WASHINGTON, D.C.—People For the American Way today denounced an Islamophobic Facebook ad run by Virginia State Senator Richard Stuart in his bid to hold off a progressive challenge from human rights lawyer Qasim Rashid. The ad questions Rashid’s patriotism, saying he “doesn’t believe Islamic terrorism exists” and that he “has blamed U.S. military for causing terrorism.” Rashid has received death threats due to his Muslim faith.
PFAW Political Director Lizet Ocampo said:
“Richard Stuart should take down this disgraceful attack ad targeting Qasim Rashid and apologize immediately. Not only is this ad straight out of the Donald Trump playbook, it won’t bring one new job, educate one new student, or get one additional Virginian health care. Trump and his GOP allies are willing to tear our communities apart rather than uniting us to protect the well-being of all Americans.”
Trump’s history of Islamophobic statements is well-known, including a March 2016 CNN interview in which he said, “I think Islam hates us.” Stuart’s ad is on par with Trump’s bigoted and dangerous remarks, leaning into the divisive anti-Muslim suspicion that Trump and his allies seek to stoke.
“This year’s elections in Virginia are important for many reasons – and one of them is the way in which we are getting a preview of how national races will play out in 2020. The fact that a Virginia Republican is echoing Donald Trump’s Islamophobic rhetoric in targeting his opponent is a worrying indicator that that racism is likely to be a go-to strategy for the GOP in national races next year. We have to remember that this rhetoric is more than just words—it incites violence. Earlier this month, a white supremacist murdered more than 20 people in Texas after echoing Trump’s white nationalist rhetoric—and after the GOP governor sent out a fundraising piece urging people to ‘take matters into our own hands.’
“It’s clear Trump and the GOP think they can win elections with hate. We look forward to proving them wrong first in Virginia in 2019 and then nationwide in 2020.”
PFAW’s Next Up Victory Fund endorsed Rashid’s bid for the Virginia State Senate in May.
People For the American Way is a progressive advocacy organization founded to fight right-wing extremism and defend constitutional values including free expression, religious liberty, equal justice under the law, and the right to meaningfully participate in our democracy.
People For the American Way’s Next Up Victory Fund helps young progressive candidates win races for state and local offices across the country. The goal of Next Up is to build a deep bench of progressive candidates well positioned to control state legislatures, win statewide, and run for federal offices in the years and decades to come.