[Ikhras Note: With Linda Sarsour’s emergence as a celebrity activist her delusional ambitions outgrew local politics. She abandoned her planned run for the New York City Council and looked for a compliant patsy, which she found in a local Palestinian Lutheran Pastor. The Ikhras investigative unit was sent to New York to look into the campaign, background, history and politics of Sarsour’s hand-picked puppet, Reverend Khader El-Yateem. The following is an Ikhras special report.]
After her canonization and emergence as a celebrity activist, Linda Sarsour decided to abandon her plan to run for New York City Council. Her narcissism and ambitions outgrew local politics. As she explains to friends and relatives, she’s on her way to becoming the Muslim Oprah Winfrey. This has always been her dream. Write a book, get her own a talk-show. Fame. Fortune. Magazine covers. We think you get the idea.
At the same time, Linda is also aware that in her own backyard of Bayridge, Brooklyn (she grew up in neighboring Sunset Park) she is toxic and radioactive. So, instead of running for a seat on the New York City Council as was originally planned and often rumored, she hand-picked a local Palestinian Lutheran pastor to be her front man. Everybody knows Khader El-Yateem is Linda Sarsour’s puppet though it is a tad bit confusing because most people seem to assume that Mr. El-Yateem, or “The Reverend” as he is often called, is a Muslim-American even though he is a Christian who never seems to remove his clergy collar. You’re expected to notice the collar and assume he is a pious man worthy of respect. The decision by the 6′ 3” patsy to run just happened to coincide with Sarsour’s announcement that she is resigning from the government-funded Arab-American Association to pursue politics on a national level.
The Ikhras investigative unit spent some time on the fringes of the El-Yateem campaign and posed as eager volunteers from Crown Heights to get an inside look into what they were cooking. For a man running such a “progressive” campaign that claims to be focused on “lifting up” people of color, everyone behind the scenes was predominantly white and cis male. All of Mr. El-Yateem’s top advisers and strategists are white and his religious advisers all appear to be older, white men with a handful of House Muslims, Imams and clerics to provide the campaign with a holistic, “interfaith” feel. Let’s just say there is not much diversity to be found at the Team El-Yateem headquarters in Bayridge.
What is equally curious to us is the fact that Mr. El-Yateem failed to speak out about any political issues until he became a candidate for local political office. After speaking to several community and political advocates in the area both Arab and non-Arab, they all said the same thing: Mr. El-Yateem was never seen supporting other liberal Democrats in the neighborhood who were trying to defeat the local anti-immigrant, anti-Arab Republicans because he stayed neutral as a religious figure. Furthermore, Mr. El-Yateem never stood up for LGBTQIA issues or publicly spoke out against racism or in support of immigration reform, in defense of health care or anything, really. “He was a wallflower,” one man on 5th Avenue told us. “I served with him on Community Board 10 (the local neighborhood planning board) and he was always quiet and respectful. He was not the man he is today. He seemed to almost have an aversion to anything political. I think it is very strange that now he is running for office as a socialist.”
However, once Sarsour woke up and decided a run for city council wasn’t part of her immediate future and just a bad idea overall, she provided him with her own script and trained “The Reverend” how to walk, talk and act like a progressive freedom fighter, something Sarsour herself just recently memorized and learned. Seemingly overnight, Mr. El-Yateem was no longer the soft-spoken, apolitical, gentle giant of a pastor with the small congregation on Fourth Avenue; he was now the second coming of Bernie Sanders!
Hunched over his ancient IBM computer, tucked in the dark and dreary rectory office in his Salam Arabic Lutheran Church on 4th Avenue in Bayridge, Mr. El-Yateem spent hours and hours studiously memorizing his lines late into the night. He started talking about things like income inequality and economic and racial justice. Terms, ideas and phrases that no one had ever heard him speak of before during his 20+ years in America. According to many local Arab-American leaders and political officials, Mr. El-Yateem would usually show up to local community events in time for a photo op in the local newspaper. He would smile, and shake hands and then vanish. “He was like an Arab Uncle Tom,” an elderly Arab woman told us.
