United States Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., has promised to lead the fight against income inequality, a gender wage gap and what he considers unfair working conditions. But at a Wednesday evening town hall, a young Muslim woman wearing a purple head scarf asked how the presidential candidate would combat a rising tide of anti-Islam rhetoric in the country.
“Let me be very personal if I might. I’m Jewish, my father’s family died in concentration camps,” Sanders responded during the speech in front of a couple hundred people at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. “I will do everything that I can to rid this country of the ugly stain of racism that has existed for far too many years.”
Sanders invited the questioner, Remaz Abdelgader, a senior in college who said she wishes to become a human rights attorney, to join him on stage and gave her a hug as the crowd watched and cheered, Think Progress reported. Abdelgader, the daughter of Sudanese asylees, expressed concern over recent anti-Muslim rhetoric from other presidential candidates. Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson said last month that he would not support electing a Muslim president, and later added that he would only support a Muslim candidate if they were to denounce Shariah law.
Sanders deserves a lot of points for warmly symbolizing interfaith bridges, actually supporting Muslim-Americans! https://t.co/72JB9CmjHc
— Patrick Burnett (@prb493) October 29, 2015
“Being an American is such a strong part of my identity, but I want to create a change in this society,” she said as she asked Sanders her question. “I’m so tired of listening to this rhetoric saying I can’t be president one day, that I should not be in office. It makes me so angry and upset. This is my country.”
Sanders agreed that Muslims have been on the receiving end of hatred in recent years. “Our job is to build a nation in which we all stand together as one,” he said.
Sanders has seen surging support on college campuses across the country. His campaign said more than 250 campuses organized parties to watch the George Mason University event, which took place as the CNBC Republican presidential debate was being held, according to the Hill. Recent polls have suggested Sanders was in second place in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Abdelgader told Think Progress after the event that she was pleased with Sanders' answer, adding that she was nearly moved to tears by his gesture.
“If there’s anyone that should be elected to the White House, it’s him," she said. "He stands for everybody, whether you’re gay or Muslim or black or Christian or Latino. He is for equality. That’s why I identify with the next president of the United States: Bernie Sanders.”