There's yet another controversy involving New York-based Islamist and current Democratic cause célèbre Linda Sarsour. The poster child for the Women's March who wished to "take away the vagina" from female genital mutilation victim, reformer and author Ayaan Hirsi Ali caught the attention of conservative journalists when she issued what appeared to be a call for jihad from the podium of the Islamic Society of North America's annual convention.
"I hope, that when we stand up to those who oppress our communities, that Allah accepts from us that as a form of jihad. We are struggling against tyrants and rulers not only abroad in the Middle East but here in the United States of America, where you have fascists and white supremacists and Islamophobes reigning in the White House."
Countless media outlets on the left (and a handful on the right) rushed to Sarsour's defense, allegedly claiming that conservatives took the comments out of context. In particularly they note Sarsour's decision to cite a hadith — a documented statement by Islam's founder Mohammed — which describes speaking truth to a tyrant as the "best form of jihad."
It's true that Sarsour did preface her use of the word "jihad" in this way. But it's Sarsour's defenders, not her critics, that are taking the speech out of its wider context.
To begin with, consider on whose platform Sarsour was speaking. Sarsour was speaking before the annual convention of a group about which a federal judge ruled, "The government has provided ample evidence to establish" their association with the Muslim Brotherhood and its terrorist organization Hamas. Among that evidence was the fact that ISNA's subsidiary shared a bank account with the now-convicted Holy Land Foundation, an account that issued checks to Hamas Deputy Chairman Mousa Abu Marzook.
Far from shunning ISNA's Muslim Brotherhood history, Sarsour overtly endorsed it. Sarsour was speaking as the keynote speaker at a luncheon honoring Dr. Sayyid Syeed, whom Sarsour praised for his role in "the infrastructure you have built for all of us." That infrastructure can only refer to Syeed's role in numerous Muslim American organizations, almost all of which have been identified by documents submitted as evidence in federal court as Muslim Brotherhood organizations or fronts.
Thus it cannot be ignored that Sarsour is speaking before a pro-Muslim Brotherhood audience. Given the Brotherhood's own motto that "Jihad is our way, and dying for the sake of Allah is our highest hope," it's hard to believe that among this crowd the invocation of jihad doesn't carry with it recognition of its violent meaning.
Sarsour added to this context by lauding a man she described as her "mentor," Sirraj Wahhaj. Wahhaj, for those who do not follow U.S. counterterrorism history, is notable for his role as an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Wahhaj also testified as a character witness for "Blind Sheikh" Omar Abdel Rahman, whose leadership of the 1993 WTC bombing cell would earn him a conviction for seditious conspiracy to overthrow the U.S. government.
Like Wahhaj, Sarsour couches her speech in the language of responding to "oppressors." Indeed, oppressors and oppression are the common language that binds Sarsour's speech together. This is highly significant since the topic, combating oppression, carries with it clear connotations within Islamic legal doctrine on jihad.
Consider a fatwa published on IslamOnline, a website established by Muslim Brotherhood chief jurist Yusuf Al Qaradawi. After noting that there are "various kinds" of jihad, including "jihad against oneself" and "jihad against Satan," the spiritual sorts of struggles that Sarsour's defenders are attempting to invoke, the text raises the question of "oppression."
The fatwa notes, "Jihad against the leaders of oppression and innovation is of three kinds: jihad with one's hand (i.e., physical jihad, fighting) if one is able. If that is not possible, then it should be with one's tongue (i.e., by speaking out). If that is not possible, then it should be with one's heart (i.e., by hating the evil and feeling that it is wrong)." [Emphasis mine]
This view is shared in the 14th century manual of Islamic law known as The Reliance of the Traveller by Shafi'i scholar Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri. Reliance is a useful choice since it was certified by the ISNA-affiliated Fiqh Council of North America, alongside many other Islamic scholars from various nations.
Reliance notes, under its index for "Oppressors, Fighting, as part of faith (iman)" [p.75.4(2)]:
"in the hadith related by Muslim concerning oppressors, [meaning Sahih Muslim, understood as the second-most authoritative compilation of hadith]:
(2) ‘Whoever fights them with his hand is a believer, whoever fights them with his tongue is a believer, whoever fights them in his heart, is a believer."
In other words, Sarsour's invocation of jihad of the tongue is viewed in traditional Islamic doctrine as not in opposition to violent jihad (i.e. fighting) but rather as explicitly complementary to it.
While Sarsour may not be personally calling for violence, she can hardly be unaware of doctrinal connotations her words carry, and these connotations would be unmistakably understood by her ISNA audience or indeed anyone who has an accurate understanding of the legal understanding of jihad within Islamic law.
People defending Sarsour's words simply don't know what she's talking about.
Director of the Threat Information Office at the Center for Security Policy. If you would like to write an op-ed for the Washington Examiner, please read our guidelines on submissions here.