Republican Senator Spoke Out For His Muslim Opponent After She Was Harassed Online

July 19th 2017

Mike Rothschild

Jeff Flake holds one of the most vulnerable Senate seats coming up for re-election in 2018. Flake is both a vocal critic of President Donald Trump and has one of the highest disapproval ratings in the Senate. As such, the Arizona Republican is facing challenges from multiple Republicans looking to primary him, as well as Democrats looking to pick up a Senate seat in a state with rapidly changing demographics.

One of Flake's potential Democratic opponents is Deedra Abboud, a Phoenix lawyer and consultant who has declared her intention to run in the Democratic primary in 2018. On Tuesday, Abboud posted on Facebook about the Constitution's emphasis on separating church and state, and she also wrote about protecting government and religion from each other.

While a few of the comments on the post were supportive, many others attacked Abboud for her Muslim heritage. The reactions ranged from Islamophobic and ignorant to violent and profane.

These and dozens of other comments claimed she wasn't American, despite the fact that she was born in Arkansas.

But in a gesture that transcended the partisan divide so prevalent in American politics, Flake tweeted his support for Abboud, encouraging her to "hang in there" and that Arizona has "lots of wonderful people."

Naturally, Flake was also the target of a few Islamophobic attacks just for defending Abboud's right to speak without harassment, though the majority of the responses to the post were positive and complimentary toward Flake's gesture.

Abboud appears to be taking the abuse in stride, an unfortunate cost of doing business in a country where Islamophobia is worse now than after the 9/11 attacks. She told CNN that she faced an initial deluge of negative comments after she announced her campaign in April, but they mostly tapered off - until now.

"We have to step forward because this is America. This is the United States of America - there is a promise here," she said. "There is a promise that every person has equal opportunity."

This also isn't the first time Flake has called out the mistreatment of Muslims since Trump's election.

After the president signed his January executive order banning entry by residents of seven Muslim-majority nations, Flake released a statement saying that it was "unacceptable when even legal permanent residents are being detained or turned away at airports and ports of entry. 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."

If Abboud were to unseat Flake, she would become the first Muslim senator in American history.