Muslim Senate Candidate: Jeff Flake Should Have Challenged Trump Rhetoric Sooner

Dana Liebelson
Deedra Abboud, an Arizona Democrat, says she has faced Islamophobic threats as a Senate candidate. (Deedra Abboud)

WASHINGTON ― Deedra Abboud, a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Arizona, is happy to see Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz) speak out about what he called “personal attacks, … threats against principles, freedoms, and institutions, [and] flagrant disregard for truth or decency,” an apparent criticism of President Donald Trump. But Flake, who announced he would not run for re-election Tuesday, should have spoken out sooner, she argues.

“Speaking out, that’s great,” Abboud, who calls herself a “proud American-Muslim woman,” told HuffPost in an interview. But it “would have been better if we could have combated the rhetoric at the time and stood up as Americans and said, ‘This is not the direction we need to be going.’”

Abboud, a Phoenix attorney and civil rights advocate who’s facing U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema and others in the Democratic primary for Flake’s seat, decided to run in part because she was concerned about politicians “throwing communities under the bus for political gain,” she said, and not just in the U.S. presidential race.  (Though, during his presidential campaign, Trump called some Mexican immigrants “rapists” and vowed to ban Muslims from entering the United States.) Leaders like Flake were allowing this rhetoric to “prosper and go unchallenged” by not standing up, she added.

As president, Trump has continued to push for policies criticized as anti-Muslim while also failing to convincingly denounce white supremacists.

Abboud has personally faced Islamophobia during her campaign, receiving hundreds of abusive and hateful comments online. She said she hasn’t banned anyone from her social media pages, though she uses filters for profanity. (“Pretty useless,” she remarked.) She also said that “flag-waving white supremacists” showed up at two of her events: at a vegan restaurant in May and an LGBTQ church. “They decided to ask very inflammatory questions, which I answered,” she said, though, she noted, in general people want to talk about the issues and problem-solving.

When trolls attacked Abboud on Facebook over the summer, Flake came to her defense. “Hang in there,” he tweeted in July. “Sorry you have to put up with this. Lots of wonderful people across AZ. You’ll find them.”

Abboud told HuffPost that Flake’s Twitter response was a “move in the right direction.” But she said she wants to see more leaders taking a stand against “un-American” attacks across the board.

“Muslims may be the flavor of the day, but we’re not the only flavor. A lot of communities are under attack.”

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.