"Mr. Trump's divisive views helped him capture the Republican presidential nomination. And even as he creates a political whirlwind with each utterance, leading members of his own party haven't the spine to rescind their support. Sure, some have come out with strong criticisms, but none have gone far enough. Repudiation of his candidacy is the only principled response."
As the 2016 presidential campaign came into full focus following last week's historic nomination of Hillary Clinton as the first female to be nominated for president by a major political party, I have followed with great interest the fallout from Donald Trump's crude derision of the parents of Army Capt. Humayun Khan, a Muslim American who was awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart after he was killed by a suicide bomber in Iraq in 2004. It's drawing around-the-clock attention by 24-hour cable news broadcasters like MSNBC, CNN and Fox News as well as making daily headlines in national newspapers like The New York Times and The Washington Post. In today's Times editorial, it called Trump's statements towards the fallen soldier's parents "deplorable and mystifying" and asked: "Why would a presidential candidate mock the parents of a soldier who died in combat?"
It is said that words, like eyes, are the windows into a person's soul. Last week, Captain Khan's father, Khizr Khan, along with his wife Ghazala Khan, standing by his side, were highly critical of Mr. Trump for proposing to ban Muslim immigration to the United States. In a speech to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia last Thursday, Mr. Khan accused Mr. Trump of having made no sacrifices for his country. He spoke moments before Mrs. Clinton formally accepted her party's nomination.
In a tribute to his fallen son, the 66-year-old Mr. Khan spoke passionately of his son's character, his faith, and his patriotism. In doing so, this Muslim American father's electrifying speech turned into a lesson in American citizenship. There was no denying that Mr. Khan was being sincere while showing his undivided loyalty to his country.
The elder Khan, an immigration lawyer with an advanced degree from Harvard Law School, became a United States citizen after he emigrated from Pakistan in 1980. You see, he came to America seeking a better life for his family. Along with his wife, the Khans raised three sons, the middle one who would become a hero in death. The Khan family resides in Charlottesville, Va.
Army captain Humayun Khan, 27, died while serving his country – the United States – in combat in Iraq on June 8, 2004. He became a victim of a suicide car bombing while trying to protect the other troops in his unit. In my research, I learned that Khan had graduated from the University of Virginia and had been accepted into law school. He wanted to follow in the footsteps of his father. However, he deferred his admission to serve our country before continuing his education.
In speaking to the DNC audience – and by extension to a worldwide audience – Khizr Khan "gave a voice to Muslim Americans outraged by the anti-Muslim pronouncements of the Republican nominee for president, Donald J. Trump," wrote The New York Times.
It should come as no surprise that Mr. Trump's call for restrictions on Muslims entering the U.S. is acutely personal for Mr. Khan. And, it's something that has become a recurring talking point between me and many of my Muslim Facebook friends, most whom reside in Tunisia. They are puzzled by what is going on in the U.S. While most of them realize that Trump's sentiments are not shared by most Americans – including me – and goes against the ideals and values that have helped shape my country's democracy, they are shocked and disturbed that Mr. Trump could be calling for a blanket restriction on Muslim immigration – solely on the basis on religious grounds.
In December, Mr. Trump called for "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on."
In speaking about his deceased son with his wife standing his side, the bereaved Mr. Khan said during his speech: "If it was up to Donald Trump, he never would have been in America." Under Trump's proposed policies, the younger Khan would have never served his country because he and his family would have been barred from entering the United States.
The elder Khan said Mr. Trump "wants to build walls and ban us from this country."
"Have you ever been to Arlington Cemetery?" Mr. Khan asked Mr. Trump. "Go look at the graves of brave patriots who died defending the United States of America. You will see all faiths, genders and ethnicities. You have sacrificed nothing and no one."
Mr. Khan's remarks reverberated inside and beyond the Wells Fargo Arena where he spoke to an attentive DNC audience. Then, the moment that turned Mr. Khan into a social media phenomenon – and has been shown countless number of times on TV over the past few days – happened. Staring unwaveringly at the television camera, he passionately spoke: "Let me ask you: Have you even read the United States Constitution?" said Mr. Khan. "I will gladly lend you my copy." Addressing Mr. Trump directly (which the intolerant Trump later called "a vicious attack" in a series of tweets), he pulled out a pocket-sized copy of the Constitution from his coat pocket and waved it for the entire world to see. It was the emotional moment of the convention.
Mr. Khan's speech was one of the most stirring speeches I've ever heard or watched. It was heartfelt and passionate. My eyes welled with tears and I applauded several times. I'm sure I was not alone in expressing these feelings.
Beginning Saturday, Mr. Trump belittled the Khans. He implied that Mrs. Khan did not speak at the convention because her religion did not allow it, and he equated his "sacrifices" as a businessman to those of the grieving Gold Star parents. What Mr. Trump failed to realize is that he could not sacrifice without serving. "With his implication that the soldier's mother had not spoken because of female subservience expected in some traditional strains of Islam, his comments also inflamed his hostilities with American Muslims," wrote The New York Times.
"If you look at his wife, she was standing there," Trump said, in an interview with ABC News. "She had nothing to say. She probably, maybe she wasn't allowed to have anything to say. You tell me."
