Bernie Sanders Visits Mosque to Talk Security, and GOP “Demagogues”

“They want us to believe that the average Muslim is a terrorist.”

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt, center, flanked by Imam Talib Shareef, left, and Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., right, speaks during an interfaith roundtable hosted by at Masjid Muhammad, the Nation's Mosque in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015.
AP Photo/Andrew Harnik
Emily Schultheis
Add to Briefcase
Emily Schultheis
Dec. 16, 2015, 4:59 p.m.

Look­ing to keep pace in a cam­paign where se­cur­ity and ter­ror­ism have taken cen­ter stage, Bernie Sanders took his mes­sage to a new set­ting Wed­nes­day: he vis­ited a mosque.

On Wed­nes­day, the Ver­mont sen­at­or told a small crowd at Wash­ing­ton’s Masjid Muhammad (also known as “the Na­tion’s Mosque”) that “dem­agogues” try­ing to di­vide the coun­try are act­ing in “shame­ful” ways in the wake of the ter­ror­ist at­tacks in Par­is and San Bern­ardino, Cal­if. He then stressed the strides the coun­try has made to over­come hatred and dis­crim­in­a­tion in the past.

“Let me be­gin by stat­ing the ob­vi­ous: there is enorm­ous anxi­ety and fear in this coun­try,” Sanders said. “Our people are deeply con­cerned—justly so—about the threats of in­ter­na­tion­al ter­ror­ism.”

Sit­ting at a table with a co­ter­ie of re­li­gious lead­ers from around DC—Im­am Talib Shareef of the Na­tion’s Mosque, Rep. Keith El­lis­on (D-Minn.), Rev. Re­gin­ald Green, Rabbi Batya Stein­hauf, and Chap­lain Ab­dul-Rasheed Muhammad of the De­part­ment of Vet­er­ans’ Af­fairs—Sanders spoke about the his­tory of bigotry and urged Amer­ic­ans to avoid let­ting fear di­vide them.

“It’s no secret that throughout the world and in our own coun­try we have seen cen­tur­ies of bigotry and in­tim­id­a­tion, some­times with un­speak­able res­ults,” Sanders said, list­ing the Holo­caust, Rwanda and Bos­nia as prime ex­amples of times hate­ful rhet­or­ic has caused un­ne­ces­sary and tra­gic vi­ol­ence.

He de­nounced the re­cent rhet­or­ic of “dem­agogues” when it comes to Muslim im­mig­ra­tion, call­ing out GOP real es­tate mogul Don­ald Trump by name and say­ing the anti-Muslim com­ments have promp­ted an in­crease in hate speech across Amer­ica.

“Now, at this mo­ment with all of the fears and anxi­et­ies people have about ter­ror­ism and about the eco­nomy, there are dem­agogues out there: people like Don­ald Trump who are once again try­ing to di­vide us up,” he said. “They want us to be­lieve that people from Mex­ico com­ing in­to this coun­try are rap­ists and crim­in­als. They want us to be­lieve that the av­er­age Muslim is a ter­ror­ist.”

Oth­ers on the pan­el echoed Sanders’s con­cern that “bigotry” has found a place in the head­lines in re­cent weeks. Green, one of the Free­dom Riders of the Civil Rights move­ment, lamen­ted the fact that “we would be at this point in time where bigotry is rear­ing up its ugly head again.” “We can­not af­ford to out of ig­nor­ance let our lives be gov­erned by the ig­nor­ance es­poused,” he ad­ded.

Ter­ror­ism and na­tion­al se­cur­ity is­sues aren’t at the core of Sanders’s mes­sage, and as the na­tion­al con­ver­sa­tion has shif­ted away from eco­nom­ic is­sues and to­ward se­cur­ity he has struggled to main­tain mo­mentum. But the sen­at­or has come out force­fully in fa­vor of al­low­ing Syr­i­an refugees in­to the coun­try, an is­sue he’s re­peatedly spoken about in re­cent weeks—and in the days since Trump pro­posed his ban on Muslim im­mig­ra­tion, Sanders has made that a fre­quent top­ic as well.

In a nod to the eco­nom­ic pop­u­list is­sues that form the cent­ral ar­gu­ment of Sanders’s cam­paign, he on Wed­nes­day also briefly spoke about the eco­nom­ic is­sues fa­cing fam­il­ies in the United States. “They are also wor­ried about the state of the eco­nomy and about the fu­ture of their chil­dren,” he said. “They are wor­ried as to why they are work­ing longer hours and why they find it harder and harder to re­tire with dig­nity.”

What We're Following See More »
A.T.F. Agents Filled Secret Coffers
56 minutes ago

Agents for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives " used a web of shadowy cigarette sales to funnel tens of millions of dollars into a secret bank account," according to a federal racketeering lawsuit filed by a group of tobacco farmers who claim they were "swindled out of $24 million." The agents allegedly used shipments of snack food disguised as tobacco. The Justice Department is reportedly investigating the matter, though as of now it is unclear how widespread the practice was or if it is still ongoing.

How Many Signatures Has the Petition for Trump’s Tax Returns Received?
1 hours ago

More than 1 million, setting a record. More than 100,000 signatures triggers an official White House response.

Sen. Collins Open to Subpoena of Trump’s Tax Returns
1 hours ago

Sen. Susan Collins, who sits on the Intelligence Committee, "said on Wednesday she's open to using a subpoena to investigate President Donald Trump's tax returns for potential connections to Russia." She said the committee is also open to subpoenaing Trump himself. "This is a counter-intelligence operation in many ways," she said of Russia's interference. "That's what our committee specializes in. We are used to probing in depth in this area."

Obama Staffers Launch Group to Monitor Trump Ethics
1 hours ago

"Top lawyers who helped the Obama White House craft and hold to rules of conduct believe President Donald Trump and his staff will break ethics norms meant to guard against politicization of the government — and they’ve formed a new group to prepare, and fight. United to Protect Democracy, which draws its name from a line in President Barack Obama’s farewell address that urged his supporters to pick up where he was leaving off, has already raised a $1.5 million operating budget, hired five staffers and has plans to double that in the coming months." Meanwhile, NPR has launched a "Trump Ethics Monitor" to track the resolution of ten ethics-related promises that the president has made.

Christie Turned Down Labor Secretary
1 hours ago

Over a meatloaf lunch at the White House last week, Donald Trump offered the job of Labor secretary to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a longtime loyalist. Christie promptly turned down the offer, once again signaling that he has no desire to move to Washington, D.C. to join the Trump administration. The job ended up going to Alexander Acosta, who is expected to sail through the Senate confirmation process.


Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.