Deedra Abboud is running for the Arizona U.S. Senate seat currently occupied by Jeff Flake.
On July 18, Abboud, a Muslim and an attorney and a Democrat, posted a tribute to the First Amendment on her Facebook page.
“In their infinite wisdom, the Founding Fathers decreed that this nation would separate church and state, and in doing so protect both institutions,” she wrote. “Government would be free from religious overreach, and religion would be free from government interference.”
Many of the replies, as first reported in AZ Central, targeted Abboud on the basis of her faith.
“F*** you Muslim b*tch,” wrote one commenter.
“Nice try but your first love is Satan (AKA Allah) and your second love is to a litter box your “people” come from,” wrote another.
“Sorry no room for Muslims in our government. Nice try though you are quoting the Muslim brotherhood,” another responded.
While many of her supporters replied with words of encouragement, one voice was unexpected: Abboud’s political opponent.
Flake reached out to Abboud on Twitter to express his sympathy and urge her to ignore the bigots.
Abboud thanked Flake for rapidly and unequivocally denouncing those harassing her.
Thank you @JeffFlake for leadership in rejecting behavior that doesn’t reflect our American values. AZ’s amazing people deserve more of this https://twitter.com/JeffFlake/status/887490249013825536 …
Many others on Twitter — supporters of both candidates — applauded Flake for putting politics aside to stand up for civility.
Others encouraged the Republican senator to spread the word to others in his own party — including its leader, whose campaign and administration frequently employed incendiary anti-Muslim rhetoric.
Abboud’s campaign manager Joseph Harris says in an email that his candidate hopes to “focus on this being an opportunity to change the landscape.”
“Our elected leaders should be leading in the civil discourse, of calling out behavior that does not reflect our American values, of being competitive without character attacks,” he says.
Flake and Abboud don’t agree on much, but they don’t have to in order to model respectful disagreement.
Abboud supports preserving the main provisions of the Affordable Care Act while Flake supported Ted Cruz’ measure allowing insurers to resurrect “bare bones” health plans. Abboud supports net neutrality while Flake recently introduced a bill that would allow internet service providers to collect more personal information from customers.
One thing they seem to agree on — attacks on an opponents faith are out of bounds and disputes are better approached from a place of mutual respect.
Props to Abboud for using the harsh words directed at her as a teachable moment.
And props to Flake for demonstrating that even in an age of heightened partisan rancor, politics doesn’t have to be personal.