Women’s March: An Islamophile intervention against women’s rights
Platypus Review 104 | March 2018
“WE CAN DISAGREE AND STILL LOVE EACH OTHER, unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist,” Linda Sarsour proudly announces on her Twitter account. Sarsour is a self-proclaimed human rights activist and supporter of the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. She and her Women’s March (WM) colleagues were named Women of The Year 2017 by Glamour magazine. However, for Sarsour, Trump’s so-called “white supremacy” seems to be the only phenomenon deserving of the term “oppression.” When it comes to the 2017–18 Iranian protests, the only critique Sarsour utters is one of Trump’s “Muslim ban.” Sarsour makes no statement calling out the misogynistic, anti-Semitic, in short, Islamist Iranian regime. Sarsour’s very engagement in the debate over the Iran protests—a debate over the emancipation of women and LGBTIQs—seems to have been motivated exclusively by the criticism she and her fellow Women’s March organizer, Tamika D. Mallory, received for their silence from Liz Wheeler, an anchor for the pro-Trump One America News Network. Indeed, to this day Sarsour has given no sign of authentic solidarity with the revolts in Iran.
Love for Louis
On January 27, 2017 the Women’s March activists remembered the Jewish, but also all the other, victims of the Holocaust on their official Twitter page: “On #HolocaustMemorialDay, we remember the six million Jews murdered and the millions of people with disabilities, European Roma and LGBTQIA+ people murdered. On #HolocaustMemorialDay, we recommit ourselves to fighting white supremacy, anti-Semitism and hatred in all its forms.” Sarsour trivializes the unprecedented industrial murder of six million Jews when she retweets comments like this one: “Black people in America are one of the only groups of people on this planet asked to simply get over/forget about their holocaust.” She also repeatedly tries to deflect from the fact that she and her Women’s March colleagues have personal, political, and financial ties to people whose anti-Semitism takes the shape of a wish for the extinction of Jews and the Jewish state—people like Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam.
On November 21, 2016, Carmen Perez, one of the Women’s March organizers, shared a picture of herself and Farrakhan on Instagram. The caption read: “There are many times when I sit with elders or inspirational individuals where I think, I just wish I could package this and share this moment with others. Today, we had the opportunity to share our time with the (Minister Louis Farrakhan).” Tamika D. Mallory wished Farrakhan a Happy Birthday and praised him on the same social media site. In a series of lectures organized by the Nation of Islam, Farrakhan called Jews “satanic” more than once. His 2015 Savior’s Day speech at Mosque Maryam in Chicago included conspiracy theories on how Jews supposedly control the U.S. government and on the cooperation of the U.S. and Israel during the 9/11 attacks. For years, Farrakhan has been promoting the second volume of a Nation of Islam book series which is called “How Jews Gained Control of the Black American Economy” and he propagates the anti-Semitic tale of the involvement of greedy Jews in the American enslavement of African-Americans and black Africans. In a radio interview from May 9, 2017, Farrakhan threatened Jewish Israelis with not being able to stay in their home country for much longer and called on the Iranian and other Islamist regimes to offer resistance against Israel’s existence.
On its website, the Women’s March encourages supporters to donate to the organization Islamic Relief (IR) and claims that the money will be spent on helping Syrian refugees. Although it has been deemed a terrorist organization by the United Arab Emirates, IR has received millions of dollars in donations from the U.S., German, Swedish, and British governments as well as from the UN and EU. These funds have been passed on to organizations that enjoy good relations with the Palestinian terror organization Hamas. Some national branches of IR are led by Islamists drawn from the social milieu of the Muslim Brotherhood, the very organization responsible for the term “Islamophobia.” This word has always been used to deflect from or trivialize Islamic anti-Semitism or misogyny, and it was Linda Sarsour and other prominent activists, who have managed to introduce the term to the mainstream.
There is still no consensus on when and where and by whom the word “Islamophobia” was first used, but Pascal Bruckner writes, “The aim of this word was to declare Islam inviolate. Whoever crosses this border is deemed a racist. This term, which is worthy of totalitarian propaganda, is deliberately unspecific about whether it refers to a religion, a belief system, or its faithful adherents around the world.” Khaled Lamada, who is currently holding office at the U.S. branch of IR, is a prominent Egyptian-American supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood. His social media account shows the R4BIA symbol and praises the “Jihad” of the “Mujahidin of Egypt” and Hamas because of “the many defeats they have cost Israel.” Lamada posted a video that claims that Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the Egyptian president, is involved in a Jewish conspiracy against the Muslim Brotherhood. Another Islamic Relief U.S. employee, Yousef Abdallah, circulated on Facebook a story that idolizes “martyrs” who provided weapons that went on to “kill more than 20 Jews” and “fire rockets on Tel Aviv.”
