Linda Sarsour plays the victim in the Washington Post, normalizing the bad bits of Islamic theology

July 10, 2017 • 10:00 am

“In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of the political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenceless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them.”      —George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language’

Linda Sarsour is, as I wrote yesterday, a canny and self-promoting woman—a hijabi who believes in sharia law, demonizes Israel, accepts BDS and a “one state solution” that would wipe out Israel, is notably silent about outrages committed against women by Middle Eastern Muslim lands (including Palestine, the country of her ancestors), and admires some really dubious Muslims who favor parts of sharia law like corporal punishment. I am appalled that she’s seen as a feminist hero instead of people like Ayaan Hirsi Ali or Sarah Haider—women who left Islam largely because of its oppression of women. Indeed, Sarsour sports the very symbol of that oppression on her head.

Sarsour is a feminist hero because she’s female, hates Donald Trump (I agree!), and manages to convey a message of Islamism that is whitewashed to make it acceptable to Westerners. Plus she’s seen as a double minority: a woman of color. One of those bits of whitewashing is her use of the word “jihad”, which she employed in her recent speech to the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). She explained that the “jihad” against Trump she’s promoting—as well as against the “fascism, white supremacy, and Islamophobia” in the White House—is simply a peaceful political struggle. Here are her words from the ISNA speech:

I hope that … when we stand up to those who oppress our communities, that Allah accepts from us that as a form of jihad, that we are struggling against tyrants and rulers not only abroad in the Middle East or on 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.

And she explained that pretty clearly afterwards as a nonviolent struggle. But I still think it’s disingenuous for her to use a word that hasn’t historically been associated with a mere struggle in politics, but with physical battle against the enemies of Islam. Here’s how Wikipedia begins its article in the word:

Jihad (English: /ɪˈhɑːd/; Arabic: جهاد‎‎ jihād [dʒɪˈhaːd]) is an Arabic word which literally means striving or struggling, especially with a praiseworthy aim. It can have many shades of meaning in an Islamic context, such as struggle against one’s evil inclinations, an exertion to convert unbelievers, or efforts toward the moral betterment of society, though it is most frequently associated with war. In classical Islamic law, the term refers to armed struggle against unbelievers,  while modernist Islamic scholars generally equate military jihad with defensive warfare. In Sufi and pious circles, spiritual and moral jihad has been traditionally emphasized under the name of greater jihad. The term has gained additional attention in recent decades through its use by terrorist groups.

Now right-wing outlets picked up Sarsour’s use of the word “jihad” and went nuts, saying that a left-wing icon was calling for physical jihad, which, as I said, has historically meant killing enemies of Islam.  Yesterday I cut Sarsour some slack since she clarified what she meant by the word. But now I think she was being more than a bit disingenuous, using a word in an unconventional way to de-fang and “normalize it”, something that Orwell wrote about in his essay “Politics and the English Language“. Although Sarsour could have used the word “struggle” instead, she chose not to, and I think it’s because she’s trying to foster acceptance of Islam and some of its pernicious doctrines that revulse Americans—by making them all seem innocuous and even progressive.  She does the same thing with sharia law (see below). As my friend Malgorzata wrote me:

Aren’t there enough English words to convey the meaning she wanted to convey to the English-speaking public without trying to remove the blood from this one? How would you react if somebody called for a “crusade” against Islamists (not Islam!)? I wouldn’t be happy, taking into account the historical connotations of the word. [Sarsour] was devious and did this absolutely on purpose and it was deplorable. . . .In today’s world, calling to jihad against anybody is horrid, no matter how you try convince people that you mean something else. If she really did mean a peaceful protest, she should’ve said so without using a word which is dripping with fresh blood.

As the Tablet (a Jewish site) noted:

Indeed, Sarsour was no more calling for Trump’s death than Kathy Griffin was when she posed for a picture with a mask of the president’s decapitated head. And just like the comedienne, 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. What Sarsour did was raise the ante and the stakes—by putting it in the context of Arab political discourse.

. . . And that’s the issue, less the word itself but the context, which is the source of the rhetoric used to justify the mass murder of other Arabs, as well as Americans and Israelis and, across Europe and Asia and elsewhere, Jews and Christians and Hindus, etc. Is it possible that Linda Sarsour really didn’t understand the particular resonances of the word employed in the context of American politics? Of course she knew. She could’ve delivered a standard Trump-hating speech about immigration and Islamophobia. But comparing an American president to the Middle Eastern tyrants and oppressors like Bashar al-Assad who murder children from the sky is what distinguished her.

