Muslim-American Virginia state Senate candidate Qasim Rashid says he's not scared by 'lynching' threat

PHOTO: State Senate candidate Qasim Rashid poses at the Stafford County Courthouse in Stafford, Va., March 23, 2019.
PlayMarion Meakem Photography/Quasim Rashid Campaign via AP
WATCH News headlines today: Sept. 17, 2019

A Muslim-American lawyer running for a state Senate seat in Virginia said Tuesday he will not be intimidated by a threat to have him "lynched" even though the suspect wanted for menacing him online remains at large.

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"These kind of attacks are far from slowing us down. It's simply fuel to accelerate and work even harder," Qasim Rashid, 36, a Democratic candidate for the Virginia state Senate, told ABC News.

Joseph Cecil Vandevere, 52, of Black Mountain, North Carolina, allegedly sent Rashid the threat via Twitter on March 13, 2018, prompting a federal indictment last month on a charge of issuing a threat via interstate commerce.

PHOTO: State Senate candidate Qasim Rashid poses at the Stafford County Courthouse in Stafford, Va., March 23, 2019.
Marion Meakem Photography/Quasim Rashid Campaign via AP
State Senate candidate Qasim Rashid poses at the Stafford County Courthouse in Stafford, Va., March 23, 2019.

According to the indictment filed on June 20 in U.S. District Court in Asheville, North Carolina, Vendevere allegedly sent Rashid a photo of a lynching along with derogatory comments about Muslims and the Prophet Muhammad, and ended the post writing, "PLEASE ... VIEW YOUR DESTINY."

Rashid responded to the threatening tweet by posting a message on Twitter on Monday, writing, "If extremists think threatening to kill me will slow me down -- they're both violent & ignorant. My faith teaches me to respond to injustice w/justice. We will march forward in service to all humanity."

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Justice said a federal arrest warrant has been issued for Vandevere, who remained a fugitive on Tuesday.

"I think the arrest warrant is a step in the right direction for sure," Rashid said. "The concern is that these kinds of things keep happening."

Rashid said that as far as he knows he's never encountered Vandevere in person and didn't know his name until the indictment was filed and he was contacted by a news reporter.

He said he reported the threat immediately to law enforcement, prompting the federal investigation.

Rashid said he has received numerous death threats in the past, including one last month by another individual.

"I feel grateful, in a sense, that law enforcement is taking these threats seriously and holding these kinds of individuals accountable," Rashid said.

Rashid, who immigrated as a child with his family from Pakistan in 1987, announced his candidacy for the Senate seat in the 28th District of Virginia on March 12 but had previously been known as an advocate for refugees caught up in the American criminal justice system and for victims of domestic and sexual violence.

"These are the things I've been fighting for as an advocate and I'm running for office now to turn that advocacy into policy and to bring about material changes," said Rashid, who won the Democratic primary on June 11.

The Virginia state Senate election is scheduled for Nov. 5.