Bari Weiss is an editor of the New York Times' opinion section.
Weiss was a supporter of and moved by the January Women's March, which she regarded as a "shining moment."
Nevertheless, Weiss was troubled by "chilling ideas and associations" of several leaders. Linda Sarsour, for example, a supporter of Sharia law in the U.S., was a national co-chair of the march.
Most supporters of the March were willing to skate right past disturbing things like this.
To her credit, Ms. Weiss has written a piece headlined "When Progressives Embrace Hate."
It is amazing on two counts: Ms. Weiss' courage in writing it and the thorough job she does of reporting on Linda Sarsour's career.
I am going to quote at length because this is important and you don't don't often see this kind of objectivity in publications such as the New York Times nowadays. The article begins with Weiss' enthusiasm for the March:
What wasn’t to like?
A lot, as it turns out. The leaders of the Women’s March, arguably the most prominent feminists in the country, have some chilling ideas and associations. Far from erecting the big tent so many had hoped for, the movement they lead has embraced decidedly illiberal causes and cultivated a radical tenor that seems determined to alienate all but the most woke.
Start with Ms. Sarsour, by far the most visible of the quartet of organizers. It turns out that this “homegirl in a hijab,” as one of many articles about her put it, has a history of disturbing views, as advertised by . . . Linda Sarsour.
There are comments on her Twitter feed of the anti-Zionist sort: “Nothing is creepier than Zionism,” she wrote in 2012. And, oddly, given her status as a major feminist organizer, there are more than a few that seem to make common cause with anti-feminists, like this from 2015: “You’ll know when you’re living under Shariah law if suddenly all your loans and credit cards become interest-free. Sound nice, doesn’t it?”
She has dismissed the anti-Islamist feminist Ayaan Hirsi Ali in the most crude and cruel terms, insisting she is “not a real woman” and confessing that she wishes she could take away Ms. Ali’s vagina — this about a woman who suffered genital mutilation as a girl in Somalia.
Ms. Sarsour and her defenders have dismissed all of this as a smear campaign coordinated by the far right and motivated by Islamophobia. Plus, they’ve argued, many of these tweets were written five years ago! Ancient history.
But just last month, Ms. Sarsour proved that her past is prologue. On July 16, the official Twitter feed of the Women’s March offered warm wishes to Assata Shakur. “Happy birthday to the revolutionary #AssataShakur!” read the tweet, which featured a “#SignOfResistance, in Assata’s honor” — a pink and purple Pop Art-style portrait of Ms. Shakur, better known as Joanne Chesimard, a convicted killer who is on the F.B.I.’s list of most wanted terrorists.
Like many others, CNN’s Jake Tapper noticed the outrageous tweet. “Shakur is a cop-killer fugitive in Cuba,” he tweeted, going on to mention Ms. Sarsour’s troubling past statements. “Any progressives out there condemning this?” he asked.
There’s no doubt that Ms. Sarsour is a regular target of far-right groups, but her experience of that onslaught is what makes her smear all the more troubling. Indeed, the idea that Jake Tapper is a member of the alt-right is the kind of delirious, fact-free madness that fuels Donald Trump and his supporters. Troublingly, it is exactly the sentiment echoed by the Women’s March: “Our power — your power — scares the far right. They continue to try to divide us. Today’s attacks on #AssataShakur are the latest example.”
Since when did criticizing a domestic terrorist become a signal issue of the far right? Last I checked, that position was a matter of basic decency and patriotism.
What’s more distressing is that Ms. Sarsour is not the only leader of the women’s movement who harbors such alarming ideas. Largely overlooked have been the similarly outrageous statements of the march’s other organizers.
This is a very brave piece.