Laura Ingraham slammed Linda Sarsour on her show on Fox News Friday after Sarsour invoked jihad in a speech at the annual Islamic Society of North America convention in Chicago.
Ingraham, who was filling in for host Sean Hannity, sparred with Imam Mohammad Ali Elahi over the meaning behind Sarsour’s use of the word “jihad” in the context of opposing Trump. Sarsour, an organizer of the left-wing Women’s March on Washington, has also encouraged Muslim immigrants to refuse to “assimilate” with U.S. customs and ways of life. In a speech to a Muslim group last week, she claimed “that when we stand up to those who oppress our communities, that Allah accepts from us that as a form of jihad.”
Sarsour added that Muslims “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, where you have fascists and white supremacists and Islamophobes reigning in the White House.”
Noting that former President Barack Obama’s administration had labeled Sarsour a “champion of change,” Ingraham asked the Imam if he could defend Sarsour’s words in good conscience.
“And I understand from Muslims [that jihad] can mean striving and trying and struggling, but for most Americans to hear ‘jihad,’ it has different connotations,” Ingraham said. “[Sarsour] understands that clearly. She’s a sophisticated player. Do you defend what she said about this president and really about this country in that soundbite?”
The Imam argued that “jihad” means “to be a better person, more honest, more truthful and more trustworthy,” adding that if someone leaves “this jihad for ISIS,” then they “have different interpretations of it” than the one Sarsour used.
“I think she is expressing her frustration,” the Imam said of Sarsour’s words.
Ingraham noted that most Americans envision a violent context when they hear the word “jihad.”
“Here’s what doesn’t go over well for most Americans … Linda Sarsour getting up there and saying ‘the fascist, the Islamaphobe white supremacist in the Oval Office.’ That is so purposefully incendiary and I would say, if he weren’t the president of the United States, he could sue for defamation. Because that’s just garbage,” Ingraham said.
“That’s meant to incite Muslims to whom she’s speaking. It certainly isn’t meant to build bridges. That is meant to incite, infuriate — infuriate is fine — but incite is not good,” Ingraham added. “And when she says ‘our goal is not to assimilate,’ her goal is Sharia law, is it not?”
The Imam skirted the Sharia law question, arguing that Sarsour’s frustration is justified because of the changes between how the Obama administration and the Trump administration dealt with Islam. Whereas Obama called Islam a religion of “mercy and compassion,” the Imam said, Trump has argued that “Islam hates us” in a radical context.
“Does [Sarsour] sound ‘merciful’ to you?” Ingraham pushed back. “We don’t hear immigrant groups come into the United States traditionally saying, ‘We will not assimilate.’ Not in the last 50 years.”
The Imam demurred, saying, “You know, you should talk with Linda herself. I am not a representative of Linda, but the word of ‘jihad’ that you mentioned is up to interpretation.”
Ingraham and the Imam were joined by Brigitte Gabriel, founder of ACT for America, a national security grassroots organization. Gabriel, a Christian Lebanese immigrant, called Sarsour’s rallying cry “very radical” in a way that was “specifically inciting hatred and violence.”
“If these words were coming out of any other person, we would have said, ‘Well, that really overstepped the lines,'” Gabriel argued. “But coming out of Linda Sarsour, you have to understand her background,” Gabriel added, noting that Sarsour comes from a”long line of terrorists” and has connections with radical Muslims.
Gabriel said Sarsour’s comments could constitute “calls for violence to those who want to commit jihad against America, to the home-grown terrorists, to the radicals who want to kill the president as well as people like you and me, Laura, who are law-abiding citizens.”
The Imam rejected Gabriel’s interpretation of Sarsour’s use of the word “jihad.”
“You are hate-monger number one in the United States,” the Imam said. “People like this Brigitte are always talking about hate and hate-mongering and negative.”
“If [jihad] means to promote violence, we are, of course, you know, condemn that,” the Imam concluded. “But if it means to struggle against ignorance and arrogance and injustice and racism and poverty and war and terrorism, then we are on the same page.”
Ingraham, however, argued that if people like Sarsour want to carry out a “jihad” and do not want to assimilate into the country to which they have immigrated, then they shouldn’t have come to the U.S. in the first place.
“If people don’t like this country, if we are white supremacists, [an] evil, horrible, rotten country, I do not know why we have millions and millions of people who want to come here, including many people from Muslim countries,” Ingraham said. “They seem to want to come here, want to settle all over the United States, and yet they come here and they say, ‘We don’t want to assimilate. We want to jihad.’ I don’t get it. Don’t come here. If it’s a rotten, awful country, don’t come here.”