No word is uttered about this rampant Islamic anti-Semitism when Linda Sarsour is asked about the issue of hatred of Jews. Instead, she says this:
I think a conversation about anti-Semitism is so critical at this moment […] as we have anti-Semites basically in power in the White House but being really critical about what anti-Semitism actually means, because often times it’s used by the right wing against Palestinians and those who are pro-Palestine to make the overgeneralization [that] because we are pro-Palestine, because we are pro-justice, that must mean that we are anti-Semitic, or, because we’re critics of the state of Israel, that means that we are anti-Semitic.
The myth of Zionist Apartheid
In 2016, when asked about her then recently published book, Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement, political activist Angela Davis remarked, “Palestine represents what, it seems to me, South Africa represented in the 1980s and up until the end of Apartheid,” and “Palestine seems to me that pivot that allows us to enlarge, broaden and extend our consciousness.” During her keynote speech at the Women’s March on Washington, she demanded the end of incarceration of Assata Shakur and Mumia-Abu Jamal, who were—like Davis—members of the Black Panther Party (BPP) and who murdered American policemen. In the 1960s, the Black Panther Party worked with the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). The PLO, until the revisions of its manifesto in 1996 and 1998, called the founding of Israel “illegal,” denied Jews the right to a state of their own, and propagated the Intifada: “Ideological doctrines, whether political, social, or economic, shall not distract the people of Palestine from the primary duty of liberating their homeland. All Palestinians constitute one national front and work with all their feelings and material potentialities to free their homeland.” The BPP also collaborated with the terrorist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) that hijacked planes in 1968, 1970, and 1976 and took almost exclusively Jewish Israelis as hostages while letting everyone else go. Mumia Abu Jamal trivialized these crude acts of anti-Semitism and called Jews the new Nazis and Israel a state of apartheid in a 2002 article titled “Blitzkrieg in Palestine.”
There is no racial segregation in Israel remotely close to that which used to dominate South Africa: Arab Israelis have the same rights as Jews, they have been allowed to passively and actively vote at the Knesset elections for decades, they are partly members of the Knesset, they are part of the government and the supreme court, they work as diplomats, they do not have to serve in the Israeli army (Israeli Defense Forces), and Arabic is one of the two official languages in Israel. Restrictions of the rights of Arab Israelis are security measures which are urgently called for in times when Jewish Israelis are stabbed with knives and run over with cars by Arab Israelis and bombarded by the terrorist organization Hamas. But critics like Sarsour never utter a word about the fact that the surrounding Muslim countries do not support Palestinian refugees via infrastructure or medical treatment and that their governments restrict Palestinian immigration. Mahmud Abbas and Yasser Arafat, leaders of the PLO and the Palestinian region, rejected attempts at a peaceful two-state solution made by the Israeli government in 2000, 2008, and 2014.
Linda Sarsour knows how to switch from empowered and empowering hijabi feminist to victim within an instant whenever she runs out of arguments. At a speech in 2017, she asked arrogantly:
Can somebody remind me of a staunch pro-Israel organization that has come out in support or stood up against the killing of unarmed black people by law enforcement in this country?! If you know, I wanna know who they are, because I don’t see that happening, right?!… The same people that justify the massacres on Palestinian children and civilians in Palestine and call it collateral damage are the same people that will find excuses to justify murder of unarmed people in this country by law enforcement.
What happened shortly afterwards was proof of anti-Semitic resentment outweighing solidarity and empathy with the black people, proof that reminded everyone of the BDS campaign against Soda Stream: When Zionist Jews tried to take part in the New York March for Racial Justice on October 1, 2017, in order to take a stand against racist police violence, they were asked to take down their signs. The signs themselves called for unity of Jews and black people within the movement. The Zionists were then accused of hijacking the demonstration and making Palestinians like Sarsour feel unsafe. In her speech, she later said that she felt scared because of some of the signs she had seen at the demonstration. The argument of fear was also embraced and instrumentalized by queer feminists at the Chicago Dyke March in 2017. An activist was asked to leave the demonstration because of her Star of David/Pride flag.
