Linda Sarsour

From KeyWiki
Jump to: navigation, search
Linda Sarsour

Linda Sarsour the daughter of a Palestinian immigrant, has helped to partly dismantle the New York Police Department’s program of spying on the city’s Muslims and has worked with officials in City Hall to close public schools for the observance of two of Islam’s most important holy days, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. From her base at the Arab American Association of New York, the nonprofit group in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, where she is the executive director, Ms. Sarsour has taken on such issues as immigration policy, voter registration, mass incarceration, Islamophobia and the Police Department’s stop-and-frisk tactic. She has emerged in the last few years not only as one of the city’s, and the country’s, most vocal young Muslim-American advocates, but also as a potential — and rare Arab-American — candidate for office.[1]


“My first memory of her was of her talking about how much she loved Brooklyn,” said Mustafa Abdullah, an organizer with the St. Louis chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, who met Ms. Sarsour when she flew to Ferguson, Mo., after Michael Brown was killed a year ago. “She came right up to me and said, ‘My name’s Linda. I’m from Brooklyn. Don’t mess with Brooklyn.’ That stuck with me.”

“She’s basically filled the void left by people like myself and other Muslim leaders who are also activists but don’t have the luxury of time to appear on a 10 a.m. CNN show,” said Debbie Almontaser, a New York educator and the board president of the Muslim Community Network. Ms. Almontaser added that modesty — “thinking as a collective, always volunteering others before oneself” — is a core Islamic value.

“That sort of ingrained humility,” she said, “is not exactly a part of who Linda is.”

Sarsour's in Sunset Park, the western Brooklyn neighborhood where she was raised by Palestinian immigrant parents as the oldest of seven children, five girls and two boys. Because her father worked six days a week at his corner store in Crown Heights — named, for reasons of family pride and locational shrewdness, Linda Sarsour’s Spanish-American Food Center — she grew up helping her mother babysit and shop while she attended John Jay High School and Arab-language and history classes.

At 17, she wed in an arranged marriage. At 19, she had her first child, a boy. (She and her husband now have three children: The boy, Tamir, is 16; two daughters, Sabreen and Sajida, are 14 and 11.) After taking classes at Brooklyn College and Kingsborough Community College, she planned to be a high school English teacher. But shortly before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, one of her father’s cousins, Basemah Atweh, asked her to come work as an organizer at the Arab American Association of New York, which Ms. Atweh had just founded with a local obstetrician, Dr. Ahmad Jaber (who happened to have delivered Ms. Sarsour).

After the attacks, the association was transformed, turning, as Ms. Sarsour put it, from “a bunch of rich Arabs who wanted to help poor Arabs into ‘What is going on here?’ ” It was a time when law enforcement officers were descending on New York’s Muslim neighborhoods, particularly Bay Ridge.

The first person who sought Ms. Sarsour’s help was a Moroccan woman who appeared one day with her 4-year-old son, saying: “They took my husband. I haven’t seen him in four days.”

Ms. Sarsour called around to lawyers for assistance, she said, eventually finding the man, who, she recalled, had been detained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in a case of mistaken identity.

It is still uncommon among Muslims, even in New York, for women to take a leading role in political activities. Ms. Atweh, for instance, joined forces with a group of wealthier, more visibly powerful men to found the Arab American Association of New York. By her own admission, Ms. Sarsour, too, has struggled with this untraditional role. She said she had an arrangement with her husband that allowed her to pursue her work as long as he remained anonymously in the background.

“It’s one of the tensions in my life,” she said. “There are plenty of Muslim women who are backbones of the community, but they aren’t usually at the forefront. There just aren’t a lot of me out there — women in hijabs, doing what I do.”

Another tension is religion itself. Ms. Sarsour said she prayed often but did not regularly attend a mosque unless she was organizing.

“She’s candid about not being quote-unquote particularly religious,” said Imam Talib Abdur-Rashid, the leader of the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood in Harlem and one of Ms. Sarsour’s mentors. “But the ideals she holds about the sacredness of life and about social justice go to the core of religious practice.”

