3 Things Conservatives Got Very Wrong About Linda Sarsour’s Speech

Muslim-American political activist’s words — especially the meaning of “jihad” — were misinterpreted and misquoted on Twitter

Last Updated: July 7, 2017 @ 12:35 AM

Conservatives are freaking out over a speech — rather, a misquotation of a speech — given by Muslim-American activist, Linda Sarsour.

Typically, any mention of  Sarsour’s name is enough to make GOP blood boil.

She’s Palestinian-American, an outspoken critic of the Trump administration, and served as co-chair of the Women’s March on Washington, D.C. But recently, conservatives have gotten extra heated over a short clip of Sarsour’s July 1 keynote speech at a community luncheon in Chicago. In her speech, Sarsour invoked a word that non-Muslims greatly misunderstand and fear: “jihad.”

Right-leaning Twitter is now accusing Sarsour of terrorism and calling for her arrest.

“She is openly calling for terrorism and needs to be arrested NOW!” one outraged user wrote. “Islamist Linda Sarsour calls on Allah to honor their JIHAD against President Trump at Hamas fundraiser,” fumed another.

Among all this outrage, though, is a lot of mis-information. Here is what conservative Twitter got very, very wrong.

1. That Sarsour spoke at a “Hamas fundraiser.”
Sarsour was actually the keynote speaker at the Islamic Society of North America’s Community Service Recognition Luncheon. The luncheon took place on July 1 in Rosemont, Illinois. According to the event website, it was a gathering of “a prestigious group of the nation’s Muslim leaders, scholars and government officials” to celebrate “an individual dedicated to community service.” This year’s honoree was Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed, the ISNA’s National Director and a prominent leader in the Muslim-American community.

2. The definition of the word “jihad”
Many non-Muslims mistakenly believe the word “jihad” means “holy war,” when in fact, it means “struggle” or “striving,” according to the Islamic Supreme Council of America. “It can refer to internal as well as external efforts to be a good Muslims or believer, as well as working to inform people about the faith of Islam,” the Council said. “Jihad is not a violent concept. [It] is not a declaration of war against other religions.” Also, “The concept of jihad has been hijacked by many political and religious groups over the ages in a bid to justify various forms of violence … Scholars say this misuse of jihad contradicts Islam.”

In her speech, Sarsour quoted a passage in the Quran where the Prophet Muhammad explains that the best form of jihad or struggle is “a word of truth in front of a tyrant rule or leader …” Sarsour followed with, “I hope that when we stand up to those who oppress our communities, that Allah accepts that from us as a form of jihad, that we are struggling against tyrants and rulers…” She then cited “fascists and white supremacists and Islamophobes reigning in the White House.”

Though she did make a not-so-subtle reference to President Trump and his constituents, Sarsour in no way incited violence against them. In using the word “jihad,” she merely encouraged her audience to stand up to discrimination.

3. Calls for Sarsour’s deportation
According to FindLaw, “natural-born U.S. citizens may not have their citizenship revoked against their will, but may choose to renounce their citizenship on their own.” Sarsour was born in Brooklyn, New York. She is a natural-born U.S. citizen and therefore cannot be deported.

The two-minute-long video that is circulating Twitter has been altered to show Sarsour in a negative light. To deflect a lot of the hatred she has received — and to clear up misinformation — Sarsour tweeted out a link to the original video of the speech in its entirety.

The full speech was posted to ISNA’s Facebook page on July 1st and is 24 minutes long. You can listen to it here.

The Islamic Society of North America did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.