- Farhana Kheraexecutive director of Muslim Advocates.
Last week at the Democratic National Convention, one of the most powerful speeches came from Khizr Khan, the father of a U.S. soldier who died serving in Iraq in 2004. Onstage in Philadelphia, Khan asked Donald Trump whether he’d ever read the U.S. Constitution, and he offered Trump his own copy. In response, Trump attacked Khizr’s wife, Ghazala Khan, who appeared onstage alongside her husband. Trump’s comments sparked widespread outrage—including from the Khans themselves, who denounced Donald Trump, saying he is “totally unfit for the leadership of this country.” For more, we speak with Farhana Khera, executive director of Muslim Advocates.
AMY GOODMAN: In more election news, Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the parents of a U.S. soldier who died serving in Iraq, are denouncing Donald Trump, who attacked them following Khizr Khan’s speech at the Democratic National Convention. This is Khizr Khan speaking Thursday night in Philadelphia.
KHIZR KHAN: Donald Trump, you’re asking Americans to trust you with their future. Let me ask you: Have you even read the United States Constitution? I will—I will gladly lend you my copy. In this document, look for the words—look for the words “liberty” and “equal protection of law.” Have you ever been to Arlington Cemetery? Go look at the graves of brave patriots who died defending United States of America. You will see all faiths, genders and ethnicities. You have sacrificed nothing and no one. We cannot solve—we cannot solve our problems by building walls, sowing division.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Khizr Khan speaking on the DNC stage Thursday night beside his wife, Ghazala Khan. Their son, U.S. Army Captain Humayun Khan, was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart after he was killed in 2004 serving in Iraq. In response to Khan’s speech, Donald Trump made fun of Khan’s wife, Ghazala Khan, while speaking Sunday on ABC.
DONALD TRUMP: I saw him. He was, you know, very emotional and probably looked like a nice guy to me. His wife, if you look at his wife, she was standing there. She had nothing to say. She probably—maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say. You tell me. But plenty of people have written that.
AMY GOODMAN: So that was Donald Trump speaking on Sunday. Later, Khizr Khan responded to Trump, saying he is a, quote, “black soul.”
KHIZR KHAN: He is a black soul, and this is totally unfit for the leadership of this beautiful country. The love and affection that we have received affirms that our beliefs—our experience in this country had been correct and positive. The world is receiving us like we have never seen. They have seen the blackness of his character, of his soul.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Khizr Khan responding on CNN this weekend to Donald Trump.
We go to San Francisco right now, where we’re joined by Farhana Khera, executive director of Muslim Advocates.
Welcome to Democracy Now! Can you talk about everything that has unfolded since Thursday night, when Khizr Khan and his wife stood up at the Democratic convention and spoke about their son?
FARHANA KHERA: Yeah. Thank you for having me, Amy. And let me first say I just want to thank Mr. and Mrs. Khan for their, frankly, extraordinary bravery and for their sacrifice. Just think about the courage it takes to, frankly, stand in front of millions of people while you’re still grieving the loss of your son, who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. And, you know, we have certainly heard a lot of ignorant and hateful statements during this election cycle, but the attacks by Donald Trump on the Khan family and their faith just hits a new low, and, frankly, is really beyond the limits of human decency. And so, I’m calling on Mr. Trump to do the right, decent and honorable thing and to apologize, and genuinely apologize, to the Khan family and to all Gold Star families.
AMY GOODMAN: In response, Trump’s running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, wrote on Facebook, “Donald Trump and I believe [that] Captain Humayun Khan is an American hero and his family, like all Gold Star families, should be cherished by every American.” He went on to say, “Captain Khan gave his life to defend our country in the global war on terror. Due to the disastrous decisions of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, a once stable Middle East has now been overrun by ISIS. This must not stand.” And he went on say, “By suspending immigration from countries that have been compromised by terrorism, rebuilding our military, defeating ISIS at its source and projecting strength on the global stage, we will reduce the likelihood that other American families will face the enduring heartbreak of the Khan family.” And he went on from there. Certainly something different than what Donald Trump had said.
FARHANA KHERA: That is certainly very, very correct, Amy. I think what we have seen, year over year, is when family members of those who have given their lives for our country speak out, sometimes even criticize our nation’s leaders, the response by our nation’s leaders is to treat them with honor and respect. And even at the height of the Iraq War, you had Gold Star family members like Cindy Sheehan who were critical of then-President Bush, and I don’t recall President Bush uttering an attack on her or her family. And that’s the kind of honor and respect and character that I think all Americans deserve in our commander-in-chief.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about Donald Trump’s comments about Mrs. Khan?
FARHANA KHERA: Yeah, I think there was something really disturbing and really almost sinister in the way that he questioned why she was standing silently next to her husband during his remarks. And it was almost like he was stoking fear and ignorance of Islam by implying that she was silent because her husband wouldn’t let her speak or because of her faith. And Mrs. Khan has made it very clear, repeatedly in recent days, that her family, her culture, her religion have never stopped her from speaking. And I think anyone who saw those remarks Thursday evening and saw the presentation and the tribute to their son would understand why a grieving mother, a mother of a—you know, a Gold Star mother, would just, frankly, not be able to speak before millions of people. And so, it’s just really disturbing that Mr. Trump would sink so low.
