Let Sarsour Spew: The Case for Allowing Hate Speech on Campus
The City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate School of Public Health has stirred up controversy with its decision to invite anti-Israel activist Linda Sarsour to serve as its commencement speaker. New York Assemblyman Dov Hikind recently spoke out against the decision, stating that Sarsour “is someone who associates with radical Islamists, supports them [and] shows support for them.”
So who is Linda Sarsour?
Ms. Sarsour, the executive director of the Arab American Association of New York, describes herself as “a working woman, racial justice and civil rights activist, every Islamophobe’s worst nightmare,” who treasures her religious background and Palestinian heritage.
Based on Ms. Sarsour’s slew of public statements, one can assume that her efforts to “empower” the “Arab immigrant and Arab American community” are synonymous with imposing Sharia law, and criticizing the only democracy in the Middle East — Israel.
The thrust of Sarsour’s pro-Sharia stance is that Islamic law is reasonable — if you only have access to her esoteric knowledge. According to the woman hailed by TIME magazine as one of the “Most Influential People of 2017,” only Islamophobes could oppose the implementation of Islamic law instead of the laws of the US Constitution.
The truth is that Sharia law promotes discriminatory and violent attitudes towards women and girls, and represents a growing threat to the democratic principles of free speech, free assembly and free religion.
Yet Linda Sarsour and her supporters whitewash such inconvenient truths, repeatedly falling back on the image of multiculturalism as bringing together members of society through the celebration of diversity — even though Sarsour’s movement has been predicated on hate and divisiveness from its inception.
In Sarsour’s warped worldview, multiculturalism has replaced the goal of social solidarity with tribalism, and of democracy with identity politics. The ascent of Linda Sarsour is attributable in no small part to multiculturalism — a self-loathing virus that only supports criticism of Western culture (because, of course, no country where Islamic law prevails would allow any dissent).
Furthermore, Ms. Sarsour not only supports Sharia, but espouses hate against Israel and Jews on a daily basis. She is an avowed anti-Zionist and a clear antisemite, who wishes to see Israel wiped off the map.
Nevertheless, I believe that Ms. Sarsour should be allowed to deliver the keynote address at CUNY’s commencement. Racism, homophobia and religious fundamentalism should be allowed to compete with democracy, equality and tolerance in the grand marketplace of ideas. Because on this equal playing field, such wickedness should have virtually no chance of winning.
Banning Sarsour because of her outrageous agenda will only give her more visibility and “street cred,” and make her that much more appealing to the confused, uneducated or generally ignorant people that she wants to influence.
As Oscar Wilde succinctly stated: “I may not agree with you, but I will defend to the death your right to make an ass of yourself.”
Only by shining the light of reason on Linda Sarsour’s dark propaganda will her delusional worldview be dispelled. This must be done by principled men and women who are armed with the effective arguments that will expose the weakness and misdirection of her claims.
Gidon Ben-Zvi is a Jerusalem-based freelance writer, editor and contributor.