Mus­lim run­ning for U.S. Se­nate in­sulted on­line for re­li­gion

Miami Herald - - FRONT PAGE -

There weren’t a ton of peo­ple com­ment­ing on U.S. Se­nate hope­ful Dee­dra Ab­boud’s cam­paign Face­book page be­fore last week.

Then Ab­boud, a lit­tle­known can­di­date in Ari­zona’s 2018 Demo­cratic pri­mary, posted a short trib­ute to the Found­ing Fa­thers, re­li­gious free­dom and the sep­a­ra­tion of church and state — and the flood gates opened.

“Sorry no room for Mus­lims in our govern­ment,” wrote Chris Siemers.

“Towel headed piece of [ex­ple­tive],” wrote Brian Zappa.

Ab­boud, a lib­eral 45year-old at­tor­ney and first­time po­lit­i­cal can­di­date, might be a long shot in red­state Ari­zona. But the fact that Ab­boud, who con­verted to Is­lam in her 20s, also wears a vis­ual marker of her faith — a head­scarf — might also have just landed her un­likely cam­paign in the na­tional spot­light.

“Now, I’m more on radar. More peo­ple know that I’m out there,” Ab­boud said in an in­ter­view Wed­nes­day, not­ing a sil­ver lin­ing to the larger “ug­li­ness” that she said the on­line at­tacks had ex­posed.

Orig­i­nally from Lit­tle Rock, Ark., Ab­boud moved to Ari­zona as a young adult in the late ’90s, and spent most of her ca­reer since then do­ing ad­vo­cacy work, in­clud­ing as the found­ing di­rec­tor of the Coun­cil on Amer­i­can-Is­lamic Re­la­tions’ (CAIR) Ari­zona chap­ter, be­fore at­tend­ing law school and work­ing as an im­mi­gra­tion and es­tate law at­tor­ney.

Her cam­paign’s Face­book page is filled with posts on her pol­icy po­si­tions in fa­vor of en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion, LGBTQ rights, health-care ac­cess and a higher min­i­mum wage. But it wasn’t un­til last week, amid the on­slaught of xeno­pho­bic and racist in­sults that other peo­ple started to re­spond to her pol­icy pre­scrip­tions as well.

Many of the neg­a­tive com­menters as­sumed that Ab­boud is a Mid­dle East­ern im­mi­grant, which she is not.

“I’d have to say I agree,” De­siree Miller wrote in re­sponse to a post about rais­ing the min­i­mum wage.

“Do you re­ally think that the cor­po­ra­tion is go­ing to will­ingly dou­ble their pay­roll with­out pass­ing that cost on to the con­sumer?” wrote Aaron Kuhne.

Run­ning for po­lit­i­cal of­fice as a Mus­lim in 2017 — when non­profit watch­dog groups are record­ing dra­matic spikes in anti-Mus­lim rhetoric and ha­rass­ment across the coun­try — can seem fraught or ex­ceed­ingly stress­ful.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has painted Is­lam as a re­li­gion at odds with Amer­i­can val­ues and Mus­lim im­mi­grants as part of a po­ten­tial “Tro­jan horse” plot aim­ing to at­tack or de­stroy the United States from within.

Such po­lit­i­cal rhetoric has fu­eled no­tice­able spikes in hate crimes, as well as “hate in­ci­dents” — typ­i­cally ver­bal at­tacks like in­sults plas­tered on a Face­book page or hurled in the aisle of a gro­cery store that don’t rise to the level of a crime — said Brian Levin, a crim­i­nol­o­gist and hate crimes ex­pert at Cal­i­for­nia State Uni­ver­sity at San Bernardino.

“When po­lit­i­cal lead­ers are per­ceived to make in­tol­er­ant state­ments with re­spect to Is­lam or pur­sue po­lit­i­cal poli­cies that may ap­pear in­tol­er­ant, we see a cor­re­la­tion in hate crimes over the short term,” Levin said.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.