Bernie Sanders became the second Democratic presidential candidate to visit a mosque on Wednesday. The U.S. senator from Vermont attended an interfaith roundtable at Masjid Muhammad, a mosque located some two miles from the White House in Washington, D.C. Sanders and various faith leaders called for an end to “the anti-Muslim rhetoric and hatred” they say has been inspired by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
Trump has not backed down from his proposal to ban the entry of all non-American Muslims into the United States in an effort to combat terrorism. Sanders said that Trump’s proposal resonated of “centuries of bigotry and discrimination, sometimes with unspeakable results.”
Muslim, Christian and Jewish leaders were at the roundtable, and included Muslim Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota. Masjid Muhammad, which calls itself "the nation's mosque," was opened in the 1930s.
— MaryAlice Parks (@maryaliceparks) December 16, 2015
“Now, at this moment, with all of the fears and anxieties people have of terrorism, there are demagogues out there, people like Donald Trump, who are once again attempting to divide us up in xenophobic and racist ways,” Sanders said.
“They want us to believe the average Muslim is a terrorist and they want us to stop Muslims from coming here. And unbelievably, there are some, in defiance of the Constitution, who are talking about shutting down mosques like the one we’re in here,” he said. “Do we come together or do we allow demagogues to divide us up?”
Sanders, who is Jewish, said that such rhetoric mirrors the language Nazis in Germany spread before World War II.
“We must never forget what happened under the racist ideology of the Nazis, which led to the deaths of millions and millions of people, including family members of mine,” said Sanders, adding that Trump’s rhetoric has contributed to a rise in hate crimes and speech against Muslim-Americans.
Interfaith leaders at the event included the mosque’s president, Talib Shareef; Baptist minister the Rev. Reginald Green; U.S. Army Chaplain Abdul Rasheed Muhammad; and female Rabbi Batya Steinlauf.
I am calling on all of us in public life and all Americans to condemn anti-Muslim hatred, to say “no” to those who promote this hatred.
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) December 16, 2015
Congressman Ellison praised Sanders for his stand.
“At a time when bigots are leading in national polls, it takes a certain amount of courage to stand up and call us to our higher and nobler values, which you have just done,” Ellison said at the event.
Democratic presidential candidate and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley visited a mosque in northern Virginia last week, while Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton met with local Muslims leaders in Minneapolis on Tuesday.