In 2005, Ms. Sarsour and Ms. Atweh were returning from the gala opening of the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, when a tractor-trailer accidentally ran their car off the road. Ms. Atweh died in the crash and two other passengers sustained broken bones and snapped vertebrae. Ms. Sarsour, who was driving, had only minor cuts on one hand. When, shortly after, she was named to succeed Ms. Atweh as executive director of the association, she said she felt as though she were “fulfilling the prophecy of a woman of little means who wanted to create an institute for people like herself who didn’t really have anywhere else to go.”

While remaining true to Ms. Atweh’s vision, Ms. Sarsour broadened the scope of the organization’s mission over the next several years. Part of this occurred in 2011, when The Associated Press published a series of articles about how the Police Department had established sophisticated surveillance operations in the city’s Muslim neighborhoods. Ms. Sarsour’s fight against police incursions in her own community awakened her to similar problems in others. Joining a group called Communities United for Police Reform, a coalition that includes the Legal Aid Society and the New York Civil Liberties Union, she worked toward the passage, over the objections of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, of what is known as the Community Safety Act, which created an independent inspector general to review police policy and which expanded the definition of bias-based profiling.[2]

"Champion of Change"==


In 2012, Linda Sarsour was a White House "Champion of Change".

Islamic Scholarship Fund

Linda Sarsour (far left) advertisement for 2016 annual ISF Annual Bay Area Banquet
Linda Sarsour spoke at 2016 annual ISF Annual Bay Area Banquet sponsored by the Islamic Scholarship Fund.[3] Political Science Assistant Professor Dr. Dalia Fahmy and politician Rashida Tlaib also spoke at the event.



Linda Sarsour is a regular speaker at Council on American Islamic Relations events.

Black Lives Matter

Linda Sarsour is deeply involved in the Black Lives Matter movement, having helped to organize an April march from New York to Washington led by a group called Justice League NYC — an offshoot of Harry Belafonte’s Gathering for Justice — to honor Eric Garner, Akai Gurley and other black men killed by the police. More recently, as part of a project she calls Respond With Love, she has raised more than $100,000 to help rebuild black churches that burned down, some by arson, after the church massacre in Charleston, S.C.

When Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson. “I was sitting here in Brooklyn,” Ms. Sarsour said, “and heard he’d gotten shot and was lying in the street for four and a half hours. I was like, ‘Wait a minute. This happened in the United States of America? You hear about that happening in Palestine.’ ”

Two days later, she called Mr. Abdullah, the A.C.L.U. organizer in St. Louis.

“Linda’s first question was: ‘Mustafa, where is the Muslim community on this?’ ” Mr. Abdullah recalled. “It was actually a call to conscience, a prophetic question.”

And, he added, it was a question that led to the formation of a group called Muslims for Ferguson, which eventually held a series of national conference calls encouraging Muslims to engage in conversations about police practices. When Ms. Sarsour traveled to Ferguson in October, two months after Mr. Brown was killed, she met many of the city’s black residents, some of whom, she said, had never seen a woman wearing a hijab before.

“When you look at the Muslim community and its relationship with the police, it’s very similar to the black community’s relationship,” said Tamika Mallory, a former top aide to the Rev. Al Sharpton who works with Justice League NYC and other groups. “It’s all about finding common ground. It’s like Linda says, ‘I’m gonna help y’all get your people straight and I expect you to come help me get mine straight.’ ”

Linda Sarsour helped to organize events like December’s shutdown of the Barclays Center in Brooklyn after a grand jury did not indict the white officer in the case involving Mr. Garner, she acknowledges that she has encountered resistance from some Arab Muslims who feel that she should save her energy for helping her own kind.

