Born in 1980 in Brooklyn, New York, Linda Sarsour is a Palestinian-American community activist who has served as executive director of the Arab American Association of New York (AAANY) since 2005. She is also a board member of the Muslim Democratic Club of New York (MDCNY), and a member of the Justice League NYC.
When American troops took a disheveled and pathetic-looking Saddam Hussein into custody in December 2003, Sarsour lamented the capture of the Iraqi president because he was viewed as a hero by so many Palestinians. "I think he's done a lot of things he shouldn't have done," said Sarsour, "but I was hurt. My Arab pride was hurt. Palestinians are under so much oppression and no other Arab country ever helped them."
In a 2004 article that appeared on the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism website, Sarsour acknowledged that a friend of hers as well as her (Sarsour's) cousin were both serving long sentences (99 years and 25 years, respectively) in Israeli jails because of their efforts to recruit jihadists to murder Israeli Jews. Moreover, she revealed that her brother-in-law was serving a 12-year sentence in Israel because of his affiliation with Hamas.
During a 2008 question-and-answer session at New York University with White House terrorism adviser John Brennan, Sarsour lamented that "the PATRIOT Act is now going to be reauthorized." Moreover, she depicted the unjustified arrest of Muslim terror suspects as an all-too-frequent occurrence: "Looking at cases of Fahad Hashmi, Aafia Siddiqui, Siraj Matin (sic), these are things that are happening every day in our community." But as the Investigative Project on Terrorism points out: "The record does little to bolster Sarsour's argument. Hashmi pleaded guilty to conspiring to provide material support to al-Qaida. Siddiqui, known as "Lady al-Qaida," was convicted of attempting to assault and murder American officers in Afghanistan. Prosecutors say she grabbed an Army officer's M-4 rifle and fired it at another officer and other members of a U.S. interview team at an Afghan police compound in July 2008. And the Second District Court of Appeals upheld Matin Siraj's conviction in connection to a plot to blow up the Herald Square subway station."
An outspoken critic of Israel, Sarsour supports the Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS) movement, a Hamas-inspired initiative that uses various forms of public protest, economic pressure, and court rulings to advance the Hamas agenda of permanently destroying Israel as a Jewish nation-state.
Vis-a-vis the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict, Sarsour favors a one-state solution where an Arab majority and a Jewish minority would live together within the borders of a single country. She made clear her opposition to Israel's existence as a Jewish state when she tweeted in October 2012 that “nothing is creepier than Zionism.”
Falsely maintaining that “Palestine existed before the State of Israel,” Sarsour seeks to help “bring back a Palestinian State for the Palestinian people.” To advance this agenda, Sarsour has tweeted images of fraudulent maps claiming to depict the “Palestinian loss of land” that supposedly occurred between 1946 and 2000.
As the head of AAANY, Sarsour played a central role in pressuring the New York Police Department to terminate its secret surveillance of Muslim mosques and organizations suspected of promoting extremism or terrorism, and to curtail its use of “stop-and-frisk” anti-crime measures. In 2011 she worked in conjuction with Communities United for Police Reform, a coalition to advance the passage of the Community Safety Act (which expanded the definition of bias-based profiling and created an independent inspector general to review police policy in New York City). Sarsour also succeeded in pressuring City Hall to close New York's public schools for the observance of the Islamic holidays Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha.
Sarsour has condemned the prominent anti-Islamists Brigitte Gabriel and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the latter of whom was raised as a Muslim and was subjected to female genital mutilation. “I wish I could take their vaginas away — they don’t deserve to be women,” said Sarsour in on March 8, 2011.
In October 2011, Sarsour, who holds free-market economics in low regard, expressed, on behalf of “Muslim New Yorkers,” “solidarity and support” for the anti-capitalist Occupy Wall Street movement. In 2011 as well, the Obama Administration honored Sarsour as a “champion of change.”
