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Opinion: Why American Muslims should support Linda Sarsour

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Salaam alaykum everyone.  While I was on Facebook yesterday, someone had shared on article titled: Fake Activist Exposed – The Real Linda Sarsour.  I had immediately recognized Sarsour from her debate with known Islamophobe Brigitte Gabriel on CNN.  I have also seen her Youtube video about Ramadan.

The article was very inflammatory.  It was written by a group named Ikhras which means ‘Shut up’ in Arabic.  Their stated goal on their website is to expose any American Muslim that they feel is part of the mainstream political system in America.  They feel that any cooperation with the American political system is tantamount to being a Zionist and pro-Israel.

In the article they accused Sarsour of being a Zionist and not doing enough to support Palestine even though she is ethnically Palestinian.  They believe that she does not take a harsh enough staff because she only supports the end of the occupation of Palestinian territories and not the end of Israel.  As a result, they view her as a hypocrite.

Pragmatically it doesn’t make sense to say that Israel should stop being a country.  They are already there with an economy and a military.  They are not going anywhere.  Due to their small stature, they have created a military designed to win short wars.  They cannot afford long drawn out wars due to their small numbers.

So to me it makes sense that Sarsour should call to the end of the Israeli illegal occupation of Palestine.  The UN and most nation-states acknowledge Palestinian right to exist. Israel says that Palestine failed to exist as a nation previous to 1938, but there is currency from as early as 1914 that I have seen.  Also Shakespeare himself makes references to Palestine in his works.  How is this possible if they were not a nation before?

I can see where they can argue where she speaks out against the Greater-Israel plan.  This is a plan that is very much spoken about in the Arab world.  It is the belief that Israel wants to take all of the land from Egypt all the way to Iraq.  They want to control the Golan Heights also because it is the main freshwater source of the region.

There were also accusations that Sarsour does not fast.  I do not know but it is not for me to say.  It is forbidden to backbite in Islam.  This is what is known as Gheeba and is considered one of Islam’s major sins.  There are many ayats of the Qur’an as well as Hadiths that warn against Gheeba.  Including:

“Why do not the believing men and women, whenever such [a rumour] is heard, think the best of one another and say, “This is an obvious falsehood”? … When you take it up with your tongues, uttering with your mouths something of which you have no knowledge, you deem it a light matter. Whereas in the sight of God it is an awful thing!” (Quran 24: 12-15).

“O you who believe! Let not some men among you laugh at others; it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former). Nor let some women laugh at others; it may be that the (latter are better than the (former). Nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames. Ill-seeming is a name connoting wickedness, (to be used of one) after he has believed. And those who do not desist are (indeed) doing wrong.

Oh you who believe! Avoid suspicion as much (as possible), for suspicion in some cases is a sin. And spy not on each other behind their backs. Would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? No, you would abhor it…But fear Allah. For Allah is Oft-Returning, Most Merciful” (Quran 49:11-12).”

If you think about this last ayat, the word Gheeba is very descriptive in that it is back-biting.  Why do you bite?  To eat.  So the connotation is that of cannibalism and the Qur’an is explicit about how backbiting is like eating the flesh of your brother.  In other words, cannibalism.

There is also a famous Hadith about backbiting as well.  The Prophet Muhammad PBUH was sitting with his companions when he asked them, “Do you know what backbiting is?” They replied, “Allah and His Messenger know best.” He continued, “Saying something about your brother that he dislikes.” Someone then asked, “What if what I say about my brother is true?” The Prophet Muhammad responded: “If what you say is true then you have backbitten about him, and if it is not true, then you have slandered him.”

There were many other accusations made against Sarsour.  I do not know if they are true or not and I do not care if they are true or not.  I personally care about my relationship with Allah because I must account for my own actions and not hers.  I do know upon researching here that she has been very committed to helping the Muslim Ummah.  She has also helped organize some Black Lives Matters events.

I do know that Sarsour is currently featured on the White House’s website where they refer to her as a, “Champion of Change”.  Sarsour is the Advocacy and Civic Engagement Coordinator for the National Network for Arab American Communities (NNAAC), a network of 22 Arab American organizations in 11 states including the District of Columbia, nationwide where she conducts trainings nationally on the importance of civic engagement in the Arab and Muslim American community. She also serves as the Director of the Arab American Association of New York, a social service agency serving the Arab community in NYC. Anyone who is featured on the White House’s website as a Champion of Change must be doing something right.  This is in a climate where there has been increasing intolerance towards American Muslims especially against Muslim women that decide to wear their hijab.  Sarsour is a hijabi.

Obviously nobody is perfect.  People are not always going to make decisions that everyone agrees with.  This is the life.  However, we must acknowledge and appreciate Sarsour’s efforts to help America become more hospitable for American Muslims that are suffering as a result of Increased Islamophobia due to the rise of Donald Trump and the Extreme Right.

I believe that more Muslims should follow her example and become politically involved within their communities.  With the rise of politicians such as Trump who says Muslims should be entered into a registration system; as well as Newt Gingrich who says that there should be a political test for American Muslims. Gingrich says that if Muslims in American believe in Sharia that they should be deported even if they were born in America.  He is failing to understand that this is a system that encompasses self-control.  This is the climate that we are facing now.  This is just the tip of the iceberg.  If we do not get involved politically now, we might not ever get the chance.

As an American Muslim I would like to say that I am proud of Linda Sarsour and the work that she has done to better the lives of Muslims living in America.  I just wish that the groups that she represents were more inclusive in their titles.  It makes it seem as if they are only for Arabs and they are just one part in the most diverse Muslim population in the world, the American Muslim population.

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Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at [email protected]