How ‘Woke’ Are Feminist Farrakhan Fans Like Linda Sarsour?
When Essence recently presented “Woke 100 Women,” three of the leading organizers of the Women’s March — Tamika Mallory, Linda Sarsour and Carmen Perez — were among the “socially conscious change makers” featured by the magazine. The three also appear in a related short clip explaining what “woke” means. For Tamika Mallory, being woke “is like eyes wide open; everything is clear; you can always see things other people … just ignore;” for Linda Sarsour, it means “being outraged all the time … about injustice,” while Carmen Perez defines it as “being uncomfortable all the time” and speaking “on behalf of those that can’t speak up for themselves.”
But apparently, being woke can also mean just ignoring things other people see, and not feeling outraged or uncomfortable when there is a chance to schmooze with Louis Farrakhan. According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), Farrakhan “has espoused anti-Semitism and racism for over 30 years as NOI [Nation of Islam] leader,” and he reaffirmed “his status as the leading anti-Semite in America” in 2015, when he “devoted a large portion of his annual address to followers in Chicago to the anti-Semitic myth that Jews were responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attacks.” The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) offers a similarly unequivocal condemnation, denouncing “the deeply racist, anti-Semitic and anti-gay rhetoric” of Farrakhan and other NOI leaders, whose conduct “earned the NOI a prominent position in the ranks of organized hate.”
Just three months after Farrakhan expounded his antisemitic conspiracy theories about the 9/11 attacks, Mallory and Perez were holding hands with him, posing for a photo during an “unforgettable special evening in Chicago with The Minister Farrakhan!”
As I have documented, Mallory and Perez apparently started to work with Farrakhan at the beginning of June 2015, when they attended a meeting with him to prepare for “#millionsforjustice convening on Oct. 10 in Washington, DC.,” i.e. the rally marking the 20-year anniversary of the 1995 Million Man March. During this preparatory meeting, Perez seemed particularly impressed with Farrakhan, whom she described as “dropping gems.”
The ADL reported that Farrakhan repeatedly “expressed anti-Semitism and bigotry” at subsequent events promoting the anniversary rally under the slogan #JusticeOrElse! Mallory apparently attended one of these events; according to media reports, Farrakhan threatened on this occasion: “If the federal government will not intercede in our affairs, then we must rise up and kill those who kill us, stalk them and let them feel the pain of death that we are feeling.” He justified his call to violence by telling his audience that according to the Qur’an, “Retaliation is a prescription from God to calm the breasts of those whose children have been slain.”
In an interview in the summer of 2016, Perez explained how she, along with Mallory and Sarsour, had become involved with Farrakhan in 2015. According to her, “Tamika Mallory, my African-American sister, Linda Sarsour, my Palestinian sister and myself, a Chicana/Mexican-American woman” had attracted national media coverage with their activism, which prompted Farrakhan to invite them to participate in his #JusticeOrElse rally. Perez saw this as a chance “to use his platform to send a message to our generation.”
The strident message Sarsour delivered from the platform provided to her by Farrakhan proved very popular. Ummah Wide, a website for Muslims that had already published some contributions by Sarsour, posted a clip of her address on their Facebook page, where it garnered 162,000 views. The three-minute clip shows Sarsour opening her talk “in the name of god, the most beneficial, the most merciful,” addressing the crowd repeatedly as “sisters and brothers.” Anyone familiar with Farrakhan’s antisemitic efforts to blame Jews for problems and hardships experienced by blacks in the US could hear a similar message from Sarsour, who asserted: “The same people who justify the massacres of Palestinian people and call it collateral damage are the same people who justify the murder of young black men and women.” In yet another echo of Farrakhan’s rhetoric, Sarsour assured her “sisters and brothers” that the “common enemy … is white supremacy;” she also insisted that “the liberation of the Palestinian people is bound up with the liberation of Black people in America.”
Sarsour shared the stage with the controversial pastor Jeremiah Wright, who used his address at the Farrakhan rally to denounce Israel as an apartheid state and to assert that “Jesus was a Palestinian.” When Wright was in the spotlight as Obama’s longtime pastor before the 2008 elections, Obama repudiated him and described his views on America and the US-Israeli relationship “as fundamentally ‘distorted;’” Obama also emphasized his “very clear … denunciation of Minister Farrakhan’s anti-Semitic comments” and rejected Farrakhan’s endorsement.