During a February 23, 2012 interview with Russia TV, Sarsour explained that contemporary Islamophobia is essentially a modern-day expression of the same type of hatred that enabled America to carry out atrocities in the past. "This has happened throughout the history of our country," she said. "Our country was based on, you know, genocide on native Americans, based on slavery, racial profiling has existed for centuries in this community."
In an opinion piece she wrote for Al-Jazeera English on March 22, 2012, Sarsour wrote that "[t]he value of Arab life -- whether nameless Palestinian children bombed by American-funded fighter jets or American youth profiled, questioned and incarcerated for frequenting a particular mosque -- is spiraling downwards rapidly in the U.S. and at a more accelerated rate in the Arab World."
In May 2012 Sarsour tweeted that the so-called “underwear bomber,” an al-Qaeda operative who on Christmas Day 2009 had tried to blow up a Detroit-bound passenger jet in mid-flight, was actually a CIA agent participating in America's “war on Islam.”
Sarsour was outraged when, in June 2012, five Republican lawmakers (most prominently, Rep. Michele Bachmann) sent letters to the inspectors general at the Departments of Homeland Security, Justice, Defense, and State, asking that they investigate whether the Muslim Brotherhood—the ideological wellspring from which such terrorist outfits as al Qaeda and Hamas first emerged—was gaining undue influence over U.S. government officials. One letter, noting that Huma Abedin's position as a close aide to Hillary Clinton “affords her routine access to the secretary [of state] and to policymaking,” expressed concern over the fact that Abedin and several of her family members were “connected to Muslim Brotherhood operatives and/or organizations.” Sarsour became part of the controversy when some individuals (including a Tea Party activist) who served with her on a Brooklyn neighborhood advisory panel asked — upon learning that members of Sarsour's family had previously been arrested on charges that they had aided and abetted Hamas — that she be removed from the panel. In reaction to these events, Sarsour denied that she had any ties to Hamas or to other radical Islamic organizations and said: “[For] Michele Bachmann and some people of the Tea Party movement — the fact that we are Muslim means we are disloyal to our country and have hidden agendas.... Michele Bachmann, Peter King and their colleagues are trying to further marginalize Muslim Americans from civic engagement and political life. I have news for them: It’s not working.”
In November 2012 in Baltimore, Sarsour spoke at a Muslim Public Affairs Council conference titled “Facing Race: Xenophobic Hate Crimes.”
In 2013 Sarsour campaigned for New York City mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio. After de Blasio was elected, his office repeatedly featured Sarsour in press releases supporting the mayor's positions on education and other matters. Moreover, his Mayor’s Fund pledged $500,000 to AAANY in 2016.
In 2013 the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) presented Sarsour with its first “American Muslim of the Year” award. The following year, CAIR invited Sarsour to its 20th Annual Banquet, where she affectionately referred to CAIR executive director Nihad Awad as “Uncle Nihad.”
In August 2014, Sarsour publicly supported a demonstration where Al Sharpton led marchers across the Verrazano Bridge to protest the recent death of Eric Garner, a 43-year-old African American who died shortly after having resisted several white police officers' efforts to arrest him for illegally selling “loosies,” single cigarettes from packs without tax stamps. Moreover, Sarsour's AAANY organized busloads of people to join the rally.
In a November 2014 tweet, Sarsour derided critics of Sharia Law in Saudi Arabia for "worrying about women driving" -- i.e., the fact that religious custom in that country bars women from driving automobiles. Much more significant, she explained, was the fact that Saudi women receive "10 weeks of PAID maternity leave." "Puts us to shame," Sarsour added.
In a February 2015 appearance on Rachel Maddow's television program, Sarsour lamented that a nationwide epidemic of “Islamophobia” was responsible for “anti-Sharia bills trying to ban us [Muslims] from practicing our faith,” “mosques being vandalized,” and Muslim “kids being executed” in the United States.
