Book Review of Linda Sarsour's We Are Not Here to Be Bystanders: A Memoir of Love and Resistance
Introduction What Is Your Jihad?:
I shared this story when I gave a keynote address at the Islamic Society of North America’s fifty-fourth annual convention in Chicago in July 2017. After recounting for the audience the words of our beloved Prophet (may peace be upon him), I went on to observe that in standing against oppression in our communities, “we are struggling against tyrants and rulers not only abroad in the Middle East or on the other side of the world, but here in these United States of America, where you have fascists and white supremacists and Islamophobes reigning in the White House.”
You have to look at the video to see exactly what she said [starts at 8:45]:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/mor ... ive-wrath/
In her book she gives a fair description of what she said:
In one of my favorite stories from the Hadith, a man asks the beloved Prophet Muhammad: “What is the best form of jihad?” I have always loved the Prophet’s answer: “A word of truth in front of a tyrant ruler or leader, that is the best form of jihad. I shared this story when I gave a keynote address at the Islamic Society of North America’s fifty-fourth annual convention in Chicago in July 2017. After recounting for the audience the words of our beloved Prophet (may peace be upon him), I went on to observe that in standing against oppression in our communities, “we are struggling against tyrants and rulers not only abroad in the Middle East or on the other side of the world, but here in these United States of America, where you have fascists and white supremacists and Islamophobes reigning in the White House.”
Comically, she chokes on the word "truth" (Stephen Colbert, look out!).The only misleading part of her book here is that she leaves out a following relevant context of saying that she hopes Allah accepts this form of Jihad.
Then, to apparently no one's surprise except hers, she is greeted the next day by a variety of right-wing criticism ranging from simply saying she called for Jihad against Trump to saying she called for "Jihad" against Trump. She then thinks about whether she should go on the defensive, apologize for the reaction she created, implying that she deserved some blame, or go on the offensive, totally blame the reaction for unfairly/dishonestly interpreting/editing/changing what she said.
She decides to go on the offensive:
- 1) She qualified her use of "Jihad" by introducing it with a non-violent usage.
2) She claims that "jihad" has a primary non-violent meaning in Arabic and in her Muslim audience.
She is correct about 1). Right wing media that either explicitly or implicitly claimed she called for violence against Trump was either dishonest or Fake News.
She is wrong about 2). Jihad
Jihad (English: /dʒɪˈhɑːd/; Arabic: جهاد jihād [dʒɪˈhaːd]) is an Arabic word which literally means striving or struggling, especially with a praiseworthy aim. In an Islamic context, it can refer to almost any effort to make personal and social life conform with God's guidance, such as struggle against one's evil inclinations, proselytizing, or efforts toward the moral betterment of the ummah, though it is most frequently associated with war. In classical Islamic law, the term refers to armed struggle against unbelievers, while modernist Islamic scholars generally equate military jihad with defensive warfare. In Sufi and pious circles, spiritual and moral jihad has been traditionally emphasized under the name of greater jihad. The term has gained additional attention in recent decades through its use by terrorist groups.
It's arguable what the primary meaning is. For non-Muslims in the US it has a primarily violent meaning. And here we see one way in which Sarsour is a hypocrite. In defending Muslims and other minorities she is very concerned about how these (her selected allied minorities) see/understand what others say about them. Not just what others say they meant. Dogma whistles. On the other hand, if she claims that others misunderstand her, then that is their problem and they are solely to blame. The summary of what she said is a Jihad against the White House. That sounds like what violent users of Jihad would say. Personally, I think Trump should have been removed from office a long time ago. But I wouldn't demonize him and say he is worse. just as bad or comparable to Muslim leaders of violent Jihad.
Sarsour claims her participation in The Women's March gives her credibility. But it's just the opposite. She was exorcised from it because she supported antisemitic statements. Not to mention the comical position of a supporter of traditional Muslim values being a supporter of Women's rights. The above shows an inability to compromise/negotiate and she wears it like a supposed badge of resistance honor. As it relates to her Palestinianisness, it's the same thing with them, an inability to compromise/negotiate worn like a supposed badge of resistance honor.
Shortly before her "jihad" moment she praises Malcom X as a model so the Foreword was no coincidence. Malcom X was primarily a speaker but he accepted all forms of resistance including violent. Is this Sarsour's position? We shall see.
Interestingly, the "crowd" for Sarsour's speech was small and unenthusiastic reminding one of what John Mulaney said about himself while hosting SNL, "I'm like Louis Farrakhan, I mean a lot to a small group of people".
The New Porphyry