The one truly authentic moment in either convention came when the father of a Muslim soldier killed in action in Iraq mounted the stage at the Democratic National Convention and spoke movingly about his son and his love of country.
Khizr M. Khan, a legal immigrant from Pakistan and a U.S. citizen, is not a registered Democrat and not very political. But he felt that he had something to say to Donald Trump about immigrants after he heard the candidate’s remarks about banning Muslims from the U.S.
Khan came to be on stage by a rather circuitous route. An article published last year in Vocativ about his son Humayun’s sacrifice in Iraq in 2004 came to the attention of the Clinton campaign. At first, they only wanted him to appear on stage. Then they asked if they could use some of his quotes in a speech. Finally, they suggested he say a few words.
Even though they had loaded his remarks on the teleprompter, Khan never referred to the machine. Instead, he spent 7 minutes talking from the heart — a spontaneous expression of patriotism and love of country on behalf of himself, his family, and especially his son.
Khan knew this was unusual honor. In an interview he gave the San Francisco Chronicle two days before his speech, he said, “Nowhere but in the United States is it possible that an immigrant who came to the country empty-handed only a few years ago gets to stand in front of patriots and in front of a major political party. … It is my small share to show the world, by standing there, the goodness of America.”
The Clinton campaign offered to put him in contact with a speechwriter. He declined. He knew what he wanted to say. He practiced at home with his family, leaning on 40 years of experience as an attorney that taught him “how to control my thoughts, my emotions and my message.”
On the day of the speech, he grabbed his worn copy of the Constitution and slipped it in his jacket pocket. He carries it regularly, especially when he travels. “It’s my favorite document. I wanted to use it because I wanted to highlight the protections that immigrants have in this country.”
Walking on stage he knew the pocket-sized book was going to come out of his pocket before the evening was done.
“The main purpose of my speech was to bring awareness about the constitutional protections that each citizen of the United States enjoys and to try to prevent the scare that immigrant communities are feeling about the misinformation that one candidate had been pandering. So the effort was to put these worried minds at ease by asking that question: ‘Have you even read the constitution?’”
In the minute after he finished at 9:18 p.m., observers noted a spike in people searching Google for “register to vote.” Andrew Sullivan of New York magazine called the speech “the fulcrum of this election.” Friday morning, as the Khans made their way home to Virginia, people stood in line in the Acela Club waiting room in Philadelphia to shake Khan’s hand.
Next page: See how Donald Trump and others responded.
Radio host Sandy Rios questioned Mr. Khan’s patriotism:
Rios, who serves as the AFA’s director of governmental affairs, said that because of his Muslim faith, Khan may be lying to Americans about his true beliefs, arguing that “supporters of Islam and the Quran cannot embrace the Constitution” and that it’s Khan’s “responsibility” to publicly “condemn Islamists” to prove his allegiance to the country.
From my perspective, it is the responsibility of Mr. Khan to distinguish himself from Islamists, from the Muslim Brotherhood whose treatise is to destroy us from within,” Rios said. “If he is a patriotic, loyal, American-Muslim, then we want to hear that, that’s great, and we grieve with them over the death of their son. But do not disparage Americans or Donald Trump for having concerns about Muslims in our midst.”
Khan was not disparaging Trump for having concerns about Muslim immigration. If you don’t have concerns about Muslim immigration, you’re an idiot. Khan was disparaging Trump for how he wants to deal with those concerns. There is more than one policy option in dealing with the dangers of Muslim immigration. To claim otherwise is ignorant.
As for Khan “proving” his loyalty to the U.S., that’s nonsense. We shouldn’t make Muslims second class citizens because a few bigots want to assume all Muslims are terrorists unless they prove themselves otherwise.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump challenged Mr. Khan to allow his wife to say something:
Donald Trump responded to blistering criticism from a Muslim lawyer during the Democratic National Convention by saying, “I’d like to hear his wife say something.”
In a lightning-round interview with New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd about DNC speeches, published Friday night, the Republican nominee responded obliquely to remarks by Khizr Khan, whose son, Army Capt. Humayun Khan, died in Baghdad in 2004.As his wife stood next to him on stage in Philadelphia Thursday, Khan criticized Trump’s immigration proposals — specifically those aimed at barring Muslims — and said that the billionaire businessman has “sacrificed nothing and no one.”“I’d like to hear his wife say something,” Trump said about Ghazala Khan.In a Friday evening interview on MSNBC, Ghazala Khan spoke briefly about her final interaction with her son, on Mother’s Day 2004, wishing him safety while serving in Iraq.