Catching up with terror enabler Linda Sarsour

Women’s March on Washington

Linda Sarsour shot to fame on January 21 of this year, the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration as president. On that day, feminists marched down the major thoroughfares of several American cities; in Washington, at the main Women’s March, stars of film and TV and music and cable news and professional feminism (Gloria Steinem) took turns giving speeches. Madonna spoke of burning down the White House. Ashley Judd read a poem about being a “nasty woman.”

Linda Sarsour

Joining these superstars on the list of speakers was an obscure woman in hijab. Linda Sarsour, head of the Arab American Association of New York, was one of the event’s organizers, and she used her moment in the sun to say that she would “respect the presidency,” but not Trump himself. She said that Trump had been elected “on the backs of Muslims.” And she said that American Muslims had been “suffering in silence for the past fifteen years.” She didn’t mention the suffering of the many non-Muslim Americans – and non-Muslims elsewhere around the world – who had experienced suffering as a result of suicide bombings, planes being piloted into buildings, gunmen opening fire at concerts and discos, and truck drivers mowing down pedestrians.

Rachel Maddow, lesbian Islam apologist

Sarsour was cheered. A star was born. Rachel Maddow had her on. Sarsour made outrageous claims about the supposed oppression of Muslims in the U.S., and Maddow didn’t question a thing she said. Nor did Maddow ask Sarsour how a woman who supports sharia law and openly praises Hamas, as Sarsour does, could call herself a progressive feminist.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali

There are real feminists with Arab or Muslim backgrounds. Among them are Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Brigitte Gabriel. Sarsour has smeared both of them. She has said that they deserve as “ass-whipping.” It is well known that Hirsi Ali, as as girl, was subjected to the brutal practice known as female genital mutilation. This didn’t keep Sarsour from saying that she wished she could take away Hirsi Ali’s and Gabriel’s vaginas because “they don’t deserve to be women.”

Sarsour is not just a woman of words. She is a woman of action. When Brandeis University announced plans to award Hirsi Ali an honorary degree, Sarsour participated in a successful effort to get Brandeis to change its mind.

Sarsour and friends

We wrote about all this in April. We devoted two days to Sarsour. We hoped that perhaps her fifteen minutes of fame would soon be over. Alas, no. Sarsour ended up being named to Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People” list. Earlier this month, Glamour Magazine included her and the other Women’s March organizers on its list of women of the year. Publications around the country, ignoring Sarsour’s own ugly views, have portrayed her as the virtuous victim of irrational Islamophobic hatred.

The scene of the Halloween attack

In late October, Sarsour tweeted a photo of her new Democratic Socialists of America membership card. A few days later, after the Halloween terror attack in lower Manhattan, she was heavily quoted in an AOL News story headlined “Muslim New Yorkers Are Bracing for Hate Crimes after Terror Attack” – one of those absurd “backlash” articles that always follow jihadist attacks and that seek to distract attention from the real victims of actual Muslim atrocities to imaginary Muslim victims of non-existent infidel atrocities.

That mosque in Paterson

After the Halloween massacre, Sarsour complained on Twitter that such events are always being used to paint all Muslims with a broad brush. As it turned out, she had more than a passing connection to the jihadist of the day, Saypullo Saipov. As was discovered soon after his arrest, Saipov had attended a mosque in Paterson, New Jersey, that the NYPD’s Demographics Unit, under Mayor Bloomberg, had monitored closely. But the current mayor, Bill de Blasio, who is less worried about terrorism than about “Islamophobia,” listened to a certain individual who told him that monitoring mosques was an anti-Islamic act, and closed down the Demographics Unit. Who was that individual who got the mayor to stop the monitoring of mosques? Linda Sarsour. If not for her, in short, the New York police might have fingered Saipov as a potential terrorist and prevented eight deaths.

Hitler’s “perfect German woman”

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Leni Riefenstahl and friend

Last week we began looking at several German cultural figures who served as useful stooges for the Third Reich. Better known than any of these stories of Nazi collaboration is that of Leni Riefenstahl, director of the films Triumph of the Will (1935) and Olympia (1938). She may well have been the greatest female film director of all time, but to hear her name is to think, first and last, of Hitler – for unlike, say, Walter Gropius or Richard Strauss, she was actually an intimate friend of the Führer’s, and her famous Nazi-era films were the products of direct consultation with him and were produced under his government’s auspices. 

“My perfect German woman,” he called her. She socialized with him frequently. “At times,” writes Jonathan Petropoulos in Artists under Hitler, “they dined together several times a week.” Repeatedly, she articulated her passionate support for him in private notes and telegrams cheering his military victories. (In one of them, addressing him as “my Führer,” she gushed: “You exceed anything the human imagination has the power to conceive, achieving deeds without parallel in the history of mankind.”)

Riefenstahl was a demanding woman, and whenever one Nazi functionary or another rejected her demands, Hitler came through. Denied by Goebbels a request for additional funds to complete Olympia, she turned – successfully – to her beloved Führer. In 1939, he even approved of plans to build Riefenstahl her own massive film studio, a project that failed to come to fruition only because of the war. Riefenstahl wielded remarkable power: at her word, the Jewish wife of Olympia‘s production designer was saved from the death camps. Also at her word, a recalcitrant extra on her her film Tiefland was sent to the concentration camp at Ravensbrück. (Other extras on that film were gypsies who, after doing their job onscreen, were murdered at Auschwitz.)

Interrogated by Allied officials after the war, Riefenstahl repeatedly contradicted herself. She was tried by four different denazification courts; ultimately, in 1952, she was exonerated on charges of collaboration. She went on to make National Geographic-type films about the Nuba trime in Sudan and about undersea life, and, as Petropoulos puts it, “battled for respectability,” desperate to be seen not as a Nazi propagandist and former pal of Hitler’s but as a great cinematic artist. Many famous people obliged her. During the 1970s, she chummed around with such pop-culture heroes of the day as Mick and Bianca Jagger, Andy Warhol, and photographer Helmut Newton.

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Riefenstahl and Mick Jagger

Decades after the war, public curiosity about Riefenstahl remained so intense that her 1993 memoirs made the New York Times bestseller list; a 1994 documentary about her life, which challenged her own self-exculpating account of her relationship to the Nazi regime, also gained widespread attention. She finally died in 2003 at the age of 101. Petropoulos notes the influence of her two famous Nazi films on pop culture: George Lucas borrowed from her in Star Wars; Olympia became a model for TV sports coverage around the world; the impact of her production design can be observed in the staging of concerts by such artists as Michael Jackson, David Bowie, and Jagger. In addition, Petropoulos might have pointed out that a great many music videos, by performers ranging from Madonna to the Pet Shop Boys, feature imagery right out of Triumph out of the Will. 

Nor does Petropoulos mention another development – namely, the decades-long effort by major Hollywood players to make a Riefenstahl bio. We’ll look at that effort tomorrow.