US & Canada

Arizona senator defends Muslim opponent from online attacks

An undated photo of Deedra Abboud. Image copyright Deedra For US Senate 2018
Image caption Ms Abboud came under attack after she posted online about the US Constitution

Republican Arizona Senator Jeff Flake has come to defend a woman who wants to unseat him after she received hateful messages about her Muslim religion.

Democratic candidate Deedra Abboud, 45, came under attack after she posted a campaign message on Facebook with an image of the US Constitution.

The post prompted an onslaught of cyberbullying, including comments about Ms Abboud's religion.

Mr Flake, 54, expressed his support for Ms Abboud on Twitter.

"Hang in there @deedra2018. Sorry you have to put up with this. Lots of wonderful people across AZ. You'll find them," he tweeted on Tuesday.

The senator also posted a link to an op-ed in The Arizona Republic calling out the online attack on Ms Abboud, which came after she posted a message about separation of church and state.

"Almost 250 years ago a group of dreamers came together and sketched out a revolutionary vision. No longer would they be shackled to the whims of a distant government, nor bound to the religion of an idiosyncratic king. They set out to forge their own futures, determine their own destinies, and follow their own faith," she wrote.

"In their infinite wisdom, the Founding Fathers decreed that this nation would separate church and state, and in doing so protect both institutions. Government would be free from religious overreach, and religion would be free from government interference."

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Facebook users began flooding her page with comments saying there was "no room for Muslims in our government. Nice try though you are quoting the Muslim brotherhood".

Another user wrote: "Nice try but your first love is Satan (AKA Allah) and your second love is to a litter box your 'people' come from. You are as American as Chinese checkers."


Ms Abboud, a Phoenix-based lawyer, thanked Mr Flake for his response.

"Thank you @JeffFlake for leadership in rejecting behavior that doesn't reflect our American values. AZ's amazing people deserve more than this", she tweeted.

Image copyright @Deedra2018

Ms Abboud, a native of Little Rock, Arkansas, is running for Mr Flake's seat in the August 2018 Democrat primary. If she wins, she would challenge Mr Flake in the general election that autumn.

Mr Flake has come to the defence of Muslims in Arizona before.

In the wake of President Donald Trump's executive order in January, which targeted seven Muslim-majority countries, the Republican said in a Medium post the White House was right to be concerned about national security, but that it was "unacceptable when even legal permanent residents are being detained or turned away at airports and ports of entry".

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Senator Flake has been supportive of Arizona's Muslim community

"Enhancing long term national security requires that we have a clear-eyed view of radical Islamic terrorism without ascribing radical Islamic terrorist views to all Muslims," wrote Mr Flake, who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations and Judiciary committees.

He also attended a service at a Scottsdale mosque in December 2015 to show his support amid harsh, anti-Muslim rhetoric from then-Republican presidential candidate, Mr Trump.

"My hope and prayer today is that isolated voices calling for division are overwhelmed by the chorus of voices in this room today calling for acceptance, tolerance and inclusion," he said at the time.

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