Linda Sarsour, a lead organizer of the Women’s March on Washington and one of the most high-profile Muslim activists in the country, gave an impassioned speech last weekend that at first gained little attention.
Speaking to a predominately Muslim crowd at the annual Islamic Society of North America convention in suburban Chicago, Sarsour urged her fellow Muslims to speak out against oppression.
In her speech, Sarsour told a story from Islamic scripture about a man who once asked Muhammad, the founder of Islam, “What is the best form of jihad, or struggle?
“And our beloved prophet … said to him, ‘A word of truth in front of a tyrant ruler or leader, that is the best form of jihad,’” Sarsour said.
“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.”
In an interview with The Washington Post early Friday, Sarsour said she was advocating solely for peaceful, nonviolent dissent.
But since videos of the speech began circulating, conservative media outlets have accused the activist of urging Muslims to wage a holy war against the Trump administration.
“Linda Sarsour calls for Muslims to wage ‘jihad’ against Trump,” a Conservative Review headline said. The article called Sarsour’s references to jihad “a particularly vague, yet terrifying, segment of her speech.”
“Linda Sarsour Calls for ‘Jihad’ Against Trump Administration,” Breitbart wrote.”The context of Sarsour’s remarks indicate that she meant a jihad using words,” Breitbart clarified in its own article. “However, the term has also been used to describe violent struggle, including terrorism, against non-Muslims or against governments described as enemies.”
Sarsour vehemently rejected that interpretation. “For people to out of nowhere claim that I would be calling for some sort of violence against the president is absolutely ludicrous,” Sarsour told The Post. “That’s just not who I am. That’s never been who I am.”
Some on social media argued that by using the word “jihad” Sarsour should have known the general public would interpret it as a violent term connected to Islamic extremism.
“Jihad, while co-opted means something very specific to a lot of people,” writer Yashar Ali said on Twitter. “If you want to use it … expect the blow back.”
Once again, Sarsour was thrust into the crosshairs on social media. On Twitter, conservatives called her a “terrorist sympathizer” and claimed Sarsour should be placed on a terrorist watch list or be investigated by the Secret Service. Others threatened her and even called for her deportation. (Sarsour, a daughter of Palestinian immigrants, was born and raised in Brooklyn.)
Donald Trump Jr. retweeted a Fox News story and said, “Who in the @DNC will denounce this activist and democrat leader calling for Jihad again trump?”
Meanwhile, Muslims and non-Muslims alike came to Sarsour’s defense. Soon the hashtags #istandwithlinda and #myjihad spread on Twitter, with many Muslims sharing their own personal interpretations of jihad.
Source: Washington Post