Sarsour was outraged when a police officer and an FBI agent shot and killed a 26-year-old Muslim man named Usaama Rahim in Boston on June 2, 2015, when Rahim lunged at them with a military-style knife as they attempted to question him about suspected terrorism-related activities. The incident occurred approximately two hours after Rahim, who was under 24-hour surveillance by the FBI, had engaged in a phone conversation about carrying out attacks against police officers. When House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul subsequently announced that Rahim had been "communicating with and spreading ISIS propaganda online," Sarsour complained that McCaul's charges “have added a national security component to divide and conquer the movement." "At the end of the day," she added, "a Black man was shot on a bus stop on his way to work and we should treat this like any other case of police violence. All we want is answers to our questions."
In August 2015 Sarsour spoke out in support of the incarcerated Palestinian Islamic Jihad member Muhammad Allan, a known recruiter of suicide bombers.
In October 2015, Sarsour posted on Twitter a photo of a young Palestinian boy clutching two stones as he stared down a group of Israeli soldiers, and labeled it “The definition of courage.” When numerous Twitter users, including Queens Councilman Rory Lancman, subsequently criticized Sarsour's controversial post, she tweeted in response: “The Zionist trolls are out to play. Bring it. You will never silence me.”
In October 2015, Sarsour joined Rev. Jeremiah Wright on stage during the 20th Anniversary commemoration of Louis Farrakhan's famous Million Man March.
On Melissa Harris-Perry's television program on December 12, 2015, Sarsour lamented the allegedly long list of “attacks on [Muslim] individuals and on mosques” that had been perpetrated by Americans who — by misperceiving all Muslims as potential terrorists — were themselves “engaging in terrorism against the innocent [Muslim] community that has nothing to do with [terrorism].” Sarsour also scoffed at the notion of Muslim integration into American society: “We can't change who we are. This is how we look [with Muslim attire]. We can't integrate and assimilate.... We're gonna look like this when we walk out into the streets of our cities when we're traveling in this country.”
In December 2015 as well, Sarsour was angered by President Barack Obama's request that American Muslims help “root out” Islamic extremism in their communities. “We would never ask any other faith community to stand up and condemn acts of violence committed by people within their groups,” she said. “The fact that this is only directed at the Muslim community is something that I personally can't accept.”
That same month, Sarsour wrote the foreword to a Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) petition that said: “Islamophobia is on the rise in America. Since the tragic Paris attacks and San Bernardino shootings, there have been more reports of Islamophobic discrimination, intimidation, threats, and violence targeting American Muslims, or those perceived to be Muslim, and Islamic institutions than during any other period of time since the 9/11 terror attacks.” “Please sign [CAIR's] petition,” wrote Sarsour. “Call on the Republican Party to demonstrate leadership within the conservative movement by denouncing Islamophobia.”
Also in 2015, Sarsour co-founded MPOWER Change, “an online organization that enables [Muslims] to respond [to key events] in rapid, nationwide, coordinated ways as a community.”
According to CounterJihad.com, Sarsour “has attended numerous rallies sponsored by Al-Awda, promoted and solicited donations for their events, and … spoken at their rallies. Sarsour has also solicited donations for the Hamas-affiliated Palestine Children’s Relief Fund.
Over the years, Sarsour's activism has extended also to racial matters within the United States. For instance, when the black, hoodie-donning Florida teenager Trayvon Martin was killed by a “white Hispanic” man in an infamous 2012 altercation, Sarsour penned an April 2012 article titled “My Hijab Is My Hoodie” and declared herself “among the millions mourning the killing of Trayvon.” “Blacks in America continue to face racism on a daily basis,” she wrote, “from the workplace to interactions with law enforcement. And yet racism against African-Americans is publicly acknowledged as unacceptable.... Unfortunately, that’s not the case for Muslims in America. Bigotry against Muslims is quite acceptable. From media pundits to elected officials to presidential hopefuls, spewing misinformation and hatred about Muslims and Islam has been normalized. In America, terrorism has become synonymous with Arabs and Muslims.”
