Posted by Joan Hanna on November 23, 2015 in Blog

sam_rasoul.jpgDelegate Sam Rasoul (D-VA), along with over 250 people, came together over the weekend to celebrate Roanoke, VA’s diversity and the city’s welcoming nature, using the hashtag #RealRoanoke to spread their message over social media. The event was organized as a direct response to recent hateful rhetoric and actions by elected officials, not only by many governors who oppose resettlement of Syrian refugees, but also by the current Roanoke Mayor, David Bowers.

On November 18th, Mayor Bowers released a statement on Syrian refugees which appear to give his approval to the detention of Japanese foreign nationals and Japanese Americans after the Pearl Harbor bombings during World War II. Mayor Bowers argued that Roanoke should not accept any Syrian refugees since the “threat of harm to America from ISIS now is just as real and serious as that from our enemies then.” In response, Arab American Delegate Rasoul, along with those who oppose such bigotry and hate, came together to denounce those sentiments and contribute to a charity drive for Commonwealth Catholic Charities, an organization which serves refugees throughout Roanoke and other parts of Virginia. 

In a speech at Friday night’s rally, Del. Rasoul spoke about his own diverse background as an Arab American of Palestinian descent and the first American Muslim to be elected to state office in Virginia, solidifying the American dream for himself and his family. To quell the fears of some individuals, he cited the Cato Institute’s findings on how Syrian refugees pose no security threat to the United States. After dismantling those fears with the facts, Del. Rasoul chose to respond to Mayor Bowers’ statement by declaring that, “We refuse for any one person or any one statement to define Roanoke and to define its people.”

 Photo credit: VCU Capital News Service