The Washington Post wrote: "Trump described (Mr.) Khan as 'very emotional' and said he 'probably looked like a nice guy to me' – then accused him of being controlled by the Clinton campaign."
Trump's response stirred outrage among critics who said the episode once again proves that Trump lacks the compassion and temperament to be president.
Over the weekend, Ezra Klein, a columnist for Vox.com, wrote: "Trump listened to a speech by the bereaved father of a fallen Muslim soldier and used it to slander the fallen soldier's family. That was his response. That is his character. ... This is the gauge of his cruelty." He called the slander "horrifying" – even for Trump. Then Klein asked: "Just what kind of person is Donald Trump? What kind of person says these things? And is that really the kind of person we want to be president?"
"There's only one way to talk about Gold Star parents: with honor and respect," Ohio governor John Kasich, a Republican Party primary rival of Mr. Trump's, wrote on Twitter, using the term for surviving family members of those who died in war. His sentiments have been echoed by many politicians.
During an interview with MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell, the first of many the Khans have granted, which aired Friday night, Mrs. Khan broke down sobbing as she spoke about her son. It suggested to me – and I'm sure others – that Mrs. Khan let her husband give the convention speech for one simple reason: even though it's been 12 years since her son's death, she remains overwhelmed by grief. How can Mr. Trump not understand this? How can he not express any empathy for the fallen soldier's parents?
"Sacrifice, I don't think he knows the meaning of sacrifice, Mrs. Khan said. "Because when I was standing there, all America felt my pain. Without saying a single word. Everybody felt that pain."
In a rebuttal to Mr. Trump's disparaging remarks, Mr. Khan lashed out at the Republican Party nominee during an interview on Saturday, saying that his wife did not speak at the convention because it was too painful for her to talk about her son's death. Mr. Trump, he said, "is devoid of feeling the pain of a mother who has sacrificed her son.
"Trump is totally void of any decency because he is unaware of how to talk to a Gold Star family and how to speak to a Gold Star mother," said Mr. Khan.
On Monday morning, Mr. Trump continued to criticize Mr. Khan via Twitter. "Mr. Trump complained that Mr. Khan had become a ubiquitous presence in the news media since his speech at the convention, in which he excoriated the Republican presidential nominee," wrote The New York Times.
"Mr. Khan who does not know me, viciously attacked me from the stage of the DNC and is now all over T.V. doing the same," Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter. "Nice!"
Ibrahim Hooper, who is a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told The New York Times: "It's really despicable that anyone, let alone a presidential candidate, would choose to dishonor the service of an American who gave his life for this nation."
Instead of showing any remorse for the Khans, Mr. Trump's foolish and ignorant – inhuman – comments are the latest in a continuing and disturbing pattern and serve as the latest reminder of his total unfitness for becoming President of the United States. Donald Trump is a person without a soul. He's a loud bully, a bigot. He is unaccepting of criticism and easily becomes unhinged as the events of the past few days have shown loud and clear. He lacks compassion for others and he doesn't know the meaning of empathy.
Meanwhile, acting presidential and expressing compassion and respect, Mrs. Clinton said: "I was very moved to see Ghazala Khan stand bravely and with dignity in support of her son on Thursday night. And I was very moved to hear her speak last night, bravely and with dignity, about her son's life and the ultimate sacrifice he made for his country."
Appearing on CNN's State of the Union program over the weekend, Mr. Khan expressed: "Two things are absolutely necessary in any leader or any person who aspires, wishes, to be a leader. That is moral compass and second is empathy. ... Mr. Trump is a black soul."
On Monday, Senator John McCain of Arizona, a decorated hero of the Vietnam War, sharply criticized Trump, saying: "It is time for Donald Trump to set the example for our country and the future of the Republican Party." Sadly, Sen. McClain refused to back off his support for Mr. Trump. When will he and other Republic Party leaders such as House speaker Paul Ryan and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell disavow Trump?
This morning, during a news conference following a joint address with the prime minister of Singapore in the East Room of the White House, President Obama gave his strongest denouncement of Mr. Trump. He said Mr. Trump is "woefully unprepared to do this job" and added that Republican criticisms of their party's presidential candidate "ring hollow" as they continue to support his bid for the presidency. Mr. Obama asked Republicans matter-of-factly: "If you are repeatedly having to say in very strong terms that what he has said is unacceptable, why are you still endorsing him? What does this say about your party, that this is your standard bearer?"
Indeed, Mr. Trump has shown time and again that he is capable of being both callous and cruel, and is unfit to be the commander in chief. He exhibits the character of a dark, dystopian dictator.
With less than 100 days until the November election, it remains to be seen how many more disgusting things Donald Trump will say that show off his ignorance and disrespect for the highest office in our country, his unfitness to be president, and his lack of empathy towards America's decent and ordinary citizens.
Sometimes, it takes a patriotic Muslim American family – one which emigrated to the United States so they could build a better life for themselves and who have made the ultimate sacrifice for this country – to remind all of us of the importance of the values and ideals that shape our American democracy.
Read the full text of Khizr Khan's speech to the DNC:
Read Ghazala Khan's Washington Post Op-Ed article: