An Islamophobic debate query directed at a Muslim candidate in Virginia prompted condemnation and outrage on Tuesday night time.
In the one televised debate of the Democratic main for lieutenant governor, WJLA TV anchor Dave Lucas requested state Del. Sam Rasoul (D), Virginia’s first Muslim state lawmaker, to affirm his dedication to serving Virginians of all faiths.
“The Washington Submit reported your fundraising effort is ‘class main,’ due to some out-of-state donors linked to Muslim advocacy teams. There’s nothing mistaken with that, however that was the case,” Lucas mentioned. “Speak somewhat bit about your fundraising efforts and might you guarantee Virginians you’ll signify all of them no matter religion and beliefs?”
“I’m proud to have a marketing campaign that’s 100% funded by people with the vast majority of contributors coming from Virginia,” Rasoul replied, ignoring the concept anybody would query his ideas due to his religion.
He then pivoted to emphasizing his help for marketing campaign finance reform and opposition to corruption, two central themes of his stump speech and his profession within the state legislature.
“As your subsequent lieutenant governor, you’ll be able to rely on me as a decisive tie-breaking vote to make sure that the pursuits of the individuals are represented greater than every other particular curiosity,” he mentioned.
After the talk, Rasoul tweeted a photograph of Virginia’s statute for spiritual freedom, which the state legislature adopted in 1786. The textual content of the statute is the one doc held on the wall of the Home of Delegates in Richmond.
“American spiritual freedom started with the Statute For Non secular Freedom partly due to the persecution of Baptists by the Anglicans,” Rasoul wrote within the tweet. “We serve all individuals. Of all faiths. We welcome you & love you as you might be.”
Lucas’ query was referring to a Submit story about Rasoul’s fundraising. He’s raised practically $1.3 million, greater than his rivals. In line with the article, Rasoul’s prime two donors are Manal Fakhoury, a board member of the Council of American-Islamic Relations’ Washington chapter, and Mohannad Malas, a California actual property investor on the board of the Orange County Islamic Basis. Fakhoury has contributed greater than $74,000; Malas has contributed greater than $69,000.
Nothing within the Submit article indicated that Virginians ought to be cautious of Rasoul due to the monetary help his marketing campaign has acquired from Muslim donors. In truth, it is frequent for candidates for public workplace to obtain donations from individuals dwelling in different states. For instance, in 2013, two-thirds of the donations to Terry McAuliffe (D) and Ken Cuccinelli (R), the gubernatorial candidates, got here from out of state.
If elected, Rasoul could be the primary Muslim lieutenant governor in Virginia historical past and the highest-ranking Palestinian American state elected official within the nation.
The Democratic Celebration of Virginia chosen WJLA to host the talk as a result of it was one of many few stations able to internet hosting an in-person occasion in compliance with COVID-19 public well being tips. Each candidate signed off on the broadcaster serving as host, and not one of the questions have been made obtainable to the occasion beforehand, in accordance with the state occasion.
WJLA is owned by Sinclair Broadcast Firm, the biggest proprietor of native TV stations, which has elicited criticism for its one-sided conservative commentary and editorial slant.
HuffPost reached out to Lucas and Cheryl Carson, WJLA’s information director, for remark and didn’t instantly obtain a response.
No different religion practitioners face comparable questions on their loyalty to constituents, a undeniable fact that various Virginia Democrats, together with Rasoul’s rivals, identified of their condemnations of the query.
“We don’t ask about Christian donors, Jewish donors, and so on. Okay to have a look at donor funding, however making it religion primarily based is discriminatory and inexcusable,” tweeted Susan Swecker, chairwoman of the Democratic Celebration of Virginia. “Main fail on the a part of the moderator and that was personally conveyed to the moderator tonight after the talk.”
Virginia state Sen. Ghazala Hashmi (D) in contrast the query to the skepticism that John F. Kennedy confronted earlier than changing into the primary Catholic U.S. president. After securing the Democratic presidential nomination, Kennedy delivered a speech to a gaggle of Protestant ministers in Houston in September 1960 affirming his help for the separation of church and state, and rebutting the concept he would use the presidency to advance a slender set of Catholic pursuits.
“Opposite to frequent newspaper utilization, I’m not the Catholic candidate for president. I’m the Democratic Celebration’s candidate for president, who occurs additionally to be a Catholic,” Kennedy mentioned. “I don’t communicate for my church on public issues, and the church doesn’t communicate for me.”
Likewise, Rasoul, who grew up serving to his Palestinian immigrant mother and father run a nook retailer in Roanoke, doesn’t usually point out his identification on the marketing campaign path.
Rasoul is as a substitute campaigning on the sort of financial populism that has marked his profession within the legislature since 2014. He has taken sometimes-lonely stands in opposition to the outsize affect of Dominion Vitality, Virginia’s strongest electrical utility monopoly, and guarantees to make use of his place as lieutenant governor to advance an “intersectional” Inexperienced New Deal for the state.
Rasoul is the favourite of progressive activist teams just like the Dawn Motion and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), whom he endorsed for president in 2020. However he additionally has the backing of The Washington Submit editorial board, which endorsed him, praising his “guts.”
Along with presiding over the state Senate and breaking any tie votes, the lieutenant governor function has traditionally been a springboard for larger workplace in Virginia. In consequence, there may be stiff competitors within the race. Rasoul’s most formidable rival is Del. Hala Ayala, who has the backing of a lot of the state’s Democratic institution, together with present Gov. Ralph Northam.
However Rasoul has a fundraising edge and led the sphere in a late April ballot.
Rasoul and Ayala are additionally competing in opposition to state Del. Mark Levine, legal professional and civil rights activist Sean Perryman, Norfolk Metropolis Councilwoman Andria McClellan and businessman Xavier Warren.
Virginia’s Democratic main will happen on June 8. The winner will face off in opposition to the state’s Republican nominee within the normal election on Nov. 2.
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