Democrat Qasim Rashid is running for the Virginia state Senate on issues like criminal justice, education funding and health care. But because he is also Muslim, his opponent, not surprisingly, is trying to tie him to “Islamic terrorism.”
State Sen. Richard Stuart (R) is out with a new Facebook ad stating, “Qasim Rashid doesn’t believe Islamic terrorism exists.” All three of the ads Stuart’s campaign has posted against Rashid this month mention the word “radical,” either about terrorism or his “socialist” policies.
Stuart’s campaign didn’t return a request for comment on the role of Islamic terrorism in the Virginia state Senate race.
Rashid declined to directly respond to the ad, which was first picked up by Virginia Democratic strategist Ben Tribbett and reported by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, saying it would be “beneath the dignity of the office.”
“Jesus Christ taught to love thy neighbor. That’s our response,” he said. “Virginia is the epicenter of religious freedom in America and we must protect this legacy. While I am used to receiving hatred and threats from extremists, racists, and terrorists, I am deeply disturbed to receive such hatred from a sitting Virginia State Senator. The truth is that these types of attacks are designed to distract Virginians from the real issues that have harmed Virginia’s working families in the 28th district.”
Rashid has written that terrorism is not tied to any one religion and cautioned that terms like “radical Islam” gives terrorists legitimacy they don’t deserve.
Muslim candidates across the nation ― no matter the office they’re running for, the issues they’re running on or the positions they hold ― frequently face smears attempting to imply they’re terrorists, are sympathetic to terrorists or hate America.
In April, President Donald Trump tweeted a video that dishonestly purported to show Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) downplaying 9/11.
In late May, Rashid told HuffPost he had received a number of death threats that he had reported to the FBI. About a month later, federal prosecutors charged one of those individuals with issuing a threat via interstate commerce. Joseph Cecil Vandevere, from North Carolina, had tweeted at Rashid with an image of a man being lynched and the message, “View your destiny.”
“The rhetoric from the right unfortunately is empowering some very unhinged people to make some really nasty threats,” Rashid said in May, around the time Trump was stepping up his attacks targeting Omar.
Rashid is a human rights lawyer and first-time political candidate. He said that he didn’t feel deterred by the anti-Muslim attacks he faced, but believed they emboldened him to “fight with more conviction for these values of fairness and justice and inclusivity and pluralism that our society is lacking.”
“I don’t have any intention of buying into the rhetoric of fearmongering or demonizing, and I’m seeing that on the campaign trail where people who admitted they voted for Trump are literally inviting me inside their homes to have a conversation to better understand where it went wrong and committing to vote for me and even donating to my campaign,” he added in the May interview.
Stuart was elected to the state Senate in 2007. The Richmond Times-Dispatch noted that he has honored Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee on the floor of the chamber and inaccurately portrayed him as anti-slavery.