Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders appeared Wednesday at a mosque less than two miles from the White House, where he was joined by religious leaders of varied faiths to strongly “condemn the anti-Muslim rhetoric and hatred” inspired by Republican front-runner Donald Trump.
The Vermont senator’s appearance at the Masjid Muhammad mosque, founded in the mid-1930s, came in the wake of Trump’s proposal to temporarily ban all Muslims from entering the country, a move he has said is needed to keep citizens safe from terrorism.
Sanders suggested that such sentiments were consistent with “centuries of bigotry and discrimination, sometimes with unspeakable results.”
“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, who is Jewish.
“Do we come together or do we allow demagogues to divide us up?” Sanders said, sitting at a table flanked by Muslim, Christian and Jewish leaders. “That is the issue of the moment.”
During his remarks, Sanders referred to the “enormous anxiety and fear in this country” but made no explicit mention of the recent attacks in Paris and school shootings in San Bernardino, Calif., which prompted Trump’s proposal. The suspects in both episodes were radicalized Muslims.
With Wednesday’s mosque visit, Sanders became the latest Democratic presidential candidate to show solidarity with the religious group targeted by the GOP front-runner.
Last week, Democratic hopeful Martin O’Malley visited a northern Virginia mosque, where he compared Trump to a “hate preacher.” On Tuesday, the party’s front-runner, Hillary Clinton, met with local Muslim leaders in Minneapolis before giving a speech on addressing terrorism within the United States. During her speech, Clinton urged people to “stand up against offensive, inflammatory, hateful anti-Muslim rhetoric.”
Democrats in Congress, meanwhile, are making a concerted effort to invite Muslim American constituents as their guests to President Obama’s State of the Union address next month.
Sanders was joined Wednesday by Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), one of only two Muslims serving in the U.S. Congress.
“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,” said Ellison, who has endorsed Sanders.
Prior to Wednesday’s roundtable, Sanders has previously blasted Trump’s comments. During an appearance last week on NBC’s “The Tonight Show,” Sanders said “that kind of crap is not going to work in the United States of America.”