Best Friends: Linda Sarsour and Muslim Brotherhood Supporter Omar Suleiman
In late August 2014, Linda Sarsour declared that Imam Omar Suleiman made her “more proud to be a Muslim and a Palestinian.” One year later, she praised him as one of several Muslim “scholars … who speak truth w/ courage & w/o apology.” Suleiman responded: “jazakiallah khayr [may Allah reward you with goodness] and thank you for being a leader in the trenches!”
In July 2016, Sarsour promoted a glowing tribute to Suleiman and told [archived] her Twitter followers: “Check out this profile of one of America’s most prominent imams @omarsuleiman504. Proud to call him a friend.” Suleiman warmly returned her compliments, responding: “Just following in your footsteps 🙂 It’s an honor to have you as a sister, friend, and leader.” And just a few weeks ago, Sarsour shared yet another article praising Suleiman; she told her followers: “Imam @omarsuleiman504 has inspired me to love my religion even more. A man of spirituality, conviction & justice.”
We all know the saying, “Tell me who your friends are, and I’ll tell you who you are.” So perhaps finding out who Omar Suleiman is will tell us a bit more about the controversial activist Linda Sarsour.
Suleiman describes himself on Twitter as “Scholar & Community Servant. Founder & President of @YaqeenInstitute, Professor @SMU, Resident Scholar @ValleyRanchIC.” According to the first article that Sarsour shared, Suleiman is also “a new kind of American imam” with “a wildly popular social-media presence, with more than a million likes on his Facebook page and tens of millions of views for his YouTube sermons.”
The more recent article promoted by Sarsour emphasizes that due to “his charismatic sermons and message of inclusiveness,” Suleiman “has gained a national following” and has become a leader “of Dallas’ social justice movement” as well as a target of “death threats from ISIS.”
But while the always-smiling Suleiman is indeed a captivating speaker with a very large following on social media, he has also publicly expressed some views and sentiments that don’t quite square with his carefully cultivated image as an all-benevolent preacher of “faith and hope.”
In late 2013, Suleiman provided perhaps the most alarming hint about his ideological sympathies when he took to Facebook and, without further comment, posted an image used to signal support for the Muslim Brotherhood.
While efforts to list the Islamist group as a terrorist organization in the US have only led to heated debates, it is undeniable that the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideology has inspired the creation of several militant offshoots, including the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas. Since Suleiman comes from a Palestinian family, his ostensible support for the Muslim Brotherhood might also indicate sympathies for Hamas.
The fact that Suleiman has repeatedly called for a Palestinian “intifada” only strengthens concerns about his ideological allegiances.
On July, 25, 2014, Suleiman declared on Twitter and Facebook: “How befitting that the 3rd Intifada starts on the 27th night of Ramadan as worshippers are denied prayer in Masjid Al Aqsa.” He ended his post with a prayer of sorts: “God willing on this blessed night as the 3rd Intifada begins, the beginning of the end of Zionism is here. May Allah help us overcome this monster, protect the innocent of the world, and accept the murdered as martyrs. ameen.”
The Facebook post garnered 1.9K comments, more than 4,200 shares, 17K “Likes,” and was even published on a Malaysian website. Suleiman’s call for a “3rd Intifada” and his explicit effort to cast it in religious terms came in the middle of the war between Gaza’s Hamas regime and Israel. That conflict, of course, followed the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers by Hamas members in June, and the firing of rockets by Hamas into Israel.
Just three months after declaring the imminent outbreak of a “3rd Intifada,” Suleiman posted on Twitter on October 30, 2014: “For the first time since 1967, Masjid Al Aqsa is closed. A third intifada is near insha’Allah. #FreePalestine.” Adding the inflammatory hashtag #AlAqsaUnderAttack, he posted the same text with an image of a closed entrance on Facebook, where the post garnered 377 comments, 11K “Likes” and more than 3,200 shares (which are visible only on the original post).
Suleiman’s eager anticipation of a “third intifada” is all the more chilling considering that during the infamous Second Intifada — also known as the Al-Aqsa Intifada — Palestinian terrorists slaughtered more than 1,000 Israelis and wounded many thousands more. And revealingly, Suleiman rushed to post his second call for a repeat of this kind of carnage even though the closure of the Al Aqsa Mosque — and indeed the entire Temple Mount – lasted only a few hours.
That hours-long closure had been prompted by unrest in the wake of an assassination attempt by an Islamic Jihad terrorist on Rabbi Yehudah Glick, a right-wing Israeli activist campaigning for the right of Jews to pray on the Temple Mount. As reported by Israeli media, “Palestinians in the Old City of Jerusalem set off fireworks in celebration” of the assassination attempt.
Suleiman’s Facebook post certainly qualifies as a virtual firework, and his repeated calls for a “third intifada” can only be read as an endorsement of the murderous violence perpetrated by Palestinian terrorists during the Second Intifada.
It is also clear that Suleiman feels a burning hatred for Israel.
On August 2, 2014, he posted a photo of two Arabic books on a littered floor with the comment: “How symbolic: 2 books buried in the rubble of a destroyed home in Gaza: One about Moses and the other about Muhammad (peace be upon them both). The Zionists are the enemies of God, His Messengers, sincere followers of all religions, and humanity as a whole.”
