NEW YORK –Targeted in a vehement Islamophobic campaign, American Muslim activist Linda Sarsour decided to speak out, publishing a Washington Post op-ed in which she blamed the outrage over her use of the word jihad on conservative media.
“This week, conservative media outlets took a speech I gave to the largest gathering of Muslims in America out of context and alleged that I had called for a violent “jihad” against the president. I did not,” Sarsour wrote on Monday, July 10.
“Sadly, this is not a new experience for me. Since the Women’s March on Washington, which I had the privilege of co-chairing with inspirational women from across the country, my family and I have received countless threats of physical violence.
“These ugly threats come from people who also spout anti-Muslim, xenophobic and white-supremacist beliefs. Their sole agenda is to silence and discredit me because I am an effective leader for progress, a Palestinian American and Brooklyn-born Muslim woman. In short, I am their worst nightmare.”
Sarsour has been targeted by right-wing and Islamophobic extremists in a manufactured “controversy” over remarks referencing “jihad” she made recently at a national Islamic convention in Illinois.
Sasour is one of the five organizers behind the Women’s March on Washington, a global movement of rallies and marches in protest of President Donald Trump’s agenda.
Giving a speech after Trump’s inauguration, Sarsour declared in front of millions, that she is “unapologetically Muslim American, uapologetically Palestinian American, unapologetically from Brooklyn” and defiantly “not afraid.”
She tackled the recent controversy which followed her ISNA speech.
“In my speech — you can watch the unedited version here — I sent not a call to violence, but a call to speak truth to power and to commit to the struggle for racial and economic justice,” she wrote.
“I was speaking to an all-Muslim audience; as an American, I should be free to share and discuss scripture and teachings of my beloved Prophet. My statements were clear, and my activism track record is even clearer: My work has always been rooted in nonviolence as espoused by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.”
Sarsour was particularly concerned about the outrage over her using the term because it could cause people to be policed because of their faith.
“Most disturbing about this recent defamation campaign is how it is focused on demonizing the legitimate yet widely misunderstood Islamic term I used, ‘jihad,’ which to majority of Muslims and according to religious scholars means ‘struggle’ or ‘to strive for,’” Sarsour wrote.
“This term has been hijacked by Muslim extremists and right-wing extremists alike, leaving ordinary Muslims to defend our faith and in some cases silenced. It sets a dangerous precedent when people of faith are policed and when practicing their religion peacefully comes with consequences.”
Sarsour vowed to keep fighting in spite of the attacks from “xenophobes and conservative media” because “dissent is the highest form of patriotism, and I intend to continue to push my country to respect the rights of all its citizens. I will not be silenced.”