In the same piece, Sarsour likened the brutal March 21, 2012 murder of 32-year-old Shaima Alawadi -- an Iraqi-American woman who was beaten to death in her own home -- to that of Trayvon Martin. Most notably, Sarsour emphasized the fact that Alawadi's killer had left a note saying "Go Back to your country, you terrorist" beside the woman's body. But Sarsour's narrative depicting Alawadi as a tragic victim of anti-Muslim bias in the United States fell apart when investigators later learned that the victim's husband, Kassim Alhimidi, had forged the note in an effort to obscure the fact that he himself had murdered his wife in an honor killing (for which he was ultimately sentenced to 26 years in prison).
Also in “My Hijab Is My Hoodie,”Sarsour wrote: "According to a report released by the FBI in 2011, anti-Muslim hate crimes increased by nearly 50% in 2010. The latest statistics show a jump from 107 anti-Muslim hate crimes in 2009 to 160 in 2010." Yet Sarsour made no mention of the fact that while this was technically a 50% increase, it was hardly what could be characterized as an epidemic in a nation of 310 million people. Nor did she point out that the anti-Muslim hate-crime count of 2010 was in fact consistent with the normal, slightly fluctuating incidence of such events in other years—e.g., 155 in 2002, 149 in 2003, and 156 in 2004. Equally noteworthy is the fact that when the number of anti-Muslim hate crimes had dropped from 156 in 2006 to 115 in 2007—and from 481 in 2001 (the year of the 9/11 attacks) to 155 in 2002—she did not suggest that bigotry against Muslims was steeply declining.
In the aftermath of an August 2014 incident where a white policeman in Ferguson, Missouri had shot and killed a violent black criminal named Michael Brown, Sarsour co-founded the group Muslims For Ferguson, to draw a parallel between the respective forms of oppression allegedly suffered by black and Muslim Americans.
In early September 2014, Sarsour grossly misrepresented the nature of a run-in she had with Brian Boshell, a 45-year-old mentally ill homeless man who was sleeping on the pavement outside of AAANY's headquarters in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn, thereby blocking the entryway to the office. Because Boshell had a 25-year history of incoherent public outbursts that had previously resulted in at least 56 arrests plus another 34 minor convictions, his psychological infirmity was well known to members of the local community. On this particular day (September 3), Boshell became belligerent when either Sarsour or another AAANY employee called police to remove him from the entryway. "You are cutting people’s heads off, sharmoota," he allegedly shouted at Sarsour. "I’m going to cut off your head and see how your people will feel, you Arab bitch." Soon after the incident, Sarsour informed her 18,000 followers on Twitter that she had just been the victim of a hate crime, while on Facebook she referred to Boshell, a white man, as a “bigoted drunk” who had accosted her.
When Sarsour subsequently retold her story to NYPD deputy commissioners at a Manhattan forum about police-community relations, a hate-crimes unit was promptly dispatched to investigate the incident. Moreover, Boshell was arrested and charged with a number of counts including attempted assault as a hate crime; he was held on $20,000 bail and faced the possibility of being sentenced to seven years in prison if convicted. A few days later, Sarsour told MSNBC interviewer Melissa Harris-Perry that "if [Boshell] was African-American, you better believe he wouldn’t be walking in our streets right now." But the notion that Sarsour was unaware of Boshell's long history of unprovoked behavioral explosions having nothing whatsoever to do with bigoted impulses was not believable to a number of local residents. One 30-year resident of Bay Ridge, for instance, told National Review Online: “Instead of an incident with a drunk man, [Sarsour] is using this as her final proof of Islamaphobia in America.... Brian [Boshell] has a 25-year history of outbursts ... There is a lot that’s questionable about [Sarsour] not knowing who he was.”
In April 2015 Sarsour co-chaired the March2Justice, a 250-mile protest march from New York to Washington, DC, to draw attention to the evils of racial profiling and police brutality, and to the need for increased government spending on social-welfare programs. The march was led by the Justice League NYC.
More than once, Sarsour has expressed her support for Sharia Law. On May 12, 2015, for instance, she posted a Twitter message lauding the fact that Sharia forbids money lenders from charging interest on their loans: "You'll know when you're living under Sharia Law if suddenly all your loans & credit cards become interest free. Sound [sic] nice, doesn't it?" That same day, she also tweeted: "If you are still paying interest than [sic] Sharia Law hasn't taken over America."
