One of the most prominent feminists in the US, Linda Sarsour, has been accused of enabling sexual harassment in the workplace and body-shaming a woman who reported the abuse to her. Sarsour, a Palestinian-American, was an organizer of the Women’s March on Washington and is an outspoken anti-Israel activist.
Asmi Fathelbab, a former employee of the nonprofit Arab American Association, claims she was sexually harassed at work in 2009. She reported the incident, in which a volunteer at the organization snuck up behind her and rubbed his erect penis against her, to Sarsour, who was her superior. Sarsour allegedly dismissed Fathelbab’s complaints with body-shaming remarks, telling Fathelbab “Something like that doesn’t happen to someone who looks like you.”
In a tweet, Fathelbab said, "For the record, I did not get paid for my story, I am neither right wing nor left wing, I am a real person, I am a woman, I am Muslim. This all actually happened to me, whether you believe it or not based on politics is not how humans should come to a conclusion on any topic."
“Women who put [Sarsour] on a pedestal for women’s rights and empowerment deserve to know how she really treats us,” said Fathelbab, who told the Daily Caller that Sarsour “oversaw a work environment unsafe and abusive to women.”
“I told her several times what was happening, but she just brushed it off,” Fathelbab told Fox News in an interview Wednesday night.
Sarsour has called the accusations “a right wing attack” and “smear campaign.” Sarsour said that no such assault took place and Fathelbab exaggerated the incident. “The exact words were, ‘He makes me feel uncomfortable,’” Sarsour told Buzzfeed. “There was nothing about touching or groping. There’s no evidence, no email she can pull out where she ever gave those claims to us.”
Sarsour tweeted that Fathelbab's claims was just one of many in the "Newest waves of attacks [against Sarsour.] Every woman has a right to her story and I have a right to defend myself, my character and my commitment to women. This was a new low."
On Twitter, supporters of Sarsour have come out in full force against Fathelbab, calling her a liar and accusing her of fabricating the story for political reasons. Some of the Twitter attacks have said Fathelbab is anti-Islam, a charge she vehemently denies. “I’m Muslim, and I’ve studied Islam. Nowhere in there [the Quran] does it say you’re against the religion if you stand up for yourself,” she said.
In response to the wave of critical tweets, Fathelbab tweeted, "So to be clear: 1) Everyone has the right to state their #MeToo story but me. 2) Politics has more say than actual sexual harassment and abuse. 3) If I stand up against Linda Sarsour I am a bad Muslim or against Islam."
In retaliation for going public with her story, Fathelbab said Sarsour promised to sabotage her career: “She said I will never work in New York City ever again, as long as she lives.”