She used the word “jihad” deliberately, in order to split her audience. Anyone who criticized her use of extremist language would be painted as a bigot alongside those who really are bigots. Those who defended her right to use extremist language would be dragged along with those who really are extremists.

It’s instructive that neither Sarsour’s critics nor defenders have noted what is perhaps the most toxic part of her speech. “You can count on me,” she told an audience of American Muslims, “to use my voice to stand up, not only to people outside our community who are repressing our communities, but those inside our communities who aid and abet the oppressors outside our community.”

Right, it’s a threat. If you don’t see things like she does, even if you’re Muslim, then you’re in for it— Linda Sarsour is watching. Linda Sarsour has your name.

As you’ll see below, she has the name of Muslim reformer Maajid Nawaz, and slanders him, just as she slandered Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

And that is why Sarsour is dangerous, and a terrible icon for progressivism. She’s trying to make the words “sharia” and “jihad” into progressive terms. Then, when they’re used in their more oppressive or bellicose sense, people will get confused and assume by default that they’re “words of peace.”

Along with that, Sarsour is pulling a classic Regressive Leftist tactic—playing the victim—in a new column in the Washington Post, “Islamophobes are attacking me because I’m their worst nightmare.” The article is pretty much of a hack job: she reiterates that she used jihad properly, in the sense of a struggle, and before it was “hijacked by Muslim extremists and right-wing extremists alike [JAC: ??], leaving ordinary Muslims to defend our faith and in some some cases silenced [sic].” It’s also a disgusting piece of self promotion.

In her piece, Sarsour reiterates how she used the word “jihad” nonviolently, and asserts that she is “an effective leader for progress” and “a familiar presence and name in American living rooms when it comes to nonviolent resistance and activism.” This reflects, I think, her longstanding narcissism, ambition, and desire to dominate the headlines, as reflected in this odious trio of tweets (the second, at least, has been deleted) showing her desire for renown:


In her piece Sarsour also parades the threats that she and her family have gotten (has she reported them to the police?), which if genuine are truly reprehensible. But to flaunt them in this way also allows her to play the victim, distracting attention from her activities and gaining her sympathy from that part of the Left who sees Muslims as people of color and therefore oppressed. (Richard Dawkins makes light of his threats, reading them for comedic effect, but of course he’s a cisgender old white male, so the threats wouldn’t get him sympathy anyway.) I deplore threats, but I also don’t like them used as a way to gain sympathy. What’s important is the message, not the messenger.

Here’s how Sarsour has tried to normalize sharia law, which all over the world is used to oppress women, gays, non-Muslims, and apostates:

I’m wondering what aspects of sharia law Sarsour really likes.

Finally, she claimed 11 months ago that Maajid Nawaz was “on the payroll” of white supremacists and right wing Zionists (see below). Nawaz warned us today, as I’m doing now, that we shouldn’t adopt Sarsour as our “new hope.” She is not progressivist; she is devious and anti-progressive. Yes, she deplores Trump, but so do lots of people whom I wouldn’t look to as beacons of true progressivism. Believe me, we wouldn’t want a country in which Sarsour was in charge.

49 thoughts on “Linda Sarsour plays the victim in the Washington Post, normalizing the bad bits of Islamic theology

      1. Yes. And, isn’t Islam in the 21st century very similar to Nazism 80 years ago? I believe most nazis wouldn’t have approved killing people in gas chambers, like most Muslims wouldn’t condone terrorism today. Is there an important difference between both ideologies that I’m missing?

  1. She used the word “jihad” deliberately, in order to split her audience

    This is the exact First Impression I got when I first encountered what would later be dubbed “social justice warriors”, controversial remarks of a specific form designed to divide the crowd between True Believers and anyone else who had any critical inkling, no matter how small.

    1. Sarsour is a SJW AND an Islam apologist. She knows how to get other SJWs, and even mainstream leftists, to believe she’s reasonable, because she has co-opted their habits and language.

    1. Hi Malgorzata. You make a good point about Sarsour’s use of the word jihad that I hadn’t considered before. It does makes a difference that she used it to an English-speaking audience. I previously gave her a pass on that aspect of her speech, but now I agree with you. I was wrong.

      I think I was influenced by the fact that the far-right were criticizing her for using the word, and I instinctively go against anything they say.

      1. Maybe because I lived a long time under Communism I learned to try o read “between the lines”. Every used word counted, the size of the picture in the newspaper was important not to mention how close somebody was to the Leader on this picture. Without the art of understanding hidden meaning in everything you were totally lost. Besides I try not to reject or accept anything only because it was said by somebody I disliked respecive liked.