“There are people who disavow her work because they think it’s not enough in the community,” said Zead Ramadan, a former board chairman of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in New York. “The older, more conservative faction will say, ‘Oh, she’s too liberal,’ or, ‘That’s not how a Muslim woman should act.’ But if there’s anyone who clearly represents the religion and who can make it into a political seat in New York, it’s Linda.”[4]

Twitter event

The official autopsy report for Michael Brown came out on October 22 — the same day the Coalition to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation has observed a National Day of Protest since 1996. To mark this important day, hundreds of Muslims took to Twitter to show their solidarity using the hashtag #Muslims4Ferguson.

Organized by the Muslims for Ferguson Facebook group, which launched on August 21, the Twitter event invited Muslims everywhere to join in conversation with Imam Omar Suleiman, Imam Dawud Walid, Imam Suhaib Webb and civil rights activists Linda Sarsour and Mustafa Abdullah.

The group wrote on its Facebook page:

Too many lives have been lost in communities of color because of the criminalization of black and brown bodies — who are being killed and imprisoned and abused because of their dark skin...

We are coming together to say no more Mike Browns, no more John Crawfords, no more Ramarley Grahams, no more Eric Garners, no more Renisha McBrides, no more Trayvon Martins. As Eric Garner said before he was murdered, “It ends today.”[5]

Terror ties

Linda Sarsour, the head of the Arab American Association of New York and an Obama White House “Champion of Change,” was speaking at December 2016 15th annual convention of the Muslim American Society and Islamic Circle of North America.

While there, she posed for a picture with Salah Sarsour, a member of the Islamic Society of Milwaukee and former Hamas operative who was jailed in Israel in the 1990s because of his alleged work for the terrorist group.

Salah Sarsour, who is also a board member of American Muslims for Palestine, served as a bodyguard of sorts at the convention for Sumeyye Erdogan Bayraktar, the daughter of Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Linda Sarsour is related to alleged Hamas operatives. Though she avoids discussing it now, Sarsour has acknowledged in past interviews that she has cousins serving prison time in Israel because of their work for Hamas. Sarsour has denied having any contact with the terror group. She told The New York Times in 2012 that she would not have been appointed an Obama “Champion of Change” if she had.

The activist has risen to national attention recently. She served as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention.[6]

Muslim Democratic Club

At the Larry Lawrence Bar in Williamsburg, where the Muslim Democratic Club was being honored, the nerdy-cool crowd was tipsy. The event was being held by the New Kings Democrats, a multiethnic collection of young progressives.

Arriving just as her club mates had given up hope of her appearing, Ms. Sarsour, tracked down the club’s co-founder Ali Najmi, a Queens lawyer running as a Democrat for City Council this year, stood beside him as a New Kings official handed them a plaque, and then dashed out again, bumping into Councilman Antonio Reynoso on the sidewalk — “Linda!” he shouted with an air kiss — before running into a waiting car. Ms. Sarsour has spoken openly about her own desire to run for the City Council — at some point. She has even mapped out her potential competition, Justin Brannan, an aide to Councilman Vincent J. Gentile, who has served the Bay Ridge area on the Council since 2003 and is coming up against the term limits law.

There are currently no Arab-Muslim elected officials in New York, but not long ago the Muslim Democratic Club ran a list of common Muslim surnames through a voter-registration database and found that there were quite likely more than 100,000 Muslim voters in the city.

Muslim-Americans have slowly gained footholds in various nodes of power in the city. The City Council speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito, employs a staff member, Faiza Ali, as Muslim liaison. Ibrahim Khan, chief of staff to Letitia James, the public advocate, has done similar outreach work. And this summer, Mayor Bill de Blasio named Sarah Sayeed as a senior adviser to the city’s Community Affairs Unit, where she focuses on issues of concern to Muslims.

Ms. Sarsour said that if she did decide to seek office, it would probably be as part of a coalition of progressive candidates. “The community is there,” she said. “But we just haven’t found the inspiration yet to become politically engaged.”

