Man sent anti-Muslim tweets to a political candidate who then helped pay his medical debt

"This has reopened my eyes to pre-9/11, where I would look at each individual as a person," Oscar Dillon said. "He has showed me that there is good in all walks of life."
By Janelle Griffith

A man sent anti-Muslim tweets to a political candidate in Virginia. He was not expecting the response he received: The Muslim candidate donated to the man's GoFundMe campaign to help cover his medical debt.

Qasim Rashid, a Democrat running for Congress, said a conservative constituent sent him "deeply hurtful anti-Muslim tweets" last week, which included a meme that falsely claimed that Islam promoted violent acts, such as rapes and beheadings.

That constituent was Oscar Dillon.

Dillon, 66, of Fredericksburg, said in a GoFundMe campaign he launched last month that his retirement savings were depleted. He said that because of the rising costs of his and his wife's medical care and because his annual income is about $38,000 a year, the couple are "broke" by the 23rd of each month.

The couple have debt from his wife's treatment for a life-threatening pulmonary embolism, and their home needs updates to make it handicapped-accessible for her, Dillon wrote on GoFundMe.

Rashid, a Muslim immigrant from Pakistan who is seeking the House seat of Republican Rep. Rob Wittman, said in his social media posts that when he learned of Dillon's difficulties, he donated to help cover the couple's "crushing medical debt."

"My faith instead teaches me to serve all humanity," Rashid wrote in a tweet, adding that he donated $55 to Dillon's GoFundMe. Rashid also encouraged his followers to donate to Dillon's campaign.

The GoFundMe had raised almost $19,000 as of Tuesday afternoon toward a goal of more than $26,000. Some of the donations are labeled "Inspired by Qasim Rashid."

Rashid said on social media that he later received a "thoughtful" and "compassionate" apology from Dillon, who also asked that the aspiring lawmaker visit him, which he did.

Rashid shared a photo of him and Dillon in a Facebook post and a tweet Sunday, writing, "Today I met my new friend Oz."

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A representative for Rashid said he was unavailable for an interview Tuesday.

Dillon confirmed that he sent the anti-Muslim tweets and described his meeting with Rashid as "astounding" and "mind-boggling" in an interview with NBC News on Tuesday.

"What this has done is reopen my eyes," Dillon said. "9/11 was a tragic time for me and my family."

Dillon said that a handful of his loved ones were in direct danger during the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and that after the attacks, he had a hatred toward "radical Islam."

But Rashid's generosity and the kindness it has inspired left Dillon feeling embarrassed and made him rethink his hatred.

"This has reopened my eyes to pre-9/11, where I would look at each individual as a person," Dillon said. "He has showed me that there is good in all walks of life."

Janelle Griffith

Janelle Griffith is a breaking news reporter for NBC News.