Muslim candidate asked Islamophobic question during debate in Virginia
An Islamophobic debate question to a Muslim candidate in Virginia sparked condemnation and outrage on Tuesday night.
In the Democratic primary’s only televised debate for Lieutenant Governor, WJLA TV presenter Dave Lucas asked the Del state. Sam rasoul (D), the first lawmaker of the Muslim state of Virginia, to affirm his commitment to serving Virginians of all faiths.
“The Washington Post reported that your fundraising effort is ‘top of the class’, due to some out-of-state donors linked to Muslim advocacy groups. There’s nothing wrong with it, but it was, ”Lucas said. “Tell a little about your fundraising efforts and can you assure the Virginians that you will represent them all regardless of their faith and beliefs?”
“I’m proud to have a campaign that is 100% individual funded with the majority of contributors coming from Virginia,” Rasoul replied, ignoring the idea that anyone would question his principles because of his faith.
He then pivoted to highlight his support for campaign finance reform and his opposition to corruption, two central themes of his lineage speech and career in the state legislature.
“As the next lieutenant governor, you can count on me as a decisive vote to ensure that the interests of the people are represented more than any other special interest,” he said.
After the debate, Rasoul tweeted a photo of Virginia’s Statute for Religious Freedom, which the state legislature passed in 1786. The text of the statute is the only document hanging on the wall of the House of Delegates in Richmond.
“American religious freedom began with the Statute for Religious Freedom in part because of the persecution of Baptists by Anglicans,” Rasoul written in the tweet. “We serve everyone. Of all faiths. We welcome you and love you for who you are. “
Lucas’ question referred to a Publish a story about Rasoul’s fundraising. It raised nearly $ 1.3 million, more than its competition. According to the article, Rasoul two main donors are Manal Fakhoury, board member of the Washington branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and Mohannad Malas, a California real estate investor on the board of directors of the Orange County Islamic Foundation. Fakhoury has contributed over $ 74,000; Malas has contributed over $ 69,000.
Nothing in the Post article indicated that Virginians should be wary of Rasoul because of the financial support his campaign received from Muslim donors. actually, IIt is common for candidates for public office to receive donations from people living in other states. For example, in 2013, two-thirds of donations to Terry McAuliffe (D) and Ken Cuccinelli (R), the candidates for governor, comes from out of state.
If elected, Rasoul would be the first Muslim lieutenant governor in Virginia history and the highest elected official of the US Palestinian state in the country.
The Virginia Democratic Party chose the WJLA to host the debate because it was one of the few stations capable of hosting an in-person event in accordance with COVID-19 public health guidelines. Each candidate endorsed the broadcaster serving as host, and none of the questions were made available to the party beforehand, according to the state party.
WJLA is owned by Sinclair Broadcast Company, the largest owner of local TV channels, which has drawn criticism for its one-sided conservative commentary and editorial focus.
HuffPost reached out to Lucas and Cheryl Carson, WJLA’s news director, for comment and did not immediately receive a response.
No other religious practitioner faces similar questions about their loyalty to their constituents, a fact that a number of Democrats in Virginia, including Rasoul rivals, emphasized in their condemnations of the issue.
“We don’t ask about Christian donors, Jewish donors, etc. Ok to look at donor funding, but making it faith-based is discriminatory and inexcusable, ” tweeted Susan Swecker, President of the Virginia Democratic Party. “A major failure on the part of the moderator and this was personally conveyed to the moderator tonight after the debate.”
Virginia State Senator Ghazala Hashmi (D) compared the question to the skepticism that John F. Kennedy faced before becoming America’s first Catholic president. After securing the Democratic presidential nomination, Kennedy delivered a speech to a group of Protestant ministers in Houston in September 1960, affirming his support for the separation of church and state, and refuting the idea that he would use the presidency to advance a select group of Catholics. interests.
“Contrary to common newspaper usage, I am not the Catholic presidential candidate. I am the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate, who also happens to be Catholic, ”Kennedy said. “I don’t speak for my church on public matters, and the church doesn’t speak for me.”
Likewise, Rasoul, who grew up helping his Palestinian immigrant parents run a convenience store in Roanoke, does not often mention his identity during the election campaign.
Rather, Rasoul campaigns on the kind of economic populism that has marked his career in the legislature since 2014. He sometimes took-lonely stalls against the outsized influence of Dominion Energy, Virginia’s most powerful electric utility monopoly, and promises to use his position as lieutenant governor to advance an “intersectional” Green New Deal for the state.
Rasoul is the favorite of progressive activist groups like the Sunrise Movement and Sen. Elizabeth warren (D-Mass.), Which he endorsed for president in 2020. But he also has the support of The Washington Post Editorial Board, who approved it, praising his “guts”.
In addition to presiding over the State Senate and breaking even voices, the role of lieutenant governor has always been a stepping stone to higher office in Virginia. As a result, there is stiff competition in the race. Rasoul’s most formidable rival is Del. Hala Ayala, who has the backing of much of the state’s Democratic establishment, including current Governor Ralph Northam.
But Rasoul has an advantage when it comes to fundraising and led the field at the end April poll.
The Virginia Democratic primary will take place on June 8. The winner will face the state’s Republican candidate in the November 2 general election.
Calling all HuffPost superfans!
Sign up to become a Founding Member and help shape the next chapter of HuffPost