Bay Ridge

Sarsour fights back after ‘jihad’ remarks

Arab-American activist pens Washington Post op-ed

July 12, 2017 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Linda Sarsour (right) says criticisms of her from the right are an attempt to silence her. Eagle file photo by Francesca Norsen Tate
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In the wake of a controversy that erupted after she delivered a speech to an Arab-American organization in which she used the term “jihad,” Bay Ridge activist Linda Sarsour used the pages of one of the nation’s most prominent newspapers to defend herself and blast her critics.

“In short, I am their worst nightmare,” Sarsour wrote in an op-ed for the Washington Post published on July 9.

She charged that her critics took parts of her recent speech at the Islamic Society of North America’s 54th Annual Convention out of context to make it appear as if she was calling for “jihad” against President Donald Trump.

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“This week, conservative media outlets took a speech I gave to the largest gathering of Muslims in America out of context and alleged that I had called for a violent ‘jihad’ against the president. I did not,” Sarsour wrote in the op-ed.

To the majority of Muslims, the word “jihad” means “struggle” or “to strive for” and does not imply a call to violence, according to Sarsour.

Sarsour’s public profile was raised to a national level thanks largely to her role as co-chairperson of the massive protest demonstration known as the Women’s March on Washington, D.C. on Jan. 21. More than 500,000 people took part in the protest.

Following the march, she left her job as executive director of the Brooklyn-based Arab American Association of New York after serving there for 11 years to travel the country to speak out on issues.

Founded by a group of Arab-American civic leaders in Bay Ridge, the Arab American Association of New York opened its doors in December of 2001. Headquartered at 7111 Fifth Ave. in Bay Ridge, the organization provides social services to new arrivals from the Middle East and works to combat anti-Muslim prejudice.

“We are in a critical moment as a country and I feel compelled to focus my energy on the national level and building the capacity of the progressive movement so it is with a heavy heart that I announce that I will be leaving my post as the executive director of the Arab American Association of New York,” Sarsour wrote in a message to the association’s supporters.

Sarsour said at the time that the election of Donald Trump necessitated that she become more active on a national level.

In her Washington Post op-ed, she said the “jihad” controversy was not the first time she has been targeted for speaking out.

“Since the Women’s March on Washington, which I had the privilege of co-chairing with inspirational women from across the country, my family and I have received countless threats of physical violence,” she wrote.

Sarour is married and has three children.

In June, Sarsour was invited to be the commencement speaker at the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Public Health. Critics mounted a campaign calling on the university to rescind the invitation to speak at the graduation.

But Sarsour spoke at the ceremony as scheduled, accompanied by a security detail to protect her safety.

“I will not be silenced,” Sarsour wrote in the Washington Post.

The entire op-ed can be found here.


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