Linda Sarsour’s Toxic Approach to Racism

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Linda Sarsour speaks at a "Women for Syria" rally in NY.
Linda Sarsour speaks at a “Women for Syria” rally in NY. (Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Clarion has written before about the dangers of partisanship for the debate on Islamism.

Partisan politicians often use Islamism as a wedge issue to get you to sign up for other issues that you might not support, like increasing the military budget (if you’re Republican), or by framing it as part of a broader conflict about white supremacy (if you’re Democrat).

Perhaps more pernicious is how partisanship is used to prevent decent people (who actually agree with each other on almost everything) from working with each other by bringing in issues that are totally unrelated.

We see this all the time. Right now, Islamist apologist Linda Sarsour is attempting to get the Anti-Defamation League expelled from the coalition advising Starbucks on racial sensitivity training that they are conducting in the wake of their recent scandal. (A manager at a branch of the coffee conglomerate called the cops to kick out two black men for not ordering anything while waiting for their friend. Since the incident, Starbucks declared a day of racial sensitivity training for its staff and partnered with several NGOs to help, including the ADL.)

But Sarsour was having none of it, and is now attacking Starbucks for having the ADL involved.

Is it because she objects to something the ADL has done over its 100 years of service at the forefront of campaigning against discrimination in the United States?

No. It’s because ADL is unapologetically Zionist.

She blasted Starbucks on Facebook, accusing the ADL of being an “anti-Arab, anti-Palestinian organization that peddles islamophobia and attacks America’s prominent Muslim orgs and activists and supports/sponsors US law enforcement agents to travel and get trained by Israeli military.”

Sarsour has taken the issue of racism and tacked it onto her her support of Palestinians. She then uses her influence in the public sphere to denigrate an anti-discrimination organization because it is Zionist. She, like many Islamists, uses racism as a wedge issue in her campaign against “Islamophobia” as well as Israel.

Of course, the controversy she has stirred up against the ADL has now taken away valuable air time from the real issue — a discussion about race relations in America. Sarsour famously did the same thing with feminism last year when she declared that Zionism and feminism were incompatible. “Is there room for people who support the State of Israel and do not criticize it in the movement? That can’t be in feminism,” she said.

Islamists need to be called out for their toxic and exclusionary approach, especially when considering the benefits of taking a single issue (in this case racism) and tackling it as one thing.

With a focus on a single issue, a coalition can be built with a far broader range of people, thus being more effective in rallying around a specific call to action. This avoids alienating potential allies by having irrelevant “litmus tests.”

And by focusing on one goal rather than a more nebulous cause like “fighting injustice,” you are much more likely to actually achieve it.



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Elliot Friedland

Elliot Friedland is a research fellow at Clarion Project.

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