But soon, like his hero Jesus The Carpenter before him, Pastor El-Yateem was reborn as a Democratic Socialist who was so unbelievably inspired by Bernie Sanders that he just had to run for political office in his community! In fact, Mr. El-Yateem was so overwhelmingly inspired by and supportive of Bernie Sanders that he didn’t even so much as vote for Bernie in the 2016 presidential primary!
The 2016 New York Democratic primary was held on April 19, 2016 but Mr. El-Yateem did not cast a vote from anywhere on this day. Today, Mr. El-Yateem’s phalanx of older, white advisers claim he was called to “an emergency meeting in Chicago” and naturally didn’t have time to vote via absentee ballot. But just a few minutes of digging around on social media shows that Mr. El-Yateem was actually in attendance at a massive Arab-American leadership conference in Washington, D.C. on April 19, 2016. It did not look like an emergency meeting by any means. It looked more like a meeting Mr. El-Yateem had planned to attend for months and months prior. So what was his new excuse for not voting for his political superhero Bernie Sanders? Well, he doesn’t have one. When asked by the press, his brain trust offered no comment. Instead, Mr. El-Yateem’s troupe of Bard and Dartmouth educated academic advisers pointed to a horribly staged photo of him holding a dog-eared Bernie For President placard, insinuating that Mr. El-Yateem had always been a big time Bernie supporter “from day one.” Only problem was the metadata time stamp on the photo showed it was actually taken outside his campaign office just a few weeks ago.
As with all Arab and Muslim-Americans seeking entry into U.S. politics, the first thing “The Reverend” had to do was endorse the Zionist colonial project in Palestine. So he made sure to go on the record and stress “Israel’s right to exist.” As one would expect from these self-absorbed charlatans, he feigns support for Palestinian rights within the strictly defined parameters of acceptable discourse. For example, he expresses support for the BDS movement, but defines the movement’s objective as, get this, “to help Israel become a better democracy in the Middle East.”
Like Sarsour, Mr. El-Yateem is opportunistic, self-serving, deceptive, and lacks real political convictions. After just a few weeks being embedded on his campaign, it was obvious his words were carefully chosen and well-rehearsed. For example, Mr. El-Yateem likes to say that he “doesn’t take money from developers” but he sure does take money from the pied-à-terre industry which sells apartments to foreign oligarchs so they can park their money tax-free in New York City real estate. This, we were told, is one of the big causes of the affordable housing crisis in New York City. It doesn’t sound very socialist to us.
“I’m going to fight the greedy landlords, fight the developers who are taking over our neighborhood, fight for affordable housing,” Mr. El-Yateem recently said here. Meanwhile, we didn’t notice any signs of development – luxury or otherwise – around the community. To make matters worse, Mr. El-Yateem’s contributions include thousands of dollars from developers and major real estate brokers deeply involved with pied-à-terre buyers, and other brokers, property managers and the like (see here) but please pay no attention to that man behind the curtain, for Mr. El-Yateem is clearly the second-coming of Bernie Sanders, ladies and gentlemen!
Some quick internet sleuthing also told us that Mr. El-Yateem owns several houses, several gas stations and makes six figures as a pastor at the Salam Arab Lutheran Church. Does any of this sound like the hallmarks of a smash capitalism socialist to you? Mr. El-Yateem has also called for more law enforcement and more police in his neighborhood. We couldn’t find that anywhere in our copy of the D.S.A. handbook either. While we understand the impetus for the D.S.A. to support so-called “progressives” and people of color, people we spoke with on the campaign trail seem a bit confused by such a push for socialists to support a proud police liaison who has publicly and proudly called for more not less police. It would appear Mr. El-Yateem is trying to have his shishtaouk and eat it too.
Records show Mr. El-Yateem never used his position as NYPD liaison to speak out against the unconstitutional mosque surveillance in Bayridge. He also failed to speak out again local racist Senator Martin J. Golden when he said the World Trade Center pilots all came from Bayridge. But of course this was all before Mr. El-Yateem was struck by lightning and woke up as a Sandinista superhero!
