New blood – and blood libels – at the Women’s March

Women’s March, 2017

There are two Women’s Marches. Or, rather, many. One – the most important one, and the one that got most of the media attention – was held in Washington, D.C., on January 21, 2017, the day after the inauguration of Donald Trump, whose unexpected election to the presidency over someone who had been expected to become the nation’s first female president had been regarded by many of the marchers as an outrage. On the same day, over 400 other Women’s Marches took place in cities around the country – and more than 150 marches took place in 81 countries around the world. The number of participants was staggering – perhaps over five million in the U.S. alone.

Linda Sarsour

As it happens, moreover, the group that organized these events also goes by the name of Women’s March. Among its national co-chairs was Linda Sarsour, a previously obscure Palestinian-American activist who gave a high-profile speech at the Washington march that made her internationally famous and whom we’ve written about frequently on this site. Sarsour – a sometime director of the Arab American Association of New York who belongs to the Democratic Socialists of America and helped found Black Lives Matter – proved to be that most paradoxical of creatures: a self-declared feminist who supports jihad and sharia law and wears a hijab, a symbol of female subordination under Islam. She felt sorry for Saddam Hussein when he was captured by the U.S. and she won an “American Muslim of the Year” award from terrorist-linked CAIR. While smearing ex-Muslims and critics of Muslims such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Sarsour has been chummy with Siraj Wahhaj, an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and Louis Farrakhan, one of America’s most prominent anti-Semites.

Tamika Mallory

Indeed, after Sarsour rocketed to fame, it became clear she, too, had – shall we say – problematic attitudes toward the Jewish people. She’s big on the BDS movement – the campaign to boycott Israel, divest in its companies, and impose sanctions on Israeli trade. She’s said that “nothing is creepier than Zionism.” And she wasn’t the only leader of the Women’s March whose attitudes toward Jews left something to be desired. Indeed, not to put too fine a point on it, the board was rife with Jew-haters. As this fact became well-known, it caused what the Washington Free Beacon described as a “year of turmoil” for the organization. The Women’s March experienced some bad PR after co-chair Tamika Mallory blamed Jews for the slave trade and said that Jews controlled all the world’s money. Like Sarsour, moreover, Mallory was friends with Farrakhan, whom she described as the “Greatest of All Time.” Another board member, Bob Bland, joined Mallory in defending Farrakhan on TV after one of the Nation of Islam leader’s occasional outbursts of passionate Jew-hatred.

Zahra Billou

In August, in an apparent effort to silence concern about antisemitism in the Women’s March hierarchy, Sarsour, Mallory, and Bland all stepped down from the organization’s board. But it doesn’t look as if this move will necessarily improve the image of the Women’s March. Of the 16 new individuals added to the group’s board, one, Zahra Billoo, who is executive director of the Bay Area chapter of CAIR, has called Israel a “terrorist state” and equated it to ISIS, while another, Palestinian-American activist Samia Assed, has questioned Israel’s right to exist. It seems as if the people who run the Women’s March just can’t keep Jew-haters out of their ranks. Somehow we wouldn’t be surprised if, in the fullness of time, it turns out that at least a few of the other 14 new board members have a distaste for the Hebrew folk as well.

The American left’s favorite jihadist?

At least in terms of turning herself into a household name, Linda Sarsour has come a long way in a very short time.

Linda Sarsour

She first came to the attention of most of us on January 21, the day after the presidential inauguration, when she was one of the major speakers at the Women’s March in Washington. As executive director of the Arab American Association of New York and a spokesperson for the National Network for Arab American Communities, she was one of the event’s four co-sponsors.

Sarsour (right) with Gloria Steinem

Sarsour might have come and gone without making much of an impression on viewers around the country except for a couple of things. She wore a hijab. She began her speech with the words “as-salāmu ʿalaykum.” She said she would not respect Donald Trump. And she charged that Americans Muslims had been “suffering in silence for the past fifteen years” – in other words, 9/11. While omitting to mention any of the countless acts of jihadist terror that have taken place during those fifteen years, she painted a picture of post-9/11 America as a nightmare of Islamophobia.

Bernie Sanders

Sarsour presented herself as a progressive feminist. But it soon emerged that she is a champion of Hamas, of the treatment of women in Saudi Arabia, and, not least, of the introduction of sharia law into the United States. That didn’t keep her from being praised by Bernie Sanders, being named a “Champion of Change” by the Obama Administration, and being cheered on by a wide range of major figures and organizations on the left.

Tony Kushner

In response to criticism of Sarsour, much of it coming from the right, a group of 100 prominent Jewish figures, including Angels in America playwright Tony Kushner, signed a letter defending her. A gay Israeli actually felt obliged to pen an article for the Forward headlined “On LGBTQ rights, Linda Sarsour Is No Ally,” while Judea Pearl, the father of Daniel Pearl, wrote a similar piece for the same publication entitled “Why Linda Sarsour Is a Fake Feminist.”

Siraj Wajjah

Amid all the chaos and controversy, Sarsour has since moved from triumph to triumph. In June she delivered the commencement speech at the City University of New York School of Public Health. And in early July, she made headlines with a speech given at the convention of the Islamic Society of North America. She began the speech by thanking an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center – one Siraj Wajjah. She went on to savage the Trump administration, whose members she described as “fascists and white supremacists and Islamophobes,” and spoke darkly of “the potential chaos that they will ensue [sic] on our community.” She then suggested that she and her audience – and, presumably, Muslim-Americans generally – would “stand up to those who oppress our communities” and expressed the hope that “Allah” would accept that resistance “as a form of jihad.” Rejecting the idea of assimilation, she affirmed that Muslim-Americans’ “top priority” is “to please Allah, and only Allah.”

Matt Duss

Matt Duss, a foreign policy adviser to Sanders and contributor to The Tablet, actually defended Sarsour’s appalling remarks, specifically her use of the word “jihad.” He tweeted: “If you’re a journalist shaming @lsarsour’s choice of words instead of helping readers better understand them, you’re bad at your job.”

Kathy Griffin

Lee Smith, writing in The Tablet, compared Sarsour with comedienne Kathy Griffin, who had recently received extensive media atttention by posing with a bloody Trump mask. Like Griffin, suggested Smith, “Sarsour wanted to have it both ways – get lots of attention for having done something sensational, and then play the role of victim when some of the attention invariably turned critical.” In short, Sarsour “has become a very adept self-promoter.”