Bernie Sanders held a national student town hall in Fairfax last night, and addressed one student's question about anti-Muslim sentiment:
FAIRFAX, VIRGINIA — Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) town hall, held at George Mason University at the same time as the third GOP debate on Wednesday, mainly focused on the presidential candidate’s favorite topics: income inequality, universal health care, campaign finance reform, and climate change.
But in one of the most emotional moments of the night, George Mason University senior Remaz Abdelgader stood up and demanded to know how Sanders would address the rising tide of Islamophobia in the U.S. Her voice breaking, she spoke of how hurt she feels when she hears anti-Muslim rhetoric from other candidates for president — including GOP frontrunners Ben Carson, who has said he doesn’t want a Muslim as president of the U.S.
“Being an American is such a strong part of my identity, but I want to create a change in this society,” she said. “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 insisted she join him on stage and gave her a hug as the crowd of a couple hundred stood and cheered.
Then, in response to her question, Sanders does something he rarely does: he spoke personally about his Jewish faith and family history, which includes losing relatives in the Holocaust, and said Americans need to learn from that past. “If we stand for anything we have to stand together and end all forms of racism in this country,” he said. “I will lead that effort as president.”
Sanders also talked about the ways people in power have used racism and prejudice throughout U.S. history to keep working class people from uniting.
“They told white workers who were earning pennies an hour, ‘Hey, you think you’re in trouble, but you’re better off than the blacks,'” he said. “And they told straight people, ‘You’re better off than those gay people.’ And they pitted men against women. It’s always playing one group against another. That’s how the rich got richer while everybody else was fighting each other. Our job is to build a nation in which we all stand together.”