Third place Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley is taking Donald Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. and running against it – hard. O’Malley quickly bashed the GOP contender on Monday in Iowa, calling Trump “a fascist demagogue.” But O’Malley went a step further. He visited a mosque in Sterling, Virginia on Friday to further insert himself into the conversation and call attention toward the Muslim community’s concerns.
“I know that there have been many acts of violence,” said O’Malley to the crowd. “I know there are acts of ignorance that have been encouraged by some in our political discourse, but the larger arc of our history…is the larger arc of love and generosity and respect for one another.”
The former governor of Maryland told Starting Line in a phone conversation later that night that his quick attention to this religious group is something he’s done before.
“After the September 11th attacks, my instinct immediately was that I have to get to know all the Muslim American leaders,” said O’Malley. “I mean, George W. Bush even visited a mosque in the days and weeks after the attacks … it would be nice to see the GOP do the same thing.”
The O’Malley campaign was quick to note in the hours leading up to his visit to the Virginia mosque that he is the first presidential candidate from either side to be featured in such a place, a nice (and meaningful) show of symbolic support. O’Malley said he isn’t going to necessarily completely change the focus of his future campaign stops to address Donald Trump’s ban on Muslims entering the United States, but he will be bringing up the issue more frequently.
“Look, this is who I am as a person,” said O’Malley Friday night. “I’m not a divider. This is part of my DNA. Events sometimes shift campaigns, and I intend to use the power of my campaign to move this conversation forward.”
In his short address to the crowd in the mosque, O’Malley reiterated that Trump’s views on Islam do not reflect the general consensus among people under 30, a particular message the Democrat frequently includes in his stump speeches.
“And so I know, and I know that our young people understand that the tragic murders that took place in San Bernardino does not define Islam any more than that horrible murder that took place in Charleston defines Christianity,” O’Malley said, referencing the Charleston shooting in June at a historically black church.
And on the phone, O’Malley mentioned how Trump’s comments damage American democracy.
“Democracies are very vulnerable to turning on themselves,” said O’Malley. “What’s different now is you have a voice like Donald Trump who’s spewing this sort of hate language and fanning the flames of fear.”
Despite Trump’s dominance of the media the past six days, O’Malley remains hopeful that Americans will speak out against the Republican’s proposal and come together.
“The goodness of America will ring out,” said O’Malley. “We need to hold close to each other…it’s hard for us to understand the vulnerabilities and all the things our American Muslim neighbors go through, and there are some who would like us to start acting like Nazi’s, but we’re better than that.”