HARLEM, Manhattan –– A Muslim-American activist whose role as a commencement speaker had come under protest from critics opposing her stance on Israel was given a standing ovation by graduating students Thursday after she told them they must commit to demanding change.
Thursday was the first commencement of the City University of New York Graduate School of Public Health, but instead of the class of 2017- public attention swirled around the invited keynote speaker --Linda Sarsour.
"She supports terrorism she supports sharia," Karen Lichtbraun said. "She's anti-Semite."
"She's an amazing leader," Cassady Fendlay said. "She's an inspiration."
Linda Sarsour is a Palestinian-American activist. She was a national co-chair of the Women's March on Washington. But vocal critics including state assemblyman Dov Hikind said Sarsour associates supports radical Islam and she's an unfit graduation speaker for a publicly funded university.
"There have been three protests in Manhattan prior to this asking the governor asking the chancellor to have her removed," Karen Lichtbraun said.
"We're really saddened to see the unfounded attacks on her," Leo said.
The university stood by their invitation. They saw an opportunity to reflect on free speech and academic freedom.
Thursday evening Sarsour stepped on the stage.
"I'm still unapologetically Muslim American Palestinian american and from Brooklyn, New York," Sarsour said.
And said there is no other place she'd rather be.
"In the age of alternative facts and fake news and emboldened racism and xenophobia we cannot be silent," Sarsour said.
"Keynotes sometimes fall short and this one didn't it was wonderful," Eleni Murphy said.