Beyond that, Ms. Sarsour’s oft-stated ambition is to serve as the first mayor of an independent Brooklyn. This is a position, she said, that she would have to work toward by first becoming Brooklyn borough president and then accomplishing the tricky business of getting Kings County to secede from the rest of New York.[7]

Confidential memo


A memo detailing the creation and agenda of the National Muslim Democratic Council that is marked "CONFIDENTIAL; NOT FOR PUBLIC DISTRIBUTION" was leaked. In the section marked "2012 election strategy" the group specifically spelled out detailed plans to support the Democrats and target Republicans in "key races where American Muslims can make a difference."

According to the document, these races included:

  • Defeating Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., in his race against Patrick Murphy, D-Fla.;
  • Supporting former Gov. Tim Kaine, D-Va., in his race against former Sen. George Allen, R-Va., in the race for Virginia's vacant Senate seat;
  • Supporting Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., in her bid for re-election against former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich.;
  • And, supporting Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, in her bid to capture the state's 3rd congressional district.

The confidential NMDC document was signed by several known Islamists such Jamiah Adams, Jihad Williams, Zeba Iqbal, Assad Akhter, Mazen Asbahi, CAIR's Basim Elkarra; and Linda Sarsour of the Arab American Association of New York.

9 day march

April 20, 2015, Linda Sarsour (Co-Founder of Muslims for Ferguson) and fellow marchers finished their 9 day march from New York City to D.C., where they will soon deliver a "justice package" demanding police accountability, an end to racial profiling and police militarization, and much more. They finished their 250 mile march but the struggle has just begun. As Linda said: "Many more journeys towards Justice to complete. We will travel as far as needed until our people are free."

Call for Justice

Call for Justice: Joint Letter on American Muslim Solidarity Against Police Brutality, January 26, 2015;

We are contacting you on behalf of the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative (MuslimARC)(1) and Muslims for Ferguson(2) to ask for your solidarity in the struggle and call for justice concerning the tragic and unnecessary police and federal law enforcement killings of Black men, women, and children in the United States.

From the time of our Noble Prophet ﷺ‎, anti-Black and anti-African racism has plagued Muslim societies and communities. The first martyr in the early days of Islam was Sumayyah (RA), who had black skin and was a victim of violence at the hands of the governing authorities of Makkah. Other companions with black skin, such as Ammar bin Yassir (RA) and Bilal (RA), were also victims of ridicule and torture by the same authorities. State violence against marginalized communities is not a new development. History has proven time and again that Muslims are not immune to these forms of oppression.

Indeed, these oppressive behaviors and practices go against the messages that are at the heart of our Holy Qur’an and Prophetic traditions.

Signatories included Linda Sarsour.

Dream Defenders Advisory Board

As of 2016;

Abuznaid connection

Linda Sarsour , Ahmad Abuznaid

The People's Summit

The People's Summit was held in Chicago, Illinois in June 17-19, 2016. Speakers included Linda Sarsour, Executive Director of MPOWER Change/Racial Justice and Civil Rights Activist.

Endorsed Pramila Jayapal

Linda Sarsour - Executive Director, Arab American Association of New York endorsed Pramila Jayapal in 2016.


#Our100 was set up in New York City, right after the 2016 election. Following the election of Republican Donald Trump to the White House, women of color in New York City are joining together over the next four days in solidarity against misogyny, racism, Islamophobia, and anti-immigrant sentiments.

This action builds on October’s #GOPHandsOffMe protests, when women of color and survivors took to the streets and made videos in response to the tape in which the president-elect could be heard through a hot mic speaking about sexually assaulting women.

“Women of color-led coalitions are coming together in the first 100 hours after electing a new president to support an agenda for Black lives, immigrants, Muslims, Latinas … against rape culture and a sexist, racist, xenophobic policy,” said Agunda Okeyo, an activist, organizer, and African immigrant in the city who told Rewire in a phone interview that Trump is “a danger to democracy.”

Thousands will mobilize nationwide to tell the country that the leadership of women of color will not end at the ballot box. These first 100 hours are the kickoff to demand accountability from all holders of public office and to spread an anti-hate agenda that includes a vision for Black lives, common sense immigration reform, and an end to rape culture, according to the release.