Sarsour is, as the New York Times puts it, “deeply involved in the Black Lives Matter movement.” “I have committed myself wholeheartedly to #BlackLivesMatter,” says Sarsour, “because when Black lives matter all lives will matter, including Muslim lives.” In July 2015, she wrote a Huffington Post piece titled “I Am Muslim and I Am Black Lives Matter,” wherein she depicted African Americans as victims of intransigent and pernicious societal racism. Some excerpts include the following:
- "Black lives don’t matter. We need to own that as the current reality for millions of Black Americans. Every 28 hours a police officer, security guard, or [George] Zimmerman-type vigilante kills a Black person, most of who are unarmed. Black children can be kicked out of pools and physically harassed by police while their white counterparts watch. Black women can be murdered, raped, beat with utter silence from the general public. Black communities across the country are most often deprived of basic housing standards, quality education and funding, and access to quality healthcare. Black communities suffer from high unemployment and mass incarceration for the same crimes whites commit."
- Black communities know all too well bombings of Black churches, witnessed the burning of crosses on their front lawns and lynching of their brethren. But you would think we would move on as a nation, we would reflect and own the brutality and domestic terror that we have inflicted and stand up once and for all for the right for ALL people to live, work, and worship in peace. BUT no. Here we are in the 21st century where White supremacists can walk into gudwaras and kill innocent Sikhs, stage armed protests in front of Islamic centers, burn down entire mosques to ashes like in Joplin, Missouri, kill three innocent Muslim college students in Chapel Hill, NC, and an Islamophobe can run over a Muslim teen in Kansas City. [P]olice killings of unarmed Black people almost on the daily [sic], and a young white man can walk into a historical Black church on the 193rd anniversary of a slave rebellion and kill nine people."
In November 2015, Sarsour was a featured speaker at the 21st anniversary banquet of the Council on American-Islamic Relations' [CAIR's] San Francisco Bay Area chapter.
In 2016 Sarsour supported Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.
That same year, Sarsour established Rebuild With Love, a project to raise money for the reconstruction of eight black churches that had been “burned to the ground” in the days following the racist shooting of nine black parishioners at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina the previous year. Characterizing the burnings as “attacks on Black culture, Black religion and Black lives,” Sarsour said: “As Muslims we know the importance of protecting the vulnerable” from “intimidation” and violence.
In March 2016, when MDCNY announced its plan to protest Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s upcoming appearance at the New York State Republican Party’s Gala in Manhattan, Sarsour said: “MDCNY plans to mobilize our communities to protest against the hateful, bigoted, racist, and xenophobic Trump candidacy. The NYS Republican Party’s embrace of this candidate shows just how out of touch they are with the millions of Muslim, Black, Latinx, immigrant, women, and other New Yorkers who stand for inclusion and unity over fear and hatred. Their celebration of Donald Trump reinforces what we already know—the Party is only concerned with appealing to the small sliver of the population that shares this bigoted worldview.”
As of April 2016, Sarsour had visited the Obama White House on seven different occasions.
In May 2016, Sarsour announced that she would be attending the Democratic National Convention in July as an at-large delegate.
During a May 2016 panel discussion at New York City's Union Theological Seminary, Sarsour described of Islam's founder, the Prophet Mohammad, in a manner that bore virtually no resemblance to reality: “Our prophet was a racial justice activist, a human rights activist, a feminist in his own right. He was a man that cared about the environment. He cared about animal rights.… He was also the first victim of Islamophobia.”
In June 2016, Sarsour spoke at a Grand Iftar Fundraising Dinner in Falls Church, Virginia, sponsored by Islamic Relief USA (IR-USA). Six months later, she spoke at an IR-USA fundraising dinner "to benefit the people of Palestine."
In September 2016, Sarsour was a featured speaker at the Islamic Society of North America's 53rd annual convention in Rosemont, Illinois.