        1. Although I haven’t had the awful experiences you have, I always thought I was pretty good at reading between the lines and deciding stuff for myself. It shows we can all get it wrong and should be prepared to change our minds I think.

  2. Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Sarah Haider shouldn’t be feminist heroes. They are way too good for that cultish, authoritarian, prudish, irrational ideology.

    1. I wouldn’t let the repressive left steal the word feminism, which is a worthy cause. Ali and Haider are in fact feminists in its true meaning.

      1. What would you consider worthy “feminist” causes in the West today?
        I think equal opportunity has been achieved and the push for equal outcome is based on the false premise that there are no biological differences between men and woman.

        I also think the term itself is divisive and would rather people identify as “humanists”.

        1. Notwithstanding that I do not agree with your assertion that equal opportunity has been achieved, there are plenty of feminist causes left to fight for, for one thing, the Islamic (and Christian) attitude towards women needs to change.

  3. Well, as many of us already noted, she was increasingly using the Sarkeesian Playbook (which is now the playbook for all regressive leaders), so she must continually play the victim from here on. Expect to see more of this.

    Also, I have to disagree with you, Jerry, that she is a feminist hero because she somehow makes Islam more palatable. She is an open supporter of Sharia law. She wants to take away the vaginas of women who disagree with her (OK, I grant that this isn’t so rare among the more radical feminists, at least metaphorically with accusations like “internalized misogyny” to shut down any women’s disagreement. But I imagine Sarsour has something more physical in mind when she says this). So, she is a feminist hero because she has the right ethnicity, the right religion, and the right sex to be considered an “oppressed person.” She has a trifecta, and one might even say a holy regressive trinity. Her words have weight simply because she exists as she does and she uses words like “oppressed” and “death threats,” puts down people on the right, wears a hijab, and claims she’s being harassed. This is all it takes.

    Oh, regarding jihad and pretending that it’s somehow a peaceful idea, did anyone see those tweets from Ayatollah Khomeini the other day calling on all Muslims throughout the Middle East to stand together and not give up until Israel is destroyed? I’m sure Sarsour would approve.

    1. I hope you mean Ayatollah Khamenei, not Khomeini, who is in paradise with the virgins and dancing boys.

  4. This thing that sharia law has about paying interest is just semantic. Islamic law regards money simply as a means of exchange (which is all it actually is anywhere) so can’t be used as a vehicle of profit by way of interest. Of course the bank must still make a profit and so artificial ‘trading profit’ gets built into the transaction, ultimately resulting in the same thing but with a greater administrative burden for the bank. This, in effect, can result in Muslims paying more than they need.

    Sharia law is in every sense a very primitive social construct.

    1. There are countless schemes to get people to pay for interests without calling them interests which are a-OK according to muslim laws and are exploited by banks and private citizens.

      Anyone who says that there are no interests allowed by sharia is either very ignorant about sharia or lying.

  5. What is her creepy obsession with taking away the vaginas of women she disagrees with (and how would she do it)? This is weird and so offensive — if she were male, it’d be prime fodder for analysis and ridicule by armchair psychoanalysts. I just listened to a Ted Talk* by the science writer Ed Yong on parasites http://www.npr.org/2016/03/18/470535665/can-we-fall-prey-to-hidden-parasites, and the question of free will came up — parasites make a great argument against free will — so this a.m., I can’t but wonder if Sarsour’s brain or belly might be ruled by some parasite — not “The devil made me do it” but the parasite.
    *I can’t usually stomach Ted Talks because of their insufferably hortatory nature (they all want to win that prize), but Mr. Yong thankfully refrained from such displays. How refreshing.

    1. “Creepy” is right! This is a very violent, nasty image coming from somebody who is supposedly trying to make a reasonable impression.

      1. What makes it creepier is that Sarsour never said she’s against female genital mutilation, which is a practice highly common in the muslim world.

        1. And done to Ayaan. One assumes Sarsour knew this and was making a remark even more disgusting than it seems at first glance.

    2. A comment like that should have exposed her true colours to all. Imagine if a man had said that, or a white cis woman. They wouldn’t have been forgiven so easily. She seems to have taken on a Trump-like status amongst the Alt-left – he too can say anything and be defended by his supporters.

  6. You’ll know when you’re living under Sharia law if suddenly all your loans and credit cards become interest free. Sound nice, doesn’t it?

