Trump attack on slain soldier’s family sparks outrage among US Muslims

Sunday 07/08/2016
Khizr Khan, father of Humayun S. M. Khan who was killed while serving in Iraq with the US Army, stands with his wife during the fourth and final day of the Democratic National Convention in Phila­delphia, Pennsylvania.

Washington - Donald Trump’s attacks on the family of an Ameri­can Muslim killed in combat while serving in the US military sparked outrage in the US Muslim commu­nity. Trump’s behaviour also led to fresh expressions of Muslim self-confidence in the face of the hostil­ity and negative stereotypes the Re­publican presidential candidate has displayed.
The spat between Trump and the Khans, a US family of Pakistani de­scent, has become the biggest crisis yet in the property tycoon’s bid for the White House by highlighting what critics say is Trump’s disdain for Muslims, even those who gave their life for the country that he wants to lead.
Khizr Khan, 65, spoke at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia about his son Hum­ayun, a captain in the US Army who was killed by a suicide bomber in Iraq in 2004. Khan stressed his own patriotism and spoke out against Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric. He said the billionaire, who managed to avoid conscription as a young man during the Vietnam war, had never known personal sacrifice.
Trump responded by denounc­ing Khan’s words as “vicious” and by belittling Khan’s wife, Ghazala, who was on the podium with her husband but did not speak. Trump suggested that she was not allowed to speak. Asked in a television inter­view what his message to the dead soldier’s father would be, Trump re­sponded: “We’ve had a lot of prob­lems with radical Islamic terrorists.”
The candidate’s lack of respect for a Gold Star family — a term used for relatives of soldiers wounded or killed in action — was condemned across party lines, with US President Barack Obama and Republican Sen­ator John McCain leading the cho­rus. Opinion polls suggested Trump is losing ground to his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.
Despite concerns among Republi­cans that he is damaging the party’s chances in November, Trump, 70, is refusing to back down and says he has a right to defend himself against Khan. Trump is targeting his cam­paign on conservative Christian vot­ers and is calculating that Muslim voters, estimated at less than 1 mil­lion in a US electorate of 226 million, will not play a significant role in the election.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the biggest Mus­lim rights lobby group in the United States, said Trump and the Republi­can Party must stop their verbal at­tacks on Muslims.
“I urge Donald Trump to apolo­gise for his shameful remarks dis­paraging a Muslim Gold Star family and for his repeated use and promo­tion of anti-Muslim stereotypes,” CAIR Board Chairwoman Roula Al­louch said in a statement on the CAIR website. She also called on Re­publican leaders to “repudiate their candidate’s divisive rhetoric”.
Trump, who has advocated a ban against Muslims travelling to the United States, has used anti-Muslim rhetoric throughout his campaign but his treatment of the Khan fam­ily was especially galling for many American Muslims because Khizr Khan’s convention speech was a source of pride.
“God bless the Khan’s [sic] who said what so many of us want to say,” Suhaib Webb, an imam in Washing­ton, wrote on Twitter. CNN called Khan’s speech the “moment Ameri­can Muslims have been waiting for”.
Yasir Qadhi, an Islamic scholar, told the Guardian that “[Trump’s] remarks regarding Humayun Khan’s parents are especially despicable. Many of us — including myself — could relate to the Khan family and I could easily see a faint reflection of my own parents and many of their generation, standing with the senior Khans on that stage.”
US Muslim leaders said Trump’s attitude towards Muslims repre­sents an opportunity.
“I want to thank Donald Trump for making Muslims a campaign is­sue,” Salam al-Marayati, president of the Muslim Public Affairs Coun­cil, an advocacy group in Washing­ton and Los Angeles, said on the group’s website.
He said Khan had spoken about “Muslims being part of the Ameri­can fabric and millions of people were watching”. Trump has actually helped Muslims, Marayati added: “His rhetorical attack on us has trig­gered fear of Islam but it has also produced an outpouring of sup­port.”
Many Muslim-American women commented on social media about Trump’s attack on Ghazala Khan.
“As a politics professor, I lecture to many silent men because I am the expert in the room,” posted Da­lia Fahmy of the Center for Global Policy at George Mason University.
Faiza N. Ali, a community activist from New York, countered Trump’s depiction of Muslim women as doc­ile and passive: “I’m an organiser, activist, public servant fighting for dignity and respect,” she posted.
Miriam Durrani, a researcher, said her own life was an example of how wrong Trump was: “I am a single mother who finished her PhD and am now an education researcher at Harvard,” she wrote. “Didn’t get here by staying quiet!”