Mr. El-Yateem boasts in his campaign pamphlets that he helped save the Fort Hamilton Army Base in Bayridge from closure. While this victorious claim is specious at best, newspaper records show that Mr. El-Yateem did in fact join arms with local Republicans and Conservative Party Chairman Michael Long to keep the base open at a time when many local neighborhood progressives wanted to see the base be de-militarized and used for less war and more peaceful purposes such as affordable housing or a community park and garden. Let the record reflect Mr. El-Yateem proudly stood against this concept just a few years ago. What is most ironic about El-Yateem and his shady dealings with the Fort Hamilton Army Base is that years ago when Mr. El-Yateem joined arms with local Republicans and Conservative Party leaders to fight to keep the base open, Mr. El-Yateem was silent on the streets named after the Confederate Generals. But now that he has been reborn and reprogrammed by Sarsour as a progressive social justice warrior, he is fighting to tear down these streets of hate in the very base that he fought to prevent from closing!
Mr. El-Yateem and others lobbied to keep Fort Hamilton Army Base open as an underused and completely unnecessary military facility, while in 2011 the odious and scandal-scarred Congressman Grimm proposed that Fort Hamilton Army Base instead be used as New York City headquarters of the FBI, Office of Homeland Security, and Secret Service. Why would a progressive socialist stand in favor of anything involving the FBI or the Secret Service? We also had a hard time coming to terms with this and it further proved our theory that Mr. El-Yateem is a little more than Sarsour’s Manchurian Candidate.
Another local activist told Ikhras that in a community that is completely starved for free public school space and affordable housing for seniors and families alike, the de-militarization of the controversial Fort Hamilton Army Base could have gone a long way toward providing solutions to these enduring societal problems. And, as an added bonus, General Lee Avenue and Stonewall Jackson Drive would both be just a distant memory by now if only Mr. El-Yateem, then just a soft-spoken, subservient Lutheran Pastor living in conservative white Bayridge hadn’t fought to keep the base open in the first place.
Regardless of all these reasons that should give them pause, the D.S.A. is solidly behind Mr. El-Yateem and nobody seems to care that Mr. El-Yateem is a person who is false and deceitful. According to a young, teenage activist we met named Abdallah Younus, an excitable new D.S.A. member who moved to Bayridge earlier this year to live with his white and blond girlfriend, as he described her and wanted us to know. “For the first time in my community, we are seeing a candidate with a truly progressive vision. Mr. El-Yateem has worked for years to build bridges in the Bayridge community, and has dedicated his life to its residents, regardless of their class, color or creed. He has been a vocal supporter of police reform, affordable housing and immigrant rights,” Younus said. It seems Mr. El-Yateem has everyone fooled. Then again, religious leaders have a long history of deceiving people.
The separation of church and state doesn’t seem to matter to the falsely radical D.S.A. either. Even though the separation of church and state is a philosophic concept for defining political distance in the relationship between religious organizations and the nation state, the D.S.A. has thrown their weight behind a Lutheran Pastor who, according to several former parishioners who asked not to be identified for fear of retribution, used to speak out against abortion and gay marriage from his pulpit at Salam Arab Lutheran Church. In fact, before Sarsour probably told him to shut up, Mr. El-Yateem would constantly say that he was running for office because it was time for him to bring his views “from the pulpit to the City Hall.”
Everyone would agree that “socialism” is having a moment. Sanders nearly snagged the Democratic Party nomination last year and may be America’s most popular politician. In the last year, D.S.A. says their membership has grown to 25,000 dues-paying members. D.S.A. brags they are now the “biggest socialist organization in America since World War II.” It is no surprise that Mr. El-Yateem would look to tie his wagon to this movement. But, many feel the D.S.A. movement is no different from the so-called “Bernie Bro” movement. They are young, white, male, and equally mad and clueless as hell about politics. Not unlike 99% of the people we met who were working for the El-Yateem Campaign.
In conclusion, what has been made vividly clear to us is that, even though he may not be a Muslim, Mr. El-Yateem is no different than Linda Sarsour and many other so-called Arab and Muslim “activists” and “representatives” that have entirely hijacked our identities for their own self-aggrandizement and in furtherance of personal ambitions of wealth and power in the existing white male power structure. We hope the voters reject Mr. El-Yateem on Election Day because it is clear he thinks they are all a bunch of fools anyway.
As Arabs and Muslims, we would love to see the first Arab American elected to City Council of New York but not this Arab-American because he is a disgraceful opportunist who does not believe what he is fighting for. Mr. El-Yateem is playing a role no less fake, deceptive and fraudulent than his puppet master, Linda Sarsour.