During Farrakhan’s appearance at the #JusticeOrElse rally in October 2015, the NOI leader reportedly asserted “that blacks were too forgiving of their abusers.” Farrakhan challenged his audience to find “a Jew who forgives Hitler,” but clarified immediately that he didn’t mean to hold up Jews as an example to be emulated, adding: “And they say they’re the children of God, and they don’t have no forgiveness in them.”
Given that Sarsour, Mallory and Perez were all longtime activists when they participated in Farrakhan’s rally in October 2015, it is hard to imagine that they were unaware of the veteran NOI-leader’s record and the odious antisemitic publications promoted by NOI for decades. Yet, in 2012, Sarsour publicly embraced the NOI as “an integral part” of “the history of Islam in America,” emphasizing that “Sunni, Shia, Sufi, Nation of Islam — we are #Muslim, we are all part of one ummah, one family. #Islam.” Two years later, Sarsour insisted that it was not possible to “learn or teach about the history of Islam in America without talking about the Nation of Islam (NOI).”
In the aftermath of Farrakhan’s rally, Mallory and Perez continued to promote the NOI leader in social media posts, expressing ardent admiration for Farrakhan. The most recent tribute comes from Tamika Mallory, who warmly congratulated Farrakhan for his birthday on May 11, posting a picture of him embracing her and writing: “Thank God this man is still alive and doing well. He is definitely the GOAT [Greatest of All Time]. Happy Birthday @louisfarrakhan!” Perez posted another picture showing herself and another activist holding hands with Farrakhan last November. Mallory, who was tagged in the post (“Sister @tamikadmallory he sends his love”) responded with a remark about how “great” Farrakhan looked, and Sarsour also chimed in complimenting Farrakhan: “the brother does not age. God bless him.”
Sarsour’s own record of statements on social media and elsewhere indicates that she shares some of Farrakhan’s views on the malignant Jewish influence in America — though Sarsour would usually avoid denouncing Jews as such and instead refer to Israel or Zionists. However, as far as Sarsour is concerned, the world’s only Jewish state has no right to exist: in 2012, she accused Israel of “occupying my people 4 the past 64 years,” indicating that she considers Israel establishment in 1948 as the beginning of the occupation. Sarsour is also a supporter of BDS, the movement that singles out Israel as a target for boycott, divestment and sanction, because — as prominent BDS leader Omar Barghouti once put it — “the two-state solution … was never a moral solution” and “the rapid demise of Zionism” was inevitable: “Zionism is intent on killing itself. I, for one, support euthanasia.” [Emphasis original]
While Sarsour often claims that she firmly opposes antisemitism, she apparently does not accept common definitions of the term and has instead endorsed (#73) the truly Orwellian re-definition that veteran anti-Israel activist Ali Abunimah published in fall 2012, reflecting his preposterous view that Zionism is “one of the worst forms of anti-Semitism in existence today” and that support for Zionism “is not atonement for the Holocaust, but its continuation in spirit.”
So whatever being “woke” means, it quite clearly doesn’t mean being outraged about, or uncomfortable with, antisemitism.
However, the fact that leading activists like Sarsour, Mallory and Perez have been so openly promoting and working with the leader of a group that is notorious for spreading vicious antisemitic conspiracy theories should not only alarm Jews, but anyone who opposes the uncritical mainstreaming of the well-documented bigotry that has tainted the NOI’s legitimate efforts to address social problems. As the SPLC put it:
While Jews remain the primary target of Farrakhan’s vitriol, he is also well known for bashing gay men and lesbians, Catholics and, of course, the white devils, whom he calls ‘potential humans … [who] haven’t evolved yet.’ All of this has helped make him attractive to certain white supremacist groups who agree that the races must be separated. In its turn, NOI has come to view white supremacists as people who at least understand NOI’s program and could therefore become allies.
Michael D. Cohen of the Simon Wiesenthal Center has recently described Sarsour as “an arsonist in our midst” — and this is indeed a very apt description for somebody who not only opposes the existence of the world’s only Jewish state, but willingly cooperates with divisive demagogues like Farrakhan.