Linda Sarsour, the Controversial Political Activist, is Speaking at The New School

On Tuesday, November 28, The New School will be hosting Linda Sarsour, a Brooklyn-born Palestinian and political activist for a talk on “Anti-Semitism and the Struggle for Justice.”

Linda Sarsour has been in the news for some time now. She has raised a few flags in all political circles, but most recently for those who identify as liberals. Although she led the Women’s March in 2017 along with other leading feminists, there has been concern that her ideologies and past actions do not add up.

To begin with, she supports Sharia Law, which in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Brunei, Qatar, and others can hold women and children to harsh punishments. Just recently, Sharia police condemned a woman to 100 lashes for being alone with a man that was not her husband. And though Sarsour tried to escape her past by deleting her tweet from 2011, the trace of her hostility remains. Sarsour attacked Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a political activist who supports ending violence and genital mutilation everywhere saying  “Brigitte Gabriel = Ayaan Hirsi Ali. She’s asking 4 an a$$ whippin’. I wish I could take their vaginas away – they don’t deserve to be women.”

On the other hand, one of the lesser discussed headlines is the fact that Americans have been appropriating the modern connotations of “sharia law” and “jihad” while continuing to apply it to Sarsour vision. In its rudimentary form, “Sharia” means the personal relationship one has with God. Sharia Law is thus a guide on best practices for the Islamic religion. This can include praying five times daily and refraining from eating pork and drinking alcohol. Even more, Sarsour has been recorded supporting “jihad” which is often associated with the platform for radical Muslim terrorists such as ISIS members. Yet, if we look at Sarsour’s speech and the words she uses to discuss Jihad, we can understand that she isn’t far off from our own notions of protesting and standing up for what is right. Journalist Chris Geidner transcribed Sarsour’s speech:


Sarsour states "jihad" is “A word of truth in front of a tyrant ruler or leader, that is the best form of jihad.” As we can see, maybe we are all a little guilty of selectively quoting Sarsour and her ideologies.

So what about her reputation as anti-semite, where does that stem from? Well, her views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may not be all that sound. Sarsour supports a one-state solution in which Israel and Palestine become one big country. This would lead to an Arab/Muslim majority, ending Israel as a Jewish state. Palestine desires a means for a self-determining system where Israel does not treat Israel Palestinians as inferior citizens. As Vox explains, Palestinian Arabs taking over Israel will jeopardize the democratic government system already in place. The two-state solution, that Sarsour does not support, would opt for a division between the Israelis and Palestinians so that both can make their own rules.

In my opinion, Linda Sarsour’s anger is misguided. It is understandable that an American-Palestinian is fed up with Israel’s mistreatment of Palestinians. According to the Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign, “1.2 million Palestinian Israelis, who make up 20 percent, or one-fifth, of Israel’s population, have second-class citizenship within Israel, which defines itself as a Jewish state rather than a state for all its citizens.” More than five million Palestinians are denied equal rights by the state of Israel, calling for justified anger and resentment. However, trouble boils over when these critical conditions are used as a means for violence. Linda Sarsour had been reported glorifying and encouraging Arabs to throw rocks at Israelis calling them, “The definition of courage.” I’m sure sending innocent children to your dirty work is not the definition of courage or at all ethical. And yet, Sarsour believes she does not support violence. 

Even more, the Jewish community is outraged that Linda Sarsour supports BDS, a Palestinian-led movement that aims to Boycott, Divest, and Sanction Israel due to their discriminative acts against Palestinians. Easily we can see how boycotting a state becomes boycotting a religion when it is so heavily intertwined. At the Women’s March, Linda Sarsour claimed you cannot be a feminist and a Zionist. Ironically, she is pushing us to not be selective in our ideas of feminism, and yet she's pushing us into dichotomous thinking, leaving no tolerance an in-between.  

As a New School student and a feminist, I think it is imperative that we tune into controversial figures such as Linda Sarsour, looking closer into her ideologies and her actions. We live in a time where these two aspects of ourselves are allowed to not add up. In many ways, she reminds me of Donald Trump — believing in equal rights, but disenfranchising people who kneel to protest police brutality against a mass group of people. I want to encourage New School students to attend the talk tomorrow from 7:30 p.m.  - 9 p.m. so if we can make any of our beliefs known and vocal.

[Feature Image courtesy of The New School]