A press conference by women of color leaders was held in Manhattan November 9. Speakers included My Muslim Vote’s Linda Sarsour, Demos President Heather McGhee, Movement for Black Lives co-founder Thenjiwe Tameika McHarris, Black Lives Matter co-founder Opal Tometi, and Demos Vice President Jodeen Olguin-Tayler, as well as survivors of sexual assault and immigrant rights leaders.

Leaders representing Black Lives Matter, Demos, Forward Together, and the National Domestic Workers Alliance worked together in the week leading up to the election to raise the national profile of women-led organizing. Those efforts culminated in the #Our100 pledge and a wave of actions nationwide.

“We have a lot more work to do, to build the America we deserve. But we are strong, determined, and we are just getting started,” said Alicia Garza, co-founder of Black Lives Matter and one of the organizers of this action.

Viviana Bernal of Demos and the #GOPHandsOffMe campaign told Rewire she is participating to end the culture of violence, rape culture, and sexual assault that many women have spoken up against since the Trump tapes went public.

“We believe Donald Trump basically admitted to sexual assault. Women of color and sexual assault victims felt triggered,” Bernal said during a phone interview. “He has been saying really racist, sexist things all along. It is only when his comments violated the rights of white women that it led to public outcry.”

The women of color participating in the campaign are outraged at all his vitriolic statements against marginalized populations and want to “center our voices and speak out,” she added.

“This election was a referendum on the politics of hate and division. We have a long way to go,” said Ai-jen Poo, executive director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance.

In conjunction with the launch of #Our100, the leaders will release polling data from Celinda Lake about women of color voters and an open letter to the nation to be published in major national publications this week.

“Our work did not start, and it will not end at the ballot box,” said Olguín-Tayler, a survivor of sexual assault, in a statement. “We are women who lead organizations, work in Hollywood, teach in our universities, women who are ordained faith leaders, who run large businesses; women who are mothers, who take care of our land and our elders. We came together across our differences to write this letter to our fellow Americans because we know we can, and must, do better. We need a nation that does right by women. Because when women of color are doing well, when Black and Muslim and Indigenous women in particular are doing well—this whole country will be well.”

“We stand determined to hold the vision of a just, inclusive America worthy of ALL of her people,” McGhee said in the release. “No longer can anybody sit on the sidelines. This election will be the last stand of the past, and tomorrow is already being born.”

Livefreesotu watch party


Michael McBride, January 14, 2016;

Deeply grateful to all our amazing friends who joined our #livefreesotu watch party & discussion. It was a small cross section of the diversity in our faith & liberation movements but the conversation was rich, challenging, nuanced & unfiltered. Hopefully this will be the first of many conversations and inspire the rich and diverse voices across the country to create our own narrative, content & s... — with Rahiel Tesfamariam, Barack Obama, Osagyefo Sekou, Gabriel Salguero, Alexie Torres-Fleming, Davey D. Cook, Onleilove Alston, Dante Barry, Tory Russell, Dara Silverman, Traci Blackmon, Ify Ike, Steve Phillips, Rosa Clemente, Bakari Kitwana and Linda Sarsour.

2016 Annual ISF Annual Bay Area Banquet

Linda Sarsour spoke at 2016 annual Islamic Scholarship Fund Annual Bay Area Banquet.[9] Political Science Assistant Professor Dr. Dalia Fahmy and politician Rashida Tlaib also spoke at the event.

Standing Rock


Linda Sarsour visited the Dakota Access Pipeline protest. Pictured here with Judith LeBlanc.

Facing Race conference


The Facing Race conference participants gathered just days after the conclusion of the most contentious election season in decades, November 10-12, 2016 — Atlanta, Georgia.

