Linda Sarsour is lauded by the leftist Ford Foundation as a Muslim “racial justice and civil rights activist,” hailed as a rising feminist icon, co-organizer of the “Women’s March,” and the general toast of The New York Times and cable news segments.
She is popular. She is rising. She is a star of the exceedingly open-minded who invite radical Muslim speakers to prestigious stages where such people curse the same tolerant and welcoming society which itself affords them the inalienable right to tear at its very fabric to waves of polite, if not enthusiastic, applause.
On June 1 of this year, Sarsour delivered the commencement address to the Public Health graduates of the nearly quarter-Jewish City University of New York. (Sarsour’s actual medical qualifications in that field were never explained beyond metaphoric platitudes.)
Perhaps CUNY was unaware of Sarsour’s rich and readily-accessible biography. Perhaps not. In that case, they could refresh their memories.
When interviewed by Newsday in 2003, Sarsour lamented the fall of Saddamist Iraq, praising the captured despot: “Palestinians are under so much oppression and no other Arab country ever helped them [except Iraq].” In 2004, she revealed with a heavy heart that a brother-in-law, cousin, and family friend were all convicted Ḥamās terrorists incarcerated in Israeli prisons — one serving a 99-year sentence. On March 8, 2011 (International Women’s Day), referring to Brigitte Gabriel and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, both outspoken decriers of Islamic misogyny, Sarsour tweeted, “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” (Hirsi Ali herself already endured Islamic vaginal mutilation as a child in Somalia).
On October 31, 2012, appearing to agree theoretically with her relatives, Sarsour tweeted, “Nothing is creepier than Zionism. Challenge racism, #NormalizeJustice.” Sarsour is also a supporter of the anti-Semitic “Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions” (BDS) movement against Israel, tweeting on October 23, 2014, “Macy’s Department Store just said NO to Israeli products[.] #BDS[.] #Palestine[.]” Sarsour also belittles those who condemn Saudi treatment of women, tweeting on November 16 of that year, “10 weeks of PAID maternity leave in Saudi Arabia. Yes PAID. And ur worrying about women driving. Puts us to shame.”
Sarsour is not above feebly defending the barbarity of Sharī‘ah law itself, tweeting on May 12, 2015, “You’ll know when you’re living under Sharia Law if suddenly all your loans & credit cards become interest free. Sounds nice, doesn’t it?” In an August 15 tweet, she expressed support for Palestinian Islamic Jihād’s Muhammad Allan. On October 10, Sarsour appeared with well-known bigot Jeremiah Wright for the twentieth anniversary of infamously racist, anti-Semitic inciter of violence “Minister” Louis Farrakhan’s 1995 “Million Man March” on Washington. At that rally she shouted, “The same people who justify the massacres of Palestinian people and call it ‘collateral damage’ are the same people who justify the murder of black young men and women!” The following day, she tweeted a picture of a small Palestinian boy carrying a rock in each hand with the caption, “The definition of courage.” The day after, she tweeted in support of a more famous Palestinian terrorist, Rasmeah Odeh.
More recently, on July 3, 2017, at a conference of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) — a well-known front group for the Muslim Brotherhood — referring to the un-named specter of President Trump, Sarsour shouted:
I hope that we when we stand up to those who oppress our communities that Allah accepts from us that as a form of jihād. That we are struggling against tyrants and rulers not only abroad in the Middle East or in the other side of the world, but here in these United States of America where you have fascists and white supremacists and Islamophobes reigning in the White House.
At the same event she also stated that Imām Siraj Wahhaj was her “favorite person in [the] room,” as well as her “mentor, motivator, and encourager.” This same Imām Wahhaj, with whom Sarsour appeared at a benefit on April 1 for the Islamic Circle of North America (another Brotherhood organization), was named as a co-conspirator behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, has called for Muslims to “march down to Palestine and liberate our brothers and sisters there [from Israel],” and has praised Louis Farrakhan, having originally converted to Islam in 1969 via the Nation of Islam.
Eight days later, in response to an article from The Algemeiner pointing out that around $100,000 of the money which Sarsour had so proudly raised to benefit vandalized Jewish cemeteries in February and March had still not yet been paid to one cemetery in Colorado — a troubling fact which even The Forward reported — she dismissed the Jewish news site as merely a “right wing Zionist outlet.” (This was only one of Sarsour’s attempts to deceptively feed off of America’s decency.)
Sarsour’s speaking at the commencement of a major New York City university, of which Jewish students comprise such a large portion, spoke volumes about the ideas and attitudes which have molded the American university since the cultural and intellectual earthquakes of the 1960s.
It highlights the anti-American, anti-Western (finally, anti-Semitic) values which have honed the cutting edge of American higher education. The values which create a Linda Sarsour.