Sarsour and her allies seem to care about neither universal emancipation nor about maintaining the right of physical integrity of women, homo and bisexuals, trans people and non-Muslims in the Middle East. Sarsour says the following about Israel, the only very liberal country in that area:
Is there room for people who support the state of Israel and do not criticize it in the movement? There can’t be in feminism. You either stand up for the rights of all women, including Palestinians, or none. […] There’s just no way around it. There is no country in this world that is immune to violating human rights. You can’t be a feminist in the United States and stand up for the rights of the American woman and then say that you don’t want to stand up for the rights of Palestinian women in Palestine. It’s all connected. Whether you’re talking about Palestinian women, Mexican women, women in Brazil, China, or women in Saudi Arabia—this feminist movement is an international global movement.
Linda Sarsour, Islamist of the Year 2017
Alongside the title of raging anti-Semite, Linda Sarsour has also very much earned the title of “fake feminist” given to her by the Somalian ex-Muslim women’s right activist and critic of Islam Aayan Hirsi Ali. Hirsi Ali bestowed this title on Sarsour when the organizers of Women’s March wrote on their official website, “We honor and respect tribal laws and jurisdictions.” This position is reminiscent of the aforementioned Farrakhan, who publicly declared his opposition to a revision of homophobic sodomy laws in Central America. Farrakhan accused women of undermining the American family as they made their way into the workforce during and after World War II instead of taking exclusive responsibility for reproduction work and child nurturing at home. Farrakhan also references the Koran when deeming homosexuality a sin and propagates the idea that homosexuals will find themselves in Sodom and Gomorrah after their deaths. Sarsour was first called a “fake feminist” after she tweeted the following about Hirsi Ali, a victim of female genital mutilation: “Brigitte Gabriel=Ayaan Hirsi Ali. She’s asking 4 an a$$ whippin’. I wish I could take their vaginas away—they don’t deserve to be women.” It was also Ali who pointed out that Sarsour had propagated sharia law on Twitter in 2007 and 2015. When asked about the severely patriarchal conditions in Muslim countries, this is Sarsour’s reaction: “There are Muslim countries who have women presidents for God’s sake. In Saudi Arabia - ur boogeyman Islamic state, women r in parliament.” On the same day, she had to say something about the hijab as an instrument of real apartheid, namely the Muslim segregation of the sexes: “FYI - mandated head covering for Muslim women in Saudi Arabia is the LEAST of their worries. Stop making it THE ISSUE. It’s not.”
These statements are overflowing with cultural relativism and factual contradictions, which is ironic, seeing as how the American New Left has for some time accused the Alt-Right movement of being “post-truth.” Saudi women were allowed to vote passively and actively for the first time, and exclusively at the municipal level, in 2015, although some encountered “difficulties proving identity and residency” and there were “only a limited number of registration centers, according to Human Rights Watch.” Saudi women voters were not allowed to speak to male voters and had to use segregated campaign offices. This year, Saudi women will be allowed to drive cars for the first time without a male guardian. Whether or not women will be allowed to walk the streets by themselves was not debated. A side note that has not gained sufficient attention is a 2007 article from Al Arabiya that cites Linda Sarsour: “She, however, will not ask her own daughters to go through an arranged marriage, Linda said. All she wants is for them to choose someone who is Muslim and Arab, and that will be traditional enough.” In that same interview, Sarsour said that arranged marriages do not disturb her because she does not believe in marriages for love, because the arranged form of marriage is Islamic tradition and because her parents as well as her husband agreed to let her go to university. In a Western democracy such as the U.S., Sarsour claims to be in favor of being able to voluntarily decide whether or not to wear a hijab or to accept an arranged marriage, ergo to voluntarily decide whether or not to embrace and partly propagate misogynist traditions.
