The Women’s March on Washington launched Linda Sarsour to activist stardom. In her recent memoir, We Are Not Here to Be Bystanders: A Memoir of Love and Resistance, Sarsour recounts events from her life leading up to the Women’s March.
From the very beginning of the book, Sarsour tries to portray herself as someone taking over the mantle of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. The book’s forward by singer, actor and activist Harry Belefonte makes the comparison almost immediately.
Sarsour starts by recounting the story of a well-known controversy over remarks she made at the 54th ISNA Convention. Her speech was widely criticized over her use of the term “jihad” to describe opposition to President Trump and his administration.
She points out some of the unhinged responses to her comments, some of which were disgustingly vile and violent. Yet, Sarsour is under the impression that these comments absolve her from criticism.
This sleight of hand is found throughout the book. In this case, Sarsour uses the comments to paint what she is doing as innocent and expects people look the other way when she says something extreme.
Like how she used these comments to deflect from the real controversy at that event: Her praise of her “favorite person in this room,” radical imam Siraj Wahhaj, who she described as her “mentor, motivator, and encourager.”
Siraj Wahhaj appeared on a list of unindicted co-conspirators in the 1993 World Trade Center bombings and served as a character witness for the “Blind Sheikh,” Omar Abdel-Rahman, who was found guilty of masterminding terrorist plots against the United States, including his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
Sarsour then proceeds to delve into several anecdotal stories from her life, such as convincing her siblings to do all the house chores and visiting her grandparents and attending weddings in the Israeli West Bank town of El Bireh as a young girl.
Sarsour recounts the dangerous nature of her high school, recalling “so many rival gangs inside my school – the Crips, the Bloods, the Latin Kings, the Papi Chulos” and how she would “occasionally hear about a kid getting knifed in the stairwell.”
Yet, on the very next page, she criticizes the police presence at the school, claiming their very presence “escalates the criminalization of students.”
Sarsour’s book is filled with a mix of anecdotal stories from her life along with poorly sourced political observations.
In one instance, she proudly recounts how she threatened to dox a young Palestinian man because he was allegedly a spy for a law enforcement agency.
In another, she describes how she met fellow Women’s March organizers Tamika Mallory and Carmen Perez, describing them as the “unbreakable social justice Voltron.”
She recounts that no one actually introduced Mallory and Perez to her, but rather the three of them just always ended up being at the same protests. Their relationship was solidified in 2014, when they organized a march from New York to Washington, D.C. following the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown.
She evokes a lot of Martin Luther King, Jr./marching in Selma protest imagery, but doesn’t seem to see the disparity between her vivid imagination and the reality of her group of marchers spending one of their evenings in a mosque run by the Nation of Islam, an organization led by hate preacher Louis Farrakhan, who calls Jews “satanic” and compares them to termites.
Sarsour describes Michael Brown’s death as a “noonday execution” and the reiterates a witness report of Brown having his hands up and yelling “don’t shoot.”
Yet the notes at the end of the book only cite one source for information on the events surrounding Brown’s death. It has long been known that the “hands up, don’t shoot” narrative of those events was a lie, yet she still uses this event to create her false narrative.
These false narratives run throughout her book. While serving as a surrogate for the Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign in 2015, she recounts that, unlike Sanders, other political candidates see Muslims as a political liability.
As proof, she cites Hillary Clinton returning $51,000 in contributions during her 2000 New York senate campaign from two Muslim groups. Yet, even the The New York Times article Sarsour cites as the source for this information notes that the two groups — American Muslim Alliance and the American Muslim Council — had problematic histories of anti-Semitism and openly praised the terrorist group Hamas.
Sarsour either never read the article she cited, or she sees no reason to bring up these inconvenient facts.
Sarsour has long been accused of being an anti-Semite herself. Her blatant support of the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) movement, as well as other incendiary comments certainly point this way.
Yet, Sarsour deflects these accusations as nothing more than a defamation campaign against her. “I was anti-Semitic because I advocated for the human rights of Palestinians,” she writes.
This is laughable considering her history of engaging in bigotry against Jews. Here are just a few examples. In the past, Sarsour has
- Claimed “Israel is built on the idea that Jews are supreme to everyone else”
- Playfully joked with anti-Semitic, Hezbollah supporter, Abbas Hamideh about the Jewish people’s connection to Israel
@Resistance48 hey, hey leave Brooklyn out of this.
— Linda Sarsour (@lsarsour) April 5, 2013
- Engaged, along with her fellow Women’s March co-founders, in a warm relationship with Nation of Islam and its anti-Semitic leader, Louis Farrakhan
- Spoke at a Nation of Islam event, where she attacked Israel
- Accused the “Jewish media” of ruining her reputation and claimed that Farrakhan was not an “existential threat to the Jewish community”
- Posted a link to an article that accused the Jewish community of waging a “profound war on black people”
- Urged Muslims not to make the mistake of “humanizing” Israelis
None of these are examples of Palestinian human rights advocacy.
We Are Not Here to Be Bystanders is an excellent book if you want to see Sarsour topple straw men. Otherwise, it is the memoir of a delusional bigot that thinks she’s the next Martin Luther King, Jr.