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Women’s March Votes In New Leader, Ousts Her Days Later After Extreme Comments Emerge
SANTA CLARA, CA - JULY 27 Two weeks after Donald Trump won the presidency last November, Zahra Billoo, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations San Francisco Bay Area Office, posted to Facebook a line from a handwritten letter mailed to a San Jose mosque: Hes going to do to you Muslims what Hitler did to the Jews. Two weeks after Donald Trump won the presidency last November, Zahra Billoo, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations San Francisco Bay Area Office, posted to Facebook a line from a handwritten letter mailed to a San Jose mosque: Hes going to do to you Muslims what Hitler did to the Jews.
Photo by Nick Otto for the Washington Post via Getty Images

Just days after appointing her, the Women’s March, which has come under fire for the anti-Semitism of its past leaders, was forced to remove its newest board member, Zahra Billoo, for extreme statements she made on social media. Billoo responded by posting a lengthy thread on Twitter denouncing the group and blaming her removal on an “Islamophobic smear campaign.”

The ouster of Billoo came in response to a series of past statements the activist and former executive director at the controversy-riddled Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR) made on social media about Israel.

As reported by The Daily Caller, in 2017 posts on Facebook and Twitter, Billoo defended her decision to boycott “Wonder Woman” because it stars Gal Gadot, who once served in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). “I similarly would not watch a movie where the lead actor or actress were proud of their participation in the US military, ISIS, or Al Qaeda,” Billoo explained. “Don’t guess, I’ll just tell you, I believe all of them are comparably evil.” She went on to call Gadot a “murderer” and to condemn “Apartheid Israel.”

In February 2018, Billoo posted on Facebook an account of her encounter with a Marine recruiter in which she compared American military to ISIS and Nazis. “He explained the promise of the educational benefits lured him in. He was otherwise not going to be able to go to school,” she wrote. “I shared that financial benefits are often a recruiting tactic for groups like ISIS also. That was tricky for me. Gently comparing his experience to that of ISIS fighters. I refrained from comparing him to a Nazi cook, who though a cook, was still part of the Nazi operation. It took a lot to not say it.”

She also said in May 2018 that she doesn’t see “any difference between American youth leaving the country to join ISIS or the IDF,” declaring, “Both are murderous, war crime committing, terrorist entities.” (See the posts here.)

The Women’s March, which has had to dismiss other high-profile leaders, Linda Sarsour and Tamika Mallory, for their anti-Semitic rhetoric and actions, voted Billoo out just days after voting her in, The Daily Caller notes in a follow-up report.

In a 25-tweet thread posted late Wednesday night, Billoo unloaded on the Women’s March, which she decried as having caved to an “Islamophobic smear campaign” and which she denounced as “unable and unwilling to be an ally during challenging times.” She also made clear that she stands by her extreme statements that ultimately compelled the group to remove her.

Below is the full text of her tweet thread (formatting adjusted):

Since this is going to be in your newsfeeds in the morning – here’s a thread about me being voted off the board of @WomensMarch tonight.

A few hours ago, I was voted off the @WomensMarch national board. This followed an Islamophobic smear campaign led by the usual antagonists, who have long targeted me, my colleagues, and anyone else who dares speak out in support of Palestinian human rights and the right to self-determination.

The past 48 hours have been a spiral of bad news and smear efforts. Part of the smear campaign is motivated by opponents of the Women’s March, because the organization has traditionally challenged the status quo of power and white supremacy in our country.

However, much of the campaign is driven by people who oppose me and my work challenging the occupation of Palestine, our country’s perpetuation of unjust and endless wars, and law enforcement operations targeting the American Muslim community.

The Women’s March, Inc. is an organization I once held dear. I spoke at the first #WomensMarch, spoke at regional marches every year after, spoke at the #WomensConvention, participated in national actions including the original #Kavanaugh protests, and worked to mobilize Muslim women for their efforts.

During the past few years right-wingers, from the President’s son to the Anti-Defamation League and troll armies, have targeted the Women’s March, Inc. For so long, I’ve admired their resilience in speaking truth to power, in working together, and in never cowering.

Over and over again, the co-founders of Women’s March, Inc., @lsarsour, @msladyjustice1, @TamikaDMallory, and @bobblanddesign, put their lives on the line, winning power for all women in all of our diversity.

The Women’s March, Inc. that voted me off its board tonight is one that no longer demonstrates the strength that inspired millions of women across the country. To see and experience its new leaders caving to right-wing pressure, and casting aside a woman of color, a Muslim woman, a long-time advocate within the organization, without the willingness to make any efforts to learn and grow, breaks my heart.

This isn’t about a lost seat, there will be many seats. The Women’s March, Inc. has drawn a line in the sand, one that will exclude many with my lived experiences and critiques. It has effectively said, we will work on some women’s rights at the expense of others.

To be clear, anti-Semitism is indeed a growing and dangerous problem in our country, as is anti-Blackness, anti-immigrant sentiment, Islamophobia, ableism, sexism, and so much more. I condemn any form of bigotry unequivocally, but I also refuse to be silent as allegations of bigotry are weaponized against the most marginalized people, those who find sanctuary and hope in the articulation of truth.

In looking at the tweets in question, I acknowledge that I wrote passionately. While I may have phrased some of my content differently today, I stand by my words. I told the truth as my community and I have lived it, through the FBI’s targeting of my community, as I supported families who have lost loved ones because of US military actions, and as I learned from the horrific experiences of Palestinian life.

In attempting to heal and build in an expedited manner within Women’s March, Inc., I offered to meet with stakeholders to address their concerns, and to work with my sisters on the new board to learn, heal, and build together. These efforts were rejected. And in rejecting these efforts, the new Women’s March, Inc. board demonstrated that it lacks the courage to demonstrate allyship in the face of fire.

I came to Women’s March, Inc. to work. My body of work has included leading @CAIRSFBA a chapter of the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights organization for over a decade, growing it now more than six fold. I have led the team that forced Abercrombie to change its discriminatory policies, have been arrested advocating for DACA, partnered w/Jewish organizations including @jewishaction and @jvplive to protect our communities, and was one of the first lawyers to sue the President.

It is not my first time being the target of a smear campaign. The Women’s March, Inc., more than any place, is where I would have expected us to be able to have courageous conversations and dive deep into relationship building work. I am happy to have as many conversations as it takes to listen and learn and heal, but I will no longer be able to do that through Women’s March, Inc. This action today demonstrates that this new leadership is unable and unwilling to be an ally during challenging times.

My beliefs drive my work and I am not seeking accolades or positions of power. These past few days have been the greatest test of that. My integrity, my truth, and my strength comes from God and a place of deep conviction. I will continue my work as a civil rights lawyer and a faith based activist. You will find me speaking out against settler colonialism everywhere, challenging Islamophobia and all forms of racism and bigotry, and building with Muslims and our allies in our quest to be our most authentic and liberated selves. Onward, God willing.

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