Universalism versus Umma
On topics like Islam, the New Left has, since its postmodern, identitarian turn, been obliged to listen exclusively to Muslim women who were raised in the West. Since the matter of universal and radical demands (as represented across the globe by the Old Left, by Communist parties, and by Second Wave Feminism) was dropped in favor of particularity, dividing lines have been drawn between men and women, black and white, cis and trans, etc., culminating in theories like intersectionality. Sarsour’s supporters keep forgetting, however, about two terms, the usage of which they otherwise normally love to inflate: privilege and agency. Women in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Iraq, etc. do not have either of them. Sarsour does. For such women, wearing a hijab or marrying a stranger is not a choice, nor is studying at a Western university. The voices of Vida Mohaved (the arrested Iranian protester known as the woman waving her white hijab on a stick), Mina Ahadi (an Austrian-Iranian, ex-Muslim human rights activist), and Aayan Hirsi Ali remain to be silenced by women who—like Sarsour, and the rest of the left—have embraced Islamism.
But why would someone who calls themselves an advocate for social justice embrace misogyny and anti-Semitism? According to the terms of intersectionality theory—a theory that sees only black or white and contrasts “oppressors” on the one hand with “oppressed” on the other hand—Jews have been deemed white and therefore “racists” and “oppressors,” especially when they are Zionists or wealthy. Within the black community of Crown Heights, New York, the tensions of residents feeling “oppressed” by former Jewish tenants and (by that time) Jewish landlords ended in a three-day riot in 1991 after a 25-year-old rabbi accidentally killed a seven-year-old black boy with his car. A 29-year-old Jew was then killed by a group of black teenagers. Nowadays, the American left so passionately supports the Black Lives Matter movement, which, on the one hand, has managed to raise important questions on, and mobilize against, racist police brutality, racial profiling, and many more struggles facing the black community, even as, on the other hand, it has repeatedly made headlines due to the anti-Semitism of some of their participants. Since the left also deems black people, next to Muslim women, the new revolutionary subject simply because of the discrimination they face due to racism, no critical word is uttered about violent acts of anti-Semitism by the black community. Another reason why one cannot find any leftist sources on incidents like the one in Crown Heights or anti-Semitism that associates Jews with money is that the left itself has been acting structurally anti-Semitic. Instead of analyzing matters of class and capitalism as a whole in a Marxist tradition, the left has become a protest against the rich and against major multinational companies. But long before WWII, when the National Socialists divided capital into the productive (“schaffende”) sphere of “honest German labor” and the sphere of finance capital, Jews had been accused of greed. Anti-Semitic resentment will live on as long as capitalism lives on—and this anti-Semitic resentment will also live on within the left. Hence, Jews don’t have agency either, except when anti-Semitism is articulated and acted upon by white supremacists. While the identitarian left keeps using subjective victimhood as a political point of reference instead of striving for radical social change, there is no place for Jews to be seen as victims of discrimination since, in the Manichean view of intersectionality, postcolonialism, and queer feminism, they are almost always seen as “oppressors.”
Within American identity politics there exists a hierarchy of victimization in which American society, through colonialism and slavery, has discriminated against black people the most. Therefore, some parts of the black community see themselves (or have been seen by others) as in competition with the Jewish victims of the unprecedented Holocaust. The fact that Libya is still selling Nigerians as slaves on markets and torturing them does not seem to be a problem for the American left, because—thanks to postcolonialism—only Western countries can be accused of “oppression.” As soon as contradictions arise within this perspective, one simply does not speak of them out loud; and if such contradictory incidences are addressed at all, they are dismissed as “isolated” or explained away as “the results of Western colonialism and racism.”
This also counts when it comes to Muslim women. Yes, Muslim women have to some extent been victims of anti-Muslim racism since 9/11, but, at other times, as in Sarsour’s case, they are Islamists. They are considered to be Non-White and, therefore, “oppressed,” “survivors,” or “heroes” who need to be empowered or who can empower others against “white supremacy.” From a global perspective, however, the oppression from which Muslim women (as well as atheist women and women of other religious backgrounds) suffer most is patriarchal violence and that violence must be named, analyzed, and fought, no matter where it presents itself. The Left keeps contradicting itself when it comes to human rights. It considers it racist to say that patriarchy is worse in Iran than it is in the West, that patriarchy takes on other shapes and forms than it does in the West.
The Left can surely carry on calling Trump the only “oppressor” and worshipping Muslim women as the new revolutionary subject. The Left can surely carry on fighting wars for LGBTIQs and women without demanding radical structural change. But this is exactly one of the reasons why the Left is dead: Everything that the Left used to fight for—universal human rights and a society in which everyone can be different without living in fear (whether of capitalism or of patriarchy)—has eroded into a self-contradictory identity politics. |P
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