Stafford, Virginia — When you're Muslim and running for U.S. Congress, as Qasim Rashid is in Virginia's first, you expect vitriol.
"Just some of the most grotesque things that you could ever say to anybody," Qasim said.
Here's one example: "We do not need you(r) ilk in our nation. Let alone in any seat of office above street sweeper."
"I didn't believe there was a place for them in our government," said Oz Dillon, who was hoping to rile a response with his comment — and boy, did he get one.
"I stared at the screen just reading it over and over and over," Oz said. "He reached across that gap and took my hand."
When Qasim looked Oz's old Facebook posts, he found lots of offensive comments — but he also learned he had crushing medical debt, to the point where he even set up a GoFundMe account. And that's when Qasim knew how he had to respond.
He posted this note to his 400,000 followers: "My faith teaches me to serve all humanity. So I've donated $55 to his GoFundMe. Please donate if you can."
And people did, paying off every penny of his debt — more than $ 20,000 total.
"And my mind was just a whirlwind, a tornado of — what the heck have I done?" Oz said.
"He asked for forgiveness, which I said, 'Absolutely, there's nothing to forgive. You're my brother in humanity.' And then he asked me to come visit him," Qasim said.
Qasim obliged. And this week, they saw each other again at a local coffee shop, debating issues and dispelling misconceptions.
Oz said he's learned a lot from Qasim. But that doesn't necessarily mean he's going to vote for him. "Exactly. Yea, yea," Oz said.
"You know, that's not what it's all about," Qasim said. "And the first thing I said to him was, 'I'm not doing this for any favor.' And he responded, 'That's fine, but I need you to put your yard signs for your campaign in my lawn so everyone can see it.'"
That sign went up on Friday: A 4 by 6 message to the community that we need to return to civility, now more than ever.
"If we can do that, then our prayers will be blessed and our actions will be blessed," Qasim said.
"And our lives and our children will be blessed," Oz said.
"Amen to that," Qasim added. 'Amen to that."
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