In October 2016, Sarsour spoke at an event sponsored by the University of North Carolina chapter of the Muslim Students Association, to honor the memory of three Muslim students who had been killed in Chapel Hill in February 2015.
In November 2016, Sarsour spoke at the annual conference of American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), where, as the Investigative Project on Terrorism puts it, she: (a) "lashed out at Jews who extended a hand of friendship and solidarity over concerns that increasing hostility toward Muslims in America might lead to draconian government action"; and (b) "lashed out at fellow Muslims who accepted the gesture and joined in a new inter-faith dialogue." Said Sarsour at the conference:
"We have limits to the type of friendships that we're looking for right now, and I want to be friends with those whom I know have been steadfast, courageous, have been standing up and protecting their own communities, those who have taken the risk to stand up and say – we are with the Palestinian people, we unequivocally support BDS [boycott, divestment and sanctioning Israel] when it comes to Palestinian human rights and have been attacked viciously by the very people who are telling you that they're about to stand on the front line of the Muslim registry program. No thank you, sisters and brothers."
In December 2016 in Chicago, Sarsour spoke at the annual (jointly held) convention of the Muslim American Society and the Islamic Circle of North America, where she claimed that modern-day American Muslims suffer much greater hardship and indignity than the black slaves of yesteryear: “The sacrifice [that] the black Muslim slaves went through in this country is nothing compared to Islamaphobia [sic] today.” Also at that event, Sarsour posed for a picture with Salah Sarsour (no verifiable relation), who: (a) is a member of the Islamic Society of Milwaukee; (b) is a board member of American Muslims for Palestine; (c) is closely affiliated with the Holy Land Foundation; and (d) was jailed by Israel in the 1990s because of his fundraising activities for Hamas.
In 2016 as well, Sarsour announced that she was planning to run for a seat on the New York City Council in 2017.
Sarsour was one of the principal organizers of the massive "Women's March on Washington" which was held on January 21, 2017, to protest the agendas of the newly elected U.S. president, Donald Trump.
In January 2017 as well, Sarsour agreed to serve as the lead plaintiff in CAIR's lawsuit against President Donald Trump's executive order calling for a temporary halt to immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries that were hotbeds of terrorism.
On January 24, 2017, a photograph of Sarsour making what seems to be the one-finger ISIS salute began to appear on various Internet websites. In anticipation of those who would claim that Sarsour's gesture was something other than an ISIS salute, Jihad Watch director Robert Spencer wrote the following:
"Linda Sarsour ... is clearly making the sign of allegiance to the Islamic State in this photo: the upraised index finger. The signal of the index finger held up is, of course, used in myriad contexts, and Muslims in general have used it as a sign of allegiance to tawhid, Islam’s absolute monotheism. However, in recent years it has become very much associated with allegiance to jihad groups, particularly the Islamic State. This signal has been known to be a sign of allegiance to the Islamic State for almost as long as there has been an Islamic State. It has been described as the group’s 'ubiquitous hand signal.'
"It strains credulity to think that a Muslim as committed and informed as Linda Sarsour in January 2017 would not know its significance as a sign of support for the Islamic State. Her defenders will no doubt heap scorn upon those who note this, and say it’s just a universal sign of being Muslim. To affirm that is to ignore a multitude of photographs of jihadis and news stories that have been published over the last three years. Linda Sarsour, in making this gesture, had to know what she was implying, and how Muslims the world over would understand it. She also could count on the credulity and willful ignorance of her Leftist allies to make sure that she would suffer no damage to her role as a civil rights heroine."
Sarsour spoke at a CAIR-Georgia fundraising banquet in February 2017, and was the keynote speaker at the annual dinner of CAIR's Philadelphia chapter on March 11, 2017.
While participating in a "Day Without A Woman" protest in front of Trump Tower in New York City on March 8, 2017, Sarsour was arrested for refusing to comply with a police request that she and her comrades disperse from the vicinity.
For additional information on Linda Sarsour, click here.