Speakers representing affirmative, patriotic values — extolling the virtues of an imperfect but infinitely aspiring, ingenious, humane Western heritage — are largely absent from the typical graduation handbill. This has been shown most recently and painfully on the Berkeley campus in California, where speakers, however controversial, wishing to exercise their freedom of speech on a public campus have been told that their subject matter is both too politically incorrect, indeed (most ironically) too dangerous, to be allowed — the peace kept by the masked rioters’ call to arms.
How can CUNY — its Latin motto translating, “The education of free people is the hope of humanity” — release an entire class of graduates into the wilderness of reality with the words of a woman who so blatantly excoriates the very free society in which these students are to make their lives?
It can do this because it is just another graduation, and just another speech which will soon slip into the waste basket of stale graduation send-offs.
All of this is possible because the oft-assailed First Amendment protects, above all, deplorable behavior and subjectivist poor choice — its mercies devoured with gusto by some, while others, their speech deemed to besmirch the party line, are afforded none of their God-given protections.
Hallowed halls of learning — Berkeley, Brandeis, Brown, Columbia, Harvard, Northeastern, NYU, Oberlin, Princeton, UC-Davis, –Irvine, –LA, and Yale — are where the “correctness” of anti-American, anti-Western self-loathing is taught. This is where the anti-Semitic moral relativism which produces a Linda Sarsour is given form: therefore, if not a Linda Sarsour, then an equally representative, proud Communist like Angela Davis (as at Grinnell in 2007 and Pitzer in 2012).
Sarsour did not take the podium at CUNY with the same essence as the Russian novelist Alyeksandr Solzhyenitsyin — a graduate of the Soviet Union’s Gulag Archipelago.
He spoke at a time when the Soviet Union was beginning the final stages of its inevitable collapse. Even two paragraphs of his Harvard commencement address on June 8, 1978 are sufficient:
A decline in courage may be the most striking feature that an outside observer notices in the West today. The Western world has lost its civic courage, both as a whole and separately, in each country, in each government, in each political party, and, of course, in the United Nations. Such a decline in courage is particularly noticeable among the ruling and intellectual elites, causing an impression of a loss of courage by the entire society. There are many courageous individuals, but they have no determining influence on public life
Political and intellectual functionaries exhibit this depression, passivity, and perplexity in their actions and in their statements, and even more so in their self-serving rationales as to how realistic, reasonable, and intellectually and even morally justified it is to base state policies on weakness and cowardice. And the decline in courage, at times attaining what could be termed a lack of manhood, is ironically emphasized by occasional outbursts and inflexibility on the part of those same functionaries when dealing with weak governments and with countries that lack support, or with doomed currents which clearly cannot offer resistance. But they get tongue-tied and paralyzed when they deal with powerful governments and threatening forces, with aggressors and international terrorists.
In the West, we have a tendency to measure all others by our yardstick. This is wrong. It is also foolish — for only we the gentle free have thought of it. The Arabs, Chinese, Iranians, North Koreans, Japanese, Russians, and Vietnamese never have.
Linda Sarsour’s brand of racial justice activism seeks only fraudulent justice, for justice cannot be modified. There is only justice; it cannot be made climatic, economic, racial, or social. Justice beyond the individual sphere is impossible almost by definition, for with social justice, an individual is judged by the actions or needs of others — as was Solzhyenitsyin the dissenter. Therefore, such university-born ideology cannot build a better society: it can only divide, recriminate, open wounds, and insist upon the justified hatred of others — capitalists, Caucasians, conservatives, patriots, the rich, Zionists, et al.
And there seems to be every indication that this lie of a better world brought about through hatred is believed by those who broadcast it.
While the radicalization of American universities cannot be blamed for many of Sarsour’s own prejudices, one final question is more than warranted: would not a university system which genuinely instills tolerance and open-mindedness in its students have, if not corrected Sarsour’s own bigotry, succeeded in preventing the millions who admire her of embracing her hateful ideas in the first place?
It is for this reason that the American university must own the likes of Linda Sarsour. If the Ivory Tower did not create her in her entirety, it created the Twitter followers — and, most importantly, the CUNY college administrators who invited her to grace their graduation ceremony. Should CUNY, then, have disinvited Sarsour at the eleventh hour, as so many of decency, including survivors of the Holocaust, implored at the time? For CUNY to do so would in fact have been the epitome of cowardice. All such shameful shows must go on, for, as the child of CUNY’s ilk, they have taught the average Linda Sarsour all she knows. They have no one to blame but themselves, for her address was the tragicomic culmination of the American university’s utopian intolerance.
Original version published in the May 16 – 29, 2017 print issue of The Brookline Voice.