The Changing Face of Bay Ridge

Lightning rod Sarsour joins Ridge community board

Brooklyn Daily

Bay Ridge community leaders are lashing out against Borough President Markowitz’s decision to appoint a controversial Arab-American activist to a neighborhood advisory panel, claiming that a woman who’s admitted to having loose connections to Islamic extremist groups should not have been given the job.

Markowitz named Linda Sarsour, an outspoken critic of Israel whose relatives have been arrested for supporting the Islamic fundamentalist group Hamaswhich calls for the destruction of the Jewish state — as one of three new replacements to Community Board 10.

The news didn’t sit well with Bay Ridge religious leaders.

“It would have been more advisable to find someone who has not been involved in controversy to represent their community,” said Rabbi Tzvi Stroh of the Chabad of Bay Ridge.

Andy Sullivan, a Bay Ridge Tea Party member who hopes to unseat Councilman Vincent Gentile (D–Bay Ridge) next fall, said that Sarsour should be removed from the board immediately.

“If a person has direct ties to Hamas or any group like that, they should absolutely not be on the board,” Sullivan said.

But Markowitz defended his decision, calling Sarsour a “real fighter.”

“She is an outstanding advocate for the Arab-American community in Brooklyn and beyond, and it’s reprehensible that in a borough that celebrates diversity, anyone should have to tolerate unfounded and hateful character attacks.”

Bay Ridge civic leader Chip Cafiero, who fought Sarsour’s bid to get an Arabic band booked at last year’s Fourth of July picnic, agreed with Markowitz, even though he’s clashed with Sarsour in the past.

“She represents a large contingent of the community, and she’ll do a good job,” said Cafiero.

Sarsour — who recently received a “Champion of Change” award from President Obama — said she would bring a distinct and important voice to CB10, the city’s neighborhood sounding board on zoning, traffic, and public safety issues.

“I’d bring a unique voice and perspective to the table as a young Arab woman,” the 32-year-old woman said, adding that the other two Arabs on the 50-member board, Habib Joudeh and the Reverend Khader El-Yateem, are both middle-aged men.

Besides her family’s alleged connections to Hamas, Sarsour has pushed the city to make two Muslim holy days public school holidays. She’s also openly criticized the NYPD’s counter-terrorism efforts.

Sarsour says she has no personal ties to Islamic fundamentalists or radical Muslim groups.

“If I had any ties to Hamas, I don’t think I’d be honored by our government,” Sarsour said. “I do not support suicide bombers or anyone else who harms innocent people, regardless if they are Palestinian or Israeli.”

Sarsour does have her defenders on the Board — including CB10 chairwoman Joanne Seminara.

“She’ll be an asset to the board,” Seminara said. “Her views are as welcome as anyone else’s.”

Cafiero predicted that Sarsour would spark plenty of debates at board meetings — which he said could only help the Board.

“I’ll think she’ll be very vocal, and people will challenge what she says,” Cafiero said.

Reach reporter Will Bredderman at (718) 260–4507 or e-mail him at wbredderman@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/WillBredderman

Reader Feedback

Thompson from Boerum Hill says:
I have met Linda many times and can vouch for her levelheadedness, professionalism, and patriotism. Any attempt to paint her as anything else is simply slanderous.
June 27, 2012, 10:33 am
Tony V from Park Slope says:
I echo the comment above. I am Roman Catholic and Italian-American. I am offended by the small-minded knee-jerk reaction of my fellow Brooklynites.

I have known Linda for many years. Linda is passionate about equal treatment and respect for all both locally and internationally.

It is important that each NY community board is composed of a mix of people who are in touch with the different facets of their neighborhoods and fellow human beings whom the board serves.

I appreciate the level-mindedness of both Mr. Markowitz and Mr. Cafiero who understand that debate is healthy and can see past the ill-conceived nonsense spouted by bigots in our midst. I am personally ashamed when these close-minded people are either Catholic or Christian.

Everyone on the board appears committed to representing their constituents. Community Boards are one of the strengths of NYC and I am sure CB10 will add to it.
June 27, 2012, 11:15 am
Matt from Bay Ridge says:
I had the honor of working with Linda on voter registration and education, and she is truly committed to her community, by which I mean Bay Ridge residents of all ethnic stripes. I couldn't be more proud as an Arab American and as a resident of Bay Ridge to have her on the community board. Her detractors need to get over their xenophobia, islamphobia, and fear mongering. She's only a lightning rod inasmuch as stupidity and fear are inexorably drawn towards the unfamiliar.
June 27, 2012, 11:27 am
Yasmin from Park Slope says:
More than ever, we need community leaders like Linda. She tells it like it is and cares about all Brooklyn residents, regardless of their race or religion.

I've watched her serve Brooklynites & other New Yorkers over the past six years and frankly, I think it's sad that the reporter who wrote this piece gave so much space to criticism and B.S. extremist connections and so little space to what she's contributed to her country and community. Sad.

Linda, you are fearless, hard-working and make us all proud!
June 27, 2012, 11:54 am
Sulayman from Tudor City says:
I know Linda personally. She's a real nice lady and has no hatred or bigotry in her. I wouldn't call her "controversial" at all, more like "an excellent choice for Bay Ridge." If you don't believe me, read her twitter feed for the last 2 years.
June 27, 2012, 11:58 am
Dave from Boerum Hill says:
Linda Sarsour is passionate, warm-hearted, hardworking and dedicated to the good of all New Yorkers. She has stood up for LGBT rights, the rights of Black and Latino people, of women, and of course for Arab and Muslim citizens. And, as one can read in the above article, she has no ties to Hamas and is against violence of any kind.

