The #MeToo movement has spread like wildfire in the last few months as men of prominence in entertainment, politics, and media have been exposed for sexual misconduct in (and out of) the workplace, whether it be harassment, assault, or even rape. However, the movement combating this sort of behavior seems to be spreading to an unlikely source: female enablers.
Linda Sarsour, the Brooklyn-born Muslim activist who co-founded the Women's March and often advocates on behalf of Palestinians, may have just been outed as an enabler of sexual assault after one of her previous employees shared her story of working for her at the Arab American Association in 2009.
Asmi Fathelbab, the alleged victim, is Muslim and now 37 years old. She told the Daily Caller that after complaining to Sarsour about a man in her office building groping and sexually harassing her, she was immediately dismissed and even fat-shamed.
"She called me a liar because ‘Something like this didn’t happen to women who looked like me,'” Fathelbab recalled. “How dare I interrupt her TV news interview in the other room with my ‘lies.'”
The alleged assaulter, Majed Seif, lived in the same building as the Arab American Association, and would touch and grope Fathelbab when they would be alone in the hallways.
“He would sneak up on me during times when no one was around, he would touch me, you could hear me scream at the top of my lungs,” Fathelbab said, remembering that one of Seif's favorite things to do was sneak up on her with a full erection. “He would pin me against the wall and rub his crotch on me.”
Fathelbab ran the youth program after being placed there through AmeriCorps. As she described her assault, Seif and Sarsour endangered both women and children.
“It was disgusting,” Fathelbab said. “I ran the youth program in the building and with that comes bending down and talking to small children. You have no idea what it was like to stand up and feel that behind you. I couldn’t scream because I didn’t want to scare the child in front of me. It left me shaking.”
After she was dismissed by Sarsour, Fathelbab attempted to report it to the board of directors or even go public, but Sarsour threatened her with legal action for bringing up false claims. Fathelbab went to the president of the board of directors, Ahmed Jaber, but her story was dismissed by him, too.
"Jaber told me my stalker was a ‘God-fearing man’ who was ‘always at the mosque,’ so he wouldn’t do something like that,” Fathelbab said. “He wanted to make it loud and clear this guy was a good Muslim and I was a bad Muslim for complaining.”
Fathelbab continued to report her sexual assault to others in the building and even to AmeriCorps. It only made matters worse as she was reprimanded by them and a community liaison from the New York Police Department threatened to arrest Fathelbab for making "false claims."
Sarsour even threatened Fathelbab's professional life after her time at the Arab American Association, promising she'd never work in New York City again. “She told me I’d never work in NYC ever again for as long as she lived. She’s kept her word. She had me fired from other jobs when she found out where I worked. She has kept me from obtaining any sort of steady employment for almost a decade.”
It's no exaggeration to say that this is a Harvey Weinstein-type operation led by Sarsour. She may not have been the assaulter in this case, but it sounds like she's done just about everything to malign, silence, and blacklist a sexual assault victim. Sarsour has yet to respond to the allegations at this time, so it's difficult to pinpoint why someone who champions the rights of women in public seems to do quite the opposite in private.
After years of attacks against Sarsour, many of her supporters (both Muslim and non-Muslim) have dismissed them as Islamophobic smear campaigns. However, what do you do when the victim alleging abuse is a Muslim? What then? Do you stand up for truth and justice even when it hurts you and draw a line in the sand saying "enough is enough?" Or do you continue to support a woman who may not have your best interests in mind and only wants to amplify her own platform?
It's so important for women to be heard, especially in this day and age where sexual harassment, assault, and rape are rampant. Men and women need to know how to conduct themselves when they come face-to-face with someone who is going through it. If you say you believe all women's stories and put the onus on the accused and their enablers to prove them wrong, would you dismiss Fathelbab's story outright?
It's time to say "enough is enough." Sarsour, along with Seif, AmeriCorps, the Arab American Association, and even the NYPD need to be rightly called out for this and face the consequences if Fathelbab's account is accurate.
Women deserve a whole lot better from the co-founder of the Women's March.