Once again, Suleiman explicitly tried to ignite religious hatred against Israelis; and once again, thousands of his followers shared and “liked” the post.
A year later, on August 10, 2015, Suleiman shared a video from another Facebook user, ostensibly showing Palestinians held up at Israeli checkpoints in the West Bank; Suleiman added the comment: “Want to know what its [sic] like to live under Nazis? Look no further than how the Palestinians are treated daily by apartheid Israel. Sickening.”
It was not the first time that Suleiman made the antisemitic comparison between Israel and Nazi Germany. On August 4, 2014, he shared the claims of a Turkish website that an Israeli official had called for “concentration camps” in Gaza. Suleiman added: “Still don’t think this is a holocaust?”
Moreover, while I was unable to find any condemnation of Palestinian terrorism from Suleiman, he has denounced Israel as a “terrorist regime.” Suleiman provided the perhaps most shocking illustration of his intense hatred for Israel when he commented on a massacre perpetrated by Taliban-affiliated terrorists (including three Arabs) in December 2014 at a school in Pakistan: “#Peshawarattack Senseless, cold, cruel murder. Reminds me of the IDF’s targeting schools in Gaza a few months [ago].”
The Nazi slogan was, “The Jews are our misfortune;” Omar Suleiman seems to believe that the world’s only Jewish state is a great misfortune.
To be sure, Suleiman has become somewhat more restrained in his public comments about Israel. However, he noted in a recent Facebook post: “Because of my views on Palestine, I have been excluded from certain alliances and tables. In complete honesty, I have no interest in cooperating with anyone who wishes to suffocate non-violent resistance to occupation. If you cannot respect our right to organize on this issue, I have no desire to organize alongside you on any issue.”
As I’ve documented in a screenshot I took when I saw the post, Sarsour was among the thousands of people who “liked” the post. But of course, an imam who has rooted for a “third intifada” and the “end of Zionism” while scrupulously avoiding any condemnation of Palestinian terrorism is rather disingenuous when he pretends that he is just a supporter of “non-violent resistance to occupation.”
Moreover, there is also some deeply unsettling material about Suleiman’s theological views regarding Jews. In December 2012, the Islamic Learning Foundation in Houston, Texas, hosted a series of lectures by Suleiman on “The Chronicles Of Bani Israel.” I watched the first half hour of the introductory lecture with increasing horror.
Right at the beginning, Suleiman says that “we,” i.e. Muslims, talk about the Bani Israel usually “very negatively,” “we hear about how bad they were.” He then proceeds to explain that the Bani Israel actually serve an important purpose: they are the ultimate, horrifying “Other” — put on earth to serve as a terrifying example to Muslims by demonstrating the evil that ensues if one doesn’t follow Allah’s commands. As Suleiman put it in the first few minutes of his lecture:
When we’re talking about Bani Israel, we’re talking about a massive nation, a massive ummah […] We’re talking about a nation that had many blessings bestowed upon them and still managed to miss out on Allah’s [unclear]. … And so the entire theme of Bani Israel is that they were given a blessing, in fact they were given multiple blessings, and they did not respond in the way they were supposed to.
Suleiman then goes on to explain what he calls a “very powerful hadith” that says:
If it was not for Bani Israel, meat would not decay. Meat would not decay. […] Food would not become stale. Now think about that for a moment. And some people might say, you know, again, this is just an empty attack on Bani Israel. No, it’s not. The prophet of Allah [unclear] was saying that because of the way Bani Israel rejected the blessings of Allah’s [unclear] … that its [food] decays and becomes stale and becomes rotten […] Had it not been for Bani Israel, that even wouldn’t happen. So we’re still seeing the effects of that today
This is no less vicious than the medieval blood libel — particularly if we imagine what a claim like this meant in a time when food was scarce and people knew real hunger and starvation.
I have recorded the relevant portion of Suleiman’s lecture, just in case he decides to delete it. Betraying his Jew-hatred, he gave this hadith the most malevolent interpretation possible. As Suleiman surely knows, there are somewhat milder interpretations of this vicious hadith, which don’t blame the Jews for the fact that meat and food decay — but simply for starting the greedy practice of “hoarding” food:
the meaning [of the hadith] actually is that these were the people of Israel who started the general practice of hoarding surplus food with them which used to rot and get wasted. Before them generally the people used to collect food only for their own selves. And when they had surplus they would share it with other people (either through charity or trade). So they were actually the people who started the general practice that lead to wasting of food.
But it seems that for Suleiman, it wasn’t quite enough to blame the Jews just for starting “the general practice that lead to wasting of food.” Instead, he prefers to blame the Jews for the fact that food “decays and becomes stale and becomes rotten. […] Had it not been for Bani Israel, that even wouldn’t happen. So we’re still seeing the effects of that today.”
Let me just end with a reminder of how Sarsour feels about Suleiman: he makes her “more proud to be a Muslim and a Palestinian;” she admires him for speaking “truth w/ courage & w/o apology;” she is “[p]roud to call him a friend,” and Suleiman “inspired” her “to love” her “religion even more.”