Both major parties exposed their deep splinters, Trumpism became the new normal and many politicians were forced to deal with issues that communities of color raised to national prominence. In Facing Race's closing plenary on November 12, racial justice leaders speak to the challenges of governance before us, and how the movement can position itself to make the most of the next four years.[10]

These are the activists and thought leaders featured in "Where Do We Go From Here?" listed in alphabetical order:

Women's March

Co-chairs of the Women's March organized anti-Trump protest scheduled on the day after President Donald Trump's inauguration, January 21, 2017 were;

Anti "Muslim ban" rally

After 17 people were detained without charges this morning in John F. Kennedy Airport, protesters and elected officials gathered in Battery Park to speak against President Donald Trump’s slew of executive orders banning immigrants from seven Muslim majority countries and halting the entry of refugees into the country.

The New York Immigration Coalition, Make The Road New York, the National Immigration Law Center and several other New York-based organizations coordinated the rally, and over 10,000 supporters attended.

Among the speakers were Senators Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer, Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, Mayor Bill de Blasio, activist Linda Sarsour and U.S. Representative Jerry Nadler. Many elected officials were also present at the rally in Washington Square Park on Wednesday, which promoted a similar message of open borders with the hashtag #NoBanNoWall.

Addressing the crowd, Schumer said that the protests in JFK contributed to the fight against Trump’s recent executive orders regarding immigration.

“Because of your actions, he [Secretary John F. Kelly] promised me that the 42 who are detained and under court order to be released, will be released to the United States and to freedom shortly,” Schumer said during his speech. “So we’ve made progress for 42 — we have to make progress for thousands and tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands more.”

Sana Mayat is the NYU’s Muslim Student Association vice president, and she expressed surprise and pride to see the number of non-Muslims that showed up at the rally.

“People are saying that an attack on one is an attack on everyone, not just an issue that is limited to one group,” Mayat said. “It is really impactful and it gives me a lot of hope.”

CAS freshman Claudia Franke attended the protest and said that the message of Sunday’s rally particularly resonated with her, since she has family members living in the U.S. with green cards. [11]

"Countering Islamophobia"

July 24, 2016, CAIR - Philadelphia, American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) and Jewish Voice for Peace hosted a town hall meeting on "Countering Islamophobia."

Speakers at the town hall meeting included Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN); CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad; Linda Sarsour, executive director of the Arab American Association of New York; Kameelah M. Rashad, Muslim chaplain at UPENN; Raed Jarrar, government relations manager at American Friends Service Committee (AFSC); Donna Nevel of the Network Against Islamophobia, Jewish Voice for Peace; and Rev. Dr. David D. Grafton of Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.[12]



Linda Sarsour joined Democratic Socialists of America circa November 2017.



On November 5 2017 Democratic Socialists of America member Linda Sarsour addressed a CAIR-Alabama annual benefit event in Birmingham.

Women's convention

Women’s March announced that U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) will open the Women’s Convention’s Friday evening program, which will take place in Detroit from Friday, October 27 to Sunday, October 29 2017.

Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-MI), Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Wendy Carrillo, and [Erica Ford] will also join the roster of over 60 women speakers, femmes, and allies of all backgrounds who will join thousands for a weekend of workshops, strategy sessions, inspiring forums and intersectional movement building. The theme of the Convention, “Reclaiming Our Time,” will honor U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), who will be headlining the Convention on Saturday evening.

“It was amazing to be part of the Women’s Marches and witness democracy in action...I fully expect to see that same turnout, passion and energy here in Detroit, and I look forward to speaking with women leaders from across the country,” said Senator Debbie Stabenow.

The growing list of speakers include: Angela Rye, Amber Tamblyn, Symone Sanders, Piper Perabo, Sally Kohn, Nomiki Konst, Leah Greenberg, Lilliana Reyes, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Rebecca Cokley, Nina Turner, Stephanie Schriock, Ai-jen Poo, Aida Hurtado, Lenore Anderson, Stephanie Chang, Raquel Castaneda Lopez, Melissa Mark-Viverito, Sarah Eagle Heart, Rashida Tlaib, Brittany Packnett, Winnie Wong, Stosh Cotler, and the Women’s March co-chairs Bob Bland, Carmen Perez, Linda Sarsour and Tamika Mallory.[13]