On January 21 of this year, the Women’s March took place in cities around the world. The premise of the event was that Donald Trump, who had been inaugurated president of the United States the day before, is hostile to women and represents a threat to their success and well-being. Millions of women took part in the protests; the official list of speakers in Washington, where the main march took place, included such high-profile names as feminist Gloria Steinem, actress Scarlett Johansson, and TV talking head Melissa Harris-Perry.
But there was at least one speaker in Washington who wasn’t a household name. We’re referring to Linda Sarsour, a Brooklyn-born Muslim who was one of the four national co-chairs of the event. Sarsour is also the executive director of the Arab American Association of New York and a spokesperson for the National Network for Arab American Communities.
Sarsour, who wore a hijab at the march, began her speech with the words “as-salāmu ʿalaykum.” She then told the crowd: “I stand here before you unapologetically Muslim-American, unapologetically Palestinian American.” Her audience cheered. “Sisters and brothers,” she continued, “you are what democracy looks like!” More cheers. She then said: “I will respect the presidency, but I will not respect this President of the United States of America.” Trump, she explained, “won the election on the backs of Muslims” and other groups. “The Muslim community,” she charged, “has been suffering in silence for the past fifteen years.” Since, that is, 9/11.
Not that she mentioned 9/11. In fact she didn’t mention any of the acts of Islamic terror that have occurred since 2001, both in America and around the world. For her, the history of the last fifteen years has been a history not of one barbaric mass murder after another performed in the name of Islam, but of a silent epidemic of cruel, soul-crushing Islamophobia.
She elaborated on this view on a recent episode of The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC. Muslim children, she maintained, are being killed in the U.S. She offered no evidence or examples, and Maddow did not ask for any. Sarsour also complained that proposed anti-sharia laws in various U.S. states would “prevent Muslims from practicing their faith.” Maddow did not ask her to elaborate on this claim, either. On the contrary, Maddow essentially confirmed Sarsour’s dystopic picture.
Sarsour presents herself as a progressive, a supporter of democracy and freedom, of women’s equality and LGBT rights. But her own record belies this self-representation. Some time before the Women’s March, as it happens, Sarsour deleted innumerable tweets that she had written over the years. Fortunately some of her critics have archived the tweets. They make it clear that she’s not the freedom-lover she pretends to be. Instead, she’s a firm supporter of Hamas and Saudi Arabia. She has tweeted that Saudi Arabia’s treatment of women “puts us [the United States] to shame.” She’s defended Saudi Arabia’s record on women by pointing out that there are women in the Saudi parliament.
And there’s more. Tune in tomorrow.