The topic of religious freedom is often discussed in American politics as the country’s First Amendment guarantees an individual’s freedom of and from religion. With American Muslims often under attack from conservative Christians, Sen. Bernie Sanders took a step in fighting against ‘Islamaphobia.”
It has become commonplace in Republican and conservative Christian circles to hear cries of alleged attacks against religious freedom. Political rallies held by members of the religious right point to Democrats and liberals, claiming that Christianity is under attack, but in the same breath demonize others who hold a different faith, or no faith at all. During an Oct. 28 campaign rally in Fairfax, Virginia the popular Vermont senator embraced a Muslim student who has been concerned about racism and bigotry.
Taking questions from the audience, Sanders called on George Mason University senior Remaz Abdelgader, an American Muslim, to ask a question. “As an American Muslim student who aspires to change the world currently majoring in International Conflict Analysis and Resolution — and I hope to be a human rights attorney, hearing the rhetoric that’s going on in the media makes me sick,” the student said. “As an individual, I’m constantly trying to raise awareness and make sure that everyone is treated equally in this country. As the next president of the United States, what do you think about that?”
Sanders appeared touched by Abdelgader’s comments, and motioned for her to join him on stage. As she made her way forward, Sanders embraced her with a hug to the roar of the thousands in attendance who stood on their feet and gave a standing ovation. “We play one group off against another. The rich got richer [while] everybody else was fighting each other. Our job is to build a nation in which we all stand together as one people,” Sanders said, telling Abdelgader that she was “absolutely correct” that there was hostility toward Muslims and other immigrants.
“If we stand for anything, we have got to stand together and end all forms of racism, and I will lead that effort as president of the United States.”
“Islamaphobia” is an issue that is not just a partisan topic. On the political left, Americans appear to be divided, as more politically correct liberals often silence any criticism of Islam, lumping it together with anti-Muslim bigotry. While on the flip side, others refer to that group as the “regressive left,” often pointing out the difference between criticizing a religion, and attacking an individual believer.