As for her relatives I couldn't say. But I know I'd hate to be judged by the worst of my relatives...
June 27, 2012, 12:04 pm
Wayne from Park Slope says:
Linda is an extremely effective, committed, and thoughtful advocate for all underserved communities. This is a great appointment by the Brooklyn Borough President.
June 27, 2012, 12:54 pm
Steve from Flatbush says:
I don't know what Linda's "relatives" are supposed to have done, but what does that have to do with her qualifications? She is an accomplished community leader with seemingly endless energy to do good.
June 27, 2012, 3:06 pm
Karim from Manhattan says:
I have observed some troubling interactions between Linda and folks with whom she disagrees, but I can't say one way or another that she has links to HAMAS, and feel it is unfair to bar people based on suspicions alone. Let's see what kind of job she does.
June 27, 2012, 7:54 pm
no fooling around from midwood says:
Marty Markowitz said:

"“She is an outstanding advocate for the Arab-American community in Brooklyn and beyond, and it’s reprehensible that in a borough that celebrates diversity, anyone should have to tolerate unfounded and hateful character attacks.”"

Based on Marty's statement, it seems he must have have been one of the 10,000 who voted for Charles Barron.

Meanwhile, Sarsour has stated her opposition to the NYPD's anti-terrorism efforts, which is another way of expressing her support for Islamic terrorists. Not good.
June 27, 2012, 8:12 pm
Kathryn Casa from Washington Heights says:
Nothing in this story substantiates allegations that Ms. Sarsour has ties to Hamas. The 8-year-old story to which that statement is linked says she had a cousin who had been in Israeli jails; a family friend serving a prison sentence in Israel; and a brother-in-law accused of being an activist in Hamas. It's important to remember that "accused" is not the same as "convicted," and also that for tens of thousands of Palestinians in Israel and Palestine, conviction and detention can happen for little or no reason, or worse, for trumped up charges.
Ms. Sarsour is beyond reproach; a principled activist and staunch defender of human and civil rights who calls it like she sees it. She will be a great addition to this community board.
June 27, 2012, 11:07 pm
Amost all the comments came from the same computer. says:
Why did all the previous comments came from the same computer.
June 28, 2012, 12:27 am
Havlová from Bed-Stuy says:
I have known Linda for the last few years and have followed her actions in the local news. Linda is an incredible woman and an inspiration to anyone familiar to her work. She is an asset to her Bay Ridge community and an excellent example of a strong, intelligent Muslim woman.

Her work challenging NYPD's racial profiling has brought her in coalition with people of color across the city who are tired of the realities of racism and Islamophobia. She should be applauded for her bold stand against state-sanctioned racism. Here's one born-and-bread Brooklynite who won't countenance injustice and who will actually DO SOMETHING about it.
June 28, 2012, 5:50 am
Linda Sarsour from Bay Ridge says:
I want to thank all of you for your supportive comments. It's interesting how someone would say that these comments are all coming from one computer when I in fact know many of you and have thanked most of you personally and if I haven't, thank you. It's funny how stories like these fuel my work and passions and it reaffirms why I do the work that I do. Of the 50 or so appointees to Community Boards across Brooklyn - someone thought to focus on me - that could only be a good thing. I know who I am and why I do what I do and nothing is going to take that away from me. The outpouring of love, support, blogs, tweets and brand new twitter followers, an opportunity to rap with Scarsborough next week on WNBC just shows that bigotry only backfires on those that spew hate and misinformation. Andy Sullivan has something to say he should say it to me not hide behind a local newspaper. I am not hard to find. Again, much love and our road to justice continues! These stories just prove to me that my work has not gone in vain, people know my influence and it makes them uneasy! That cool with me!
June 28, 2012, 8:17 pm
Ed from Bay Ridge says:
She'll be a wonderful addition to the board.
June 29, 2012, 11:40 am
Alyson from Carroll Gardens says:
I heard Linda speak a few months ago at an anti-Islamophobia event and thought she seemed ok. After following her on twitter and doing a little more reasearch, I'm sad to say I doubt her.

For one, I'm not sure her astute political analyses will really bring the community to the next level. (Cliff's Notes version: everything is "whack.")

I also read comments made by her saying that getting married young (as she was at 17 in an arranged marriage) is "what her people do." I know many Arabs who would that offensive. Not her own marriage, but her suggestion that this it is acceptable to marry off teenagers in the US. I hope she agrees that Arab girls don't deserve to be at the receiving end of pressure to marry when she did because it's what "they do."

She also said in an old interview that a case of domestic violence would have to be "very extreme" for her to want the police to arrest a Muslim man. How extreme is "very," Linda? Broken arms? Shattered jaw? Or dead?

She calls "Imam" Talib Rashid her "mentor." He is prominent in the MIB, a very anti-gay organization. This should cause social-justice minded people to question Sarsour's affiliations vis-a-vis her stated positions. Whack!
June 29, 2012, 4:30 pm
Brad from Bay Ridge says:
Linda, will the "road to justice" include protection for: Muslims who want to leave the religion; for Muslim women who want to escape the suffocating oppression of misogny and forced marriages; for LGBT Muslims who simply want to live freely as God has created them; for those who point out Islam's flaws to freely express themselves without the libel of being accused of "racism"; and for those within the Muslim community to express their doubts about their religion without fear of violence?
July 27, 2012, 4:24 pm

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