sarsour and a student activist at Dartmouth College in which she was asked about the tweet circulated widely on social media. Sarsour noted that the question had been posed by a "white man" at an event celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and her words garnered criticism.

2014 Started Supporting Black Lives Matter

Following the shooting of Michael Brown, Sarsour helped to organize Black Lives Matter protests. Sarsour helped form "Muslims for Ferguson", and she traveled to Ferguson with other activists in 2014. She has continued to work extensively with BLM ever since. Sarsour became a regular attendee at Black Lives Matter demonstrations as well as a frequent television commentator on feminism.

2017 Women's March

Teresa Shook and Bob Bland, organizers of the 2017 Women's March, recruited Sarsour as co-chair of the event, to be held one day after Donald Trump's inauguration. According to Taylor Gee of Politico, Sarsour had by then become the controversial "face of the resistance" to Trump, adding "For Sarsour, Trump's election came after years of standing up for people he had maligned—not just women, but Muslims, immigrants and black Americans, too. Her ties with activists from around the country helped her galvanize different groups during the disorienting period following the election". Sarsour actively opposed the Trump administration's ban on travelers from several Muslim-majority countries and was named lead plaintiff in a legal challenge brought by the Council on American–Islamic Relations. In Sarsour v. Trump, the plaintiffs argued that the travel ban must be suspended because it existed only to keep Muslims out of the United States.

Melissa Harris-Perry writes that Sarsour was "the most reliable target of public vitriol" of the 2017 Women's March leaders over the following year. Following her leadership role in the Women's March, Sarsour was targeted by violent threats on social media, some from organizations with links to the Russian government, and personal attacks by conservative media outlets, including false reports that she supported the militant Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and advocated imposing Islamic law in the United States. She stated that, while the march was a high point in her career, the media attacks that followed caused her to fear for her safety. Supporters used the Twitter hashtag #IMarchWithLinda, including Sharon Brous of the National Council of Jewish Women, who worked with Sarsour in organizing the 2017 Women's March, and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders. Sarsour, along with her three co-chairs, was named as one of Time magazine's "100 Most Influential People" after the January march.

Sarsour was a co-chairwoman of the 2017 Day Without a Woman strike and protest, organized to mark International Women's Day. During a demonstration outside Trump International Hotel and Tower in Manhattan, she was arrested along with other leaders of the January Women's March, including Bland, Tamika Mallory, and Carmen Perez. She has organized and participated in other acts of civil disobedience in protest of the Trump administration's actions, such as ending the DACA program shielding young immigrants from deportation, the Trump administration family separation policy for immigrants, and the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

In a 2017 speech before the Islamic Society of North America, Sarsour said that people should "stand up" to Trump, as she deemed his administration oppressive, and that such actions would constitute a jihad. She recounted a story from Islamic scripture in which Muhammad says, "A word of truth in front of a tyrant ruler or leader, that is the best form of jihad." Several conservative media outlets and personalities accused her of calling for violence against the president by using the word jihad. Sarsour and other commentators rejected this interpretation, citing her commitment to nonviolent activism and the fact that "jihad" does not inherently refer to violent action. Sarsour also said that she is not the sort of person who would call for violence against the president. In a Washington Post op-ed she wrote that the term jihad has been misused by both right-wing and Muslim extremists and called her use of the term "legitimate yet widely misunderstood." Some on social media criticized Sarsour for using the term jihad since the general public associates it with violence, while others defended her choice of words.

2019 Women's March

In September 2018, Sarsour announced that she would lead the 2019 Women's March on Washington along with Tamika Mallory, Bob Bland, and Carmen Perez. Later that year, Sarsour and Mallory became the focus of a controversy over their perceived refusal to clearly condemn Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, whose rhetoric has been deemed antisemitic and homophobic by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League. In November 2018, Teresa Shook, the march's founder, called for Sarsour and her fellow co-chairs to step down, accusing them of having "allowed anti-Semitism, anti-LBGTQIA sentiment and hateful, racist rhetoric to become a part of the platform by their refusal to separate themselves from groups that espouse these racist, hateful beliefs." Sarsour refused, suggesting the criticism of her was due to her support for BDS and that criticism of Mallory was due to racism. She later apologized to supporters of the march, expressing regret that she and Mallory did not "make their commitment to combating antisemitism clear." She also apologized to the March's LGBTQ and Jewish members, saying that she valued them and would "fight" for them. Sarsour stepped down from the Women's March organization in September 2019 along with Bob Bland and Tamika Mallory.

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