At Islamic Center of San Diego, a woman listens intently as Donald Trump speaks during third debate. Photo by Chris Stone

Asked if a woman could be president, Egyptian immigrant Zak Gouda took the long view of history.

After prayers, refugees and other immigrants gathered to watch third presidential debate. Photo by Chris Stone

“Why not?” he said Wednesday night after watching the debate at the Islamic Center of San Diego. “Give me a break.” He noted a long-ago woman famed for leadership skills — Cleopatra.

With Latinos joining a mostly Muslim group of 50 viewers, heads were shaking as Donald Trump lit into Hillary Clinton. Quiet laughter came at some of the Republican’s behavior, watched NBC on a single computer-connected screen.

Attentive silence greeted Clinton’s remarks in Las Vegas.

“Hillary was really calm,” Gouda said. “She took a lot of heat from this guy. Good luck to her.”

Luqmaan Bokhara recalled Trump’s reason for recent fame: “He acted like he was still on ‘Celebrity Apprentice.’ I’m much more uncomfortable with Trump after this debate. He was just a joke today. I hope no one in this room votes for him.”

The multipurpose room almost emptied twice during the debate evening — for prayers at 6:20 p.m. and then about 7:45. Women went to a room upstairs at the Clairemont center, men to an adjacent room on the same floor.

Helping organize the debate watch event (with snacks) was Hanif Mohebi, executive director of the San Diego office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. The other sponsor was the San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium.

Seats were empty early in the debate at prayer time. About 50 people gathered afterward at the Islamic Center of San Diego. Photo by Chris Stone

After the debate, Mohebi asked if the debate had changed their vote. No hands were raised.

Then he asked if Donald Trump had said anything to make the audience feel better about him.

From the back row, a young Islamic woman replied: “He didn’t say anything to make him better.”

Trump last year launched his campaign with attacks on Mexican immigrants and later called for a complete ban on Muslims entering America. The debate didn’t change the San Diego audience’s feelings about those remarks.

“Donald Trump is a disaster,” said a woman who gave only her first name — Rahman. “He will never be fit to be president for us. I don’t know how he got to this point. Anyone with a mind should feel the same way about him.”

Mohammed, an Afghanistan immigrant who also didn’t give his last name, said he wasn’t thrilled about either candidate, but asserted that “when [Trump] speaks, to me he looks dangerous.”

Tahira Faruq said Clinton has stood up for underrepresented people.

“She has done a lot for us (marginalized people) that people don’t even know about,” Faruq said.

Esmeralda Flores of the Immigrant Rights Consortium said: “We know this election is very important for our refugee and immigrant communities.”

The watch party was offered, she said, to create a “space of openness” and safety where people would feel comfortable watching and reacting.

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