Bay Ridge

Hikind urges progressive pols to speak out against Sarsour

November 28, 2018 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Linda Sarsour, former executive director of the Arab-American Association of New York, has come under fire for her role as co-chairperson of the Women’s March. File photo by Paula Katinas

Assemblymember Dov Hikind, a longtime critic of Linda Sarsour, is getting ready to leave office at the end of the year but on his way out the door, he is taking a parting shot at the controversial Arab-American civil rights leader from Bay Ridge.

Hikind, a Democrat who represents Borough Park, released a statement on Nov. 26 urging progressive Democrats to speak out against Sarsour, co-chairperson of the Women’s March, for what he described as her anti-Semitic views.

Sarsour has denied being an anti-Semite.

“It’s time for my colleagues in government, and elsewhere, to denounce all forms of racism and anti-Semitism, regardless of the source. Show us that the progressive movement is not a safe haven for haters,” Hikind said in a statement.

Hikind upped the ante by singling out two City Councilmembers, Brad Lander of Park Slope and Stephen Levin, who represents parts of Greenpoint, DUMBO and downtown Brooklyn, in his effort to get elected officials to re-examine their support of Sarsour and another Women’s March co-chairperson, Tamika Mallory.

“I know Brad Lander and Stephen Levin. In fact, I campaigned for Brad. While we may have different points of view on certain things, we certainly agree that any form of racism and anti-Semitism is unacceptable,” Hikind said.

Hikind cited Sarsour’s criticisms of Israel and her reluctance to denounce firebrand Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan as examples of her views. Mallory, Hikind said, “is firmly aligned with Louis Farrakhan,” whom the lawmaker termed, “our nation’s most infamous, malicious anti-Semite.”

Hikind also noted that Teresa Shook, the retired lawyer who first came up with the idea of holding a women’s protest march on Washington D.C. in 2017, recently called on the leaders of the Women’s March, including Sarsour and Mallory, to resign. “Shook wisely asked these women to step down,” Hikind said.

Actress-activist Alyssa Milano threw the Women’s March into turmoil when she threatened to boycott the next march unless Sarsour and Mallory denounce shocking statements about Jews made by Farrakhan.

Mallory was sitting in the audience at a rally when Farrakhan stated, “The powerful Jews are my enemy,” the Advocate reported. When Mallory was criticized, Sarsour jumped to her colleague’s defense.

Neither Lander nor Levin responded to inquiries from this newspaper.

Lander came to Sarsour’s defense last year when she was invited to be the commencement speaker at the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Public Health and opponents were urging CUNY James Milliken to rescind the invitation.

In a letter to Milliken, Lander recounted how Sarsour reached out to him after vandals desecrated graves in a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis. She organized a fundraising effort in the Muslim-American community that generated tens of thousands of dollars, he wrote.

“I do not agree with Linda on every issue, of course. We have strong, and divergent, views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflicts,” Lander wrote in his letter, a portion of which was printed in a www.brooklyndaily.com article by Julianne Cuba.

Levin was one of dozens of elected officials and Jewish leaders who signed a 2017 statement defending Sarsour.

“We do not offer our stamp of approval to every tweet or message she has ever posted. With Sarsour and others, we work as allies on issues of shared concern and respectfully disagree when our views diverge,” read the statement, which was published by www.medium.com.

Sarsour has deep roots in Brooklyn. She was raised in Sunset Park, has lived for many years in Bay Ridge and is the former executive director of the Arab-American Association of New York, a non-profit organization that has offices on Fifth Avenue in Bay Ridge.

Sarsour did not return messages from this newspaper.

In an answer to her critics, she issued a mea culpa on the Women’s March Facebook page last week.

“The Women’s March exists to fight bigotry and discrimination in all their forms, including homophobia and anti-Semitism, and to lift up the voices of women who are too often left out. It’s become clear, amidst this media storm, that our values and our message have, too often, been lost. We should have been faster and clearer in helping people understand our values and our commitment to fighting anti-Semitism,” she said in the statement.