Muslim American activist Linda Sarsour has fired back at critics for misrepresenting her use of the term “jihad” in her keynote address for the Islamic Society of North America earlier this month.
In the July 1 speech, Sarsour shared a story from Islamic scripture concerning a man who asked Mohammed, the prophet of Islam, about the “best form of jihad.” “And our beloved prophet … said to him, ‘A word of truth in front of a tyrant ruler or leader, that is the best form of jihad,’” Sarsour told the crowd.
Sarsour urged fellow Muslims to “stand up to those who oppress our communities,” as “we are struggling against tyrants and rulers not only abroad in the Middle East or on the other side of the world, but here in these United States of America.”
But after edited video of the event began to circulate online, Sarsour received a barrage of criticism and threats, a result of conservative media publications like Breitbart and the Daily Caller accusing her of encouraging fellow Muslims to incite a “holy war” against the Trump administration.
Even Donald Trump Jr. got involved, retweeting a Fox News story titled “Activist Linda Sarsour Calls for ‘Jihad’ Against Trump Administration,” adding, “Who in the @DNC will denounce this activist and democrat leader calling for Jihad [against] trump?”
Now Sarsour is pushing back against these critics. In a July 9 op-ed for the Washington Post, she writes that the term “jihad” has “been hijacked by Muslim extremists and right-wing extremists alike, leaving ordinary Muslims to defend our faith.”
“In my speech … I sent not a call to violence, but a call to speak truth to power and to commit to the struggle for racial and economic justice,” Sarsour explains. “Most disturbing about this recent defamation campaign is how it is focused on demonizing the legitimate yet widely misunderstood Islamic term I used, ‘jihad,’ which to a majority of Muslims and according to religious scholars means ‘struggle’ or ‘to strive for.’”