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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 Hamas — which 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/WillBredderman
©2012 Community Newspaper Group
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