Bernie Sanders vows to fight Islamophobia and 'ugly stain of racism' in the US

Bernie Sanders greets Remaz Abdelgader during a town hall meeting with students at George Mason University in Fairfax

Bernie Sanders, in a rare reference to his father's family who died in the holocaust, has vowed to stand against Islamophobia and racism in America.

During a meeting at George Mason University in Virginia yesterday, a young Muslim woman asked the Democratic presidential candidate how he would combat anti-Islamic sentiment in the US.

"Let me be very personal if I might. I'm Jewish, my father's family died in concentration camps," Sanders responded. "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."

Remaz Abdelgader, the college senior who asked the question, was then invited on stage by Sanders and he gave her a hug in front of the crowd, Think Progress reported.

Abdelgader, a daughter of Sudanese immigrants, expressed particular concern over the anti-Muslim rhetoric prevalent in the presidential election race, as well as more widely across America.

"Being an American is such a strong part of my identity, but I want to create a change in this society," she told Sanders. "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."

In response to her question, Sanders said "If we stand for anything we have to stand together and end all forms of racism in this country. I will lead that effort as president."

He also said that throughout US history, those who have had power have used racism and prejudice to ensure working class people remain divided.

"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."

Speaking to Think Progress after the event, Abdelgader said that she was both moved and pleased with Sanders' answer.

"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."