New York resident Linda Sarsour may be a darling of the progressive movement south of the border, but her impending presence at a Muslim community convention on Oct. 6 has prompted calls for organizers to dis-invite her and has led to at least two online petitions, one of which calls for her to be banned from entering Canada.
Sarsour, the co-founder of the Women’s March on Washington and a prominent critic of Israel, is slated to address the Carry the Light convention, which runs at The International Centre in Mississauga, Ont., on Oct. 6 and 7. The event is sponsored by the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), an organization that has been accused of having links to the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) and B’nai Brith Canada have raised concerns about Sarsour’s participation at the conference, noting her support for Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. Meanwhile, a petition posted by the Canadian Coalition for Responsible Government (CCRG) on the CitizenGO website is calling on the RCMP to prohibit Sarsour from entering the country. A second petition launched by B’nai Brith calls on ICNA to dis-invite Sarsour, as well as five other speakers.
“Judging by the roster of participating speakers, the event seems more likely to foment anti-Israel hatred and promote anti-Semitic and homophobic conspiracy theories within Toronto’s Muslim community,” B’nai Brith stated in a news release.
JSpaceCanada, however, believes that despite Sarsour’s problematic association with Farrakhan, she should not be barred from addressing the conference.
“As far as I am aware, the Islamic Circle of North America appears among several of my Muslim colleagues and friends to be a respected social service organization that does not promote anti-Semitism, or even an anti-Israel agenda,” said Karen Mock, president of JSpaceCanada.
“Sarsour’s association with Farrakhan is clearly very problematic and we do not agree with her views on Israel and Palestine. However, we can’t agree with trying to get her dis-invited from the conference or banned from Canada, because there is no credible evidence that supports the likelihood of her violating our Canadian hate laws. I assume she will be monitored to ensure she does not cross that line.”
CIJA CEO Shimon Fogel disagreed, saying that the conference’s organizers should rescind their invitation to Sarsour.
“We’re well familiar with her record of toxic rhetoric, disturbing support for Farrakhan and hostility toward Israel and our community,” he said. “We support free speech, but expect law enforcement to uphold Canada’s hate speech laws. This event only damages Jewish-Muslim relations, which is why we’re reaching out to its organizers to urge them to cancel her appearance.”
ICNA did not respond to The CJN’s requests for an interview.
In an email to supporters featuring a photo of Sarsour and the headline, “Stop hate in Canada,” Fogel expanded on the organization’s concerns about her.
“She advocates boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israelis. She supports a one-state solution, in which a Jewish state would obviously no longer exist. She has criticized fellow Muslims who build bridges of dialogue and understanding with the mainstream Jewish community. And she has the chutzpah to claim that there is no room in the feminist movement for anyone who supports Israel,” he wrote.
Fogel said that “her agenda is clear: to undermine the right of Israelis – and Jews who support Israel – to participate in progressive causes.”
Meanwhile, the CCRG and B’nai Brith petitions had each collected more than 2,000 signatures as of Sept. 27.
B’nai Brith CEO Michael Mostyn said that while his organization “is concerned with the attendance of … Linda Sarsour, there is a slew of other speakers who have promulgated anti-Semitic perspectives and conspiracy theories and even demonstrated sympathy for those convicted of terrorism.
“This gathering is allegedly to promote peace, interfaith dialogue and respect. Instead, because of the damaging anti-Semitic remarks of some of its speakers, it will only further sew the lines of division between Canada’s Jewish and Muslim communities.”
Barbara Landau, the co-chair of the Canadian Association of Jews and Muslims, opposed suggestions that Sarsour’s invitation be rescinded.
“I do not have information to suggest that ICNA is an organization that promotes hatred. While I do not share the views of Linda Sarsour on Israel and Palestine, I do not agree that she should be uninvited or refused entry to Canada. Her association with other leaders, such as Farrakhan, who do espouse hatred, and the fact that it creates discomfort and distrust between progressive faith groups, is problematic,” Landau said.
“Similarly, the allegation that several other invited speakers hold anti-Semitic, homophobic and misogynist views raises concerns about why ICNA invited such speakers. But the fact that their views are repugnant and create divisiveness is not sufficient to ban them from entry or speaking – the boundary is our Canadian hate laws, which, if breached, should be enforced. I would prefer a reasoned conversation about these concerns, rather than a public outcry or a ban.”
Meanwhile, David Nitkin, the co-founder of Muslim-Jewish Dialogue (MJD), referred to ICNA as a “New York-based Pakistani radical Islamist group, (which) is aligned with jihadi groups and the Muslim Brotherhood. According to terrorism experts like Steven Emerson and Tom Quiggin, it is the creation of Pakistan-based Jamaat e Islami, which has been probed by the FBI for ties to terrorism. The group advocates destroying all secular states and governments, in order to introduce Islamic sharia law globally.”
Saying he was speaking in a personal capacity, Nitkin said that, “ICNA inspired Zunera Ishaq, who demanded the right to wear a full veil at a Canadian citizenship swearing-in ceremony. It owned the Pakistani compound where Osama bin Laden was living at the time of its death.”
Nitkin suggested that given its ties to Islamic extremism, ICNA’s conference will feature “controversial speakers (who) will preach intolerance against women, secular Muslims, LGBTQ, Jews and other communities.
MJD’s co-founder, Tariq Khan, said that, “ICNA does not enjoy any significant support (from) Canadian Muslims. Canadian Muslims are hardworking, moderate and loyal to Canadian values.”
ICNA’s own problematic history goes back at least to 1991, when an internal North American Muslim Brotherhood memorandum listed it as one of 29 friends of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Sarsour, the former executive director of the Arab American Association of New York, is also no stranger to controversy.
A self-proclaimed feminist, in 2011, she attacked Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali-born author and critic of sharia law, and Lebanese-born Brigitte Gabriel, who heads Act for America.
Writing on Twitter, Sarsour stated, “Brigitte Gabriel = Ayaan Hirsi Ali. She’s asking 4 an @$$ whippin’. I wish I could take their vaginas away – they don’t deserve to be women.”
Ali was a victim of female genital mutilation when she was eight years old. Gabriel’s Act for America lobbies government to be tough on Islamic terrorism.
At a Jewish Voice for Peace conference in Chicago last year, Sarsour embraced Rasmea Yousef Odeh, a Palestinian terrorist who was convicted in a 1969 Jerusalem bombing that left two Israeli men dead and nine wounded, and who plotted to bomb the British consulate in Jerusalem.