“You may not criticize Islam. You do not speak Arabic. You don’t come from a Muslim society. You are a white supremacist, imperialist xenophobe and you don’t like foreign, brown people.” So Islam’s apologists insist.
Brooklyn activist Linda Sarsour epitomizes this strategy for suppressing critique of Islam. “My hijab is my hoodie,” she insisted, in a 2012 CNN op-ed. With the “hoodie” reference, Sarsour explicitly linked herself with Trayvon Martin, a young black male who scuffled with, and was shot by George Zimmerman in February, 2012. Sarsour’s implication is that white supremacy motivated Zimmerman’s shooting of Martin. By extension, Sarsour insists that white supremacists want to hurt her because she wears hijab. Sarsour also linked herself to Shaima Alawadi, an Iraqi-American who was beaten to death in her own home in March, 2012. Sarsour insisted that Alawadi’s murder was a hate crime committed by white supremacists who don’t like foreign, brown people.
Sarsour knows that Americans feel guilty and sad about slavery and Jim Crow, and that they tiptoe to avoid any racist comment. She knows that Americans fear being called “racist.” A parasite of unearned pity, Sarsour lifts the mantle of protection cast over speech about African Americans, and worms her way beneath it. Rachel Dolezal can only weep with envy at this Caucasian woman’s success at positioning herself as a victim of white racism. That Sarsour parades as the same kind of victim as the descendants of slaves is an extraordinary coup, given the outsize historical role of Arab Muslims in the enslavement of not just of Africans, but of Europeans and Americans as well, and given Arab racism against blacks, whom they label “abid,” or slave.
Sarsour’s rebranding of her hijab as a feminist symbol is also a fabulous marketing coup, one that really should be taught in business schools. In many Muslim-majority countries, women can be harassed, tortured, raped or murdered for not wearing hijab.
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