AMY GOODMAN: To blame it on her religion that she wasn’t maybe allowed to speak.
FARHANA KHERA: Correct, correct.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to turn back to a brief exchange between Donald Trump and one of his supporters earlier this month—I think it was last month, during a town hall in New Hampshire. This was the question and Donald Trump’s answer.
TRUMP SUPPORTER: Just to mix quickly homeland security and jobs. Why aren’t we putting our retiree—our military retirees on that border or in TSA? Get rid of all these “hibijabis” they wear at TSA.
DONALD TRUMP: Well, I—
TRUMP SUPPORTER: I’ve seen them myself.
DONALD TRUMP: Yeah, I understand that. Yeah.
TRUMP SUPPORTER: We need the veterans back in there to take it. They’ve fought for this country and defended it. They’ll still do it.
DONALD TRUMP: OK.
TRUMP SUPPORTER: Thank you.
DONALD TRUMP: You know, and we are looking at that. And we are looking at that. We’re looking at a lot of things.
AMY GOODMAN: “And we are looking [at] that,” Donald Trump said. Your response?
FARHANA KHERA: You know, what the American people need today more than ever, Amy, is political leaders, especially those who are running for the highest office in the land, to bring Americans together. What makes our country great is that a group of people, diverse in every imaginable way, can come together, because of our shared values of freedom, justice and equality for all. And the proper response from Mr. Trump should not have been, “Yeah, we’re going to look at that. We’re going to look at and see about how we can discriminate against people.” But the proper response would have been a response much like Senator McCain had in 2008, when he, too, at a town hall meeting had a member of the audience question the loyalty and the faith of then-Senator Obama, and clear the record and to say, “Look, that’s not what our country stands for.”
AMY GOODMAN: Farhana Khera, can you talk about the Donald Trump campaign, overall, and if you can speak, as executive director of Muslim Advocates, about how it’s affected the Muslim community in the United States?
FARHANA KHERA: Yeah, I’d be happy to. You know, in the last several months, there have been a number of, frankly, outrageous, reckless and irresponsible statements from Mr. Trump attacking the American Muslim community and our loyalty. And, you know, it started with his statements about how he thinks there needs to be a national registry of American Muslims, that American Muslims perhaps need to wear special ID badges, that there should be a ban on Muslims entering the United States.
These statements are not just statements out there in the air floating in the air, but they’ve had a real-life impact on Muslim families and their children. I’ve heard from so many mothers and fathers over the last several months who have told heart-wrenching stories of their children being bullied at school, taunted, not just once in a while or once a month, but sometimes several times a week. They’ve told stories of their young children, as young as eight years old, six years old, coming home from school and asking their parents if they’re going to have to leave the country if Donald Trump becomes president. That’s the message that he’s been sending so many of our young children across the country, and it’s had a very disturbing impact.
And I think that’s why Mr. Khan’s courage and his statements Thursday evening struck such a chord with so many American Muslims, because I think he spoke for each of us, and just pushing back so eloquently and passionately against the central theme of Mr. Trump, which is questioning the loyalty of a group of Americans and basically calling for disparate treatment of a group of Americans based simply on our faith. It goes against the very core of who we are as Americans.
AMY GOODMAN: I believe the pocket version of the Constitution has now become a best-seller. Can you tell us a little more about the Khans’ son, who was killed in Baquba, Iraq, in 2004, as he told his fellow soldiers to step back from a suspicious vehicle, and then he moved forward, and it exploded and killed him?
FARHANA KHERA: So, I did not have the honor of knowing Captain Khan personally. But from what I’ve read, he demonstrated everything I think we would want in a son, in a daughter, and, frankly, in a fellow soldier—his bravery, his courage. But I want to flag something in particular that I read about Captain Khan, and this was actually when he was in college. And he apparently wrote in a college essay, quote, “Liberty requires vigilance and sacrifice.” And he went on to say that the beneficiaries of liberty, that we must keep it safe from attack. And how prescient were those words by Captain Khan. And I think it just reminds us that it’s time for all of us, as Americans, to honor the sacrifice of Captain Khan and all the Gold Star families by standing up against hate and bigotry and divisiveness.
AMY GOODMAN: Finally, do you find that there is a spike in attacks on Islamic women, on Muslim women, in this country this year?
FARHANA KHERA: Yes, there has been a disturbing level, a spike in hate crimes and attacks, Amy. And it seems to, unfortunately, correlate to the rise in this kind of hateful rhetoric from Mr. Trump and other presidential candidates. So, starting in about end of November, early December of last year, we’ve been tracking an unprecedented level of hate crimes and attacks against individuals, as well as against our houses of worship, where men, women and children frequent. And it’s not just our data, but even by the Justice Department’s own data, has shown a disturbing trend.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to—
FARHANA KHERA: And so, it underscores why we need our public officials to act responsibly.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to have to leave it there. Farhana Khera, I want to thank you for being with us, executive director of Muslim Advocates.