    No, that sounds terrible to me. I don’t have any loans and I pay up my credit card bill promptly each month.
    The people lending money are going to make their share off it. If they’re not charging interest. they’re getting some other way, such as annual fees or “handling charges.” I would undoubtedly be worse off in a system that relied on non-interest charges.

    1. Christianity also had its “no interest” phase which over time petered out till it ended with the rise of the merchantile system.
      The hypocrisy of all religions when money is involved has always been staggering to anybody trying to live an honest life.
      Eventually, no doubt, Islam will give up this “no interest” malarky out of sheer embarrassment and will then be able to look their customers in the eye when discussing loans.

      1. The “no interests” malarky is actually a scam. There are countless ways used by muslim banks and private citizens to make people pay for interests without calling them interests.

  7. The fact that she insinuates that Nawaz (same said about Hirshi Ali) is a shill of ‘White Supremacists’ somehow reinforces my strong suspicion she herself is a shill of ‘Wahhabist Saudi Supremacists’. I wonder why.

      1. Yeah. People often accuse others of exactly the same thing they’re doing. Their internally unacknowledged guilt makes them think of it when it doesn’t even cross the minds of others. Perhaps we should be looking at the vagina-removing tweet the same way?

  8. I was going to post a comment sharply disagreeing with giving her a pass over jihad, so I am glad you changed your mind. Normalizing jihad was the whole point of using the word. Malgorzata is exactly right.

  9. Allah and Islam are tyrannical and worse than Trump (sorry regressives!). Sarsour is evil, Trump is just an idiot.

  10. Linda knows exactly what she is doing. It is what the Islamists have been doing for centuries – divide and conquer in the name of their beloved god. Linda is obviously using double speak and victimhood to get the left to defend her – this is exactly what Islamists do! Little do they know, Linda’s useful leftist brigade, including Sarah Silverman and LGBTs, will be the first in line for punishment if Linda had her way.

  11. There may be an accidental benefit to using the word “jihad” to mean “struggle”. It gives moderate muslims a way to re-interpret some of the worst parts of the koran and promote a more moderate interpretation. You can’t tell believers to ignore parts of their holy book. You have to demonstrate a more rational interpretation. I am reasonably sure this was not the intent of Sarsour, but it may work in favour of a more reasonable and more moderate islam

  12. This woman is as disgusting as the religion she embodies. Nothing eye-opening but I just needed to let out some steam.

  13. In his Al Jazira posts Hassim Almadani makes some intereting parallels between the support of Huffington Post for Al Jazira and Muslim Brotherhood (all MB on its Arabic outlet) and the regressive left’s rapturous reception of Linda Sarsour as she asserts that Muslims have a duty NOT to assimilate and that this is a jihad for the usual identity politics perversion of “justice”. On Linda’s recent pronouncements
    https://www.youtube.
    [DELETE INSERT]
    com/watch?v=FiVadnhefcc
    On al jazeera internet Huffpo and Young Turks
    https://www.youtube.
    [DELETE INSERT]
    com/watch?v=9tKfLK1S4WM
    On Al Jazeera TV and Qatar
    https://www.youtube.
    [DELETE INSERT]
    com/watch?v=XleyDn2tmVk

  14. “Sarsour is a feminist hero…”

    Sigh. I wish we would use something like “Ctrl feminists” to refer to the pomo idiots in academia now. Just as traditional leftists don’t want to cede their moniker to the current crop of campus fascists, nor do traditional feminists.

  15. Thought wars in religious institutions are ongoing and often lead to blood feuds. Include sanctioned inbreeding to that unstable mix and what you get is Linda Sarsour.

  16. Pointing out that in Saudi Arabia women get 10 weeks maternity leave is like saying Mussolini made the trains run on time.

    1. Pretty heavy stuff!

      Sarsour apparently identifies as a feminist. Sarsour’s kind of feminism, however, embraces the most oppressive legal system, especially for women: Islamic religious law, Sharia. Sarsour’s feminism is supposedly for empowering women, but it twists logic in a way similar to how Muslim preachers do when they claim that beating one’s wife is a husband’s way of honoring her.

      Pro-Sharia feminism is a perverted kind of feminism that could not care less about the well-being of oppressed Muslim women. Sarsour’s logic concerning women does not differ much from that of Suad Saleh, an Egyptian female Islamic cleric, who recently justified on Egyptian TV the doctrine of intentional humiliation and rape of captured women in Islam. Saleh said, “One of the purposes of raping captured enemy women and young girls was to humiliate and disgrace them and that is permissible under Islamic law.” There was not even a peep in Egypt’s civil society about such a statement.

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