It was perhaps the most powerful speech in two whole weeks of political theatre. Speaking at the Democratic convention in Philadelphia on Thursday, Khizr Khan, the father of a fallen Muslim-American soldier, delivered a stinging rebuke to Donald Trump for ignoring the US Constitution and “consistently smearing the character of Muslims.” Now, the Republican presidential nominee has responded - by smearing the character of Muslims.
Noting that Mr Khan had given his address with his wife Ghazala standing silently at his side, Mr Trump implied that Ms Khan “wasn’t allowed” to speak because she was forbidden to do so by her faith. “If you look at his wife, she was standing there,” he said on Saturday, in an interview with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News. “She had nothing to say. She probably, maybe she wasn't allowed to have anything to say. You tell me.”
The property mogul made a similar comment about Mr Khan's speech in an interview with Maureen Dowd of the New York Times, saying simply: "I'd like to hear his wife say something."
In an interview with MSNBC, Mr Khan said that he could not have made the speech without his wife at his side. Ms Khan herself said she had spoken to her son for the last time on Mother’s Day 2004, months before he was killed. When he had first told her he was being deployed to Iraq, she recalled tearfully that she had told him: “‘Don’t become [a] hero for me. Just be my son. Come back as a son’… [but] he came back as a hero.”
US Army Captain Humayun Khan was killed in a bomb blast in Iraq in 2004 and posthumously awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. His father, a 66-year-old immigration lawyer originally from Pakistan, castigated Mr Trump for his proposal to ban Muslims from entering the US, saying that under a Trump presidency, his son would never have been born in the country, let alone allowed to serve in its armed forces. Brandishing his personal copy of the Constitution, Mr Khan addressed the GOP nominee directly.
“Have you ever been to Arlington Cemetery?” he asked. “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 Trump insisted that he had, in fact, “made lots of sacrifices,” adding: “I work very, very hard. I’ve created thousands and thousands of jobs, tens of thousands of jobs, built great structures. I’ve had tremendous success. I think I’ve done a lot.”
The alleged billionaire also questioned whether Mr Khan had written his own speech, wondering aloud, “Who wrote that? Did Hillary’s script writers write it?” According to Politico, Mr Khan had declined the assistance of a Clinton campaign speechwriter and wrote the speech alone, delivering it by heart without the use of a teleprompter.
Mr Trump's comments quickly drew condemnation on social media.
In the MSNBC interview a day after his convention appearance, Mr Khan, who is not a registered Democrat, expressed his admiration for the Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, but urged them to repudiate their nominee, calling it a “moral imperative.”
“There comes a time in the history of a nation where an ethical, moral stand has to be taken regardless of the political costs,” he said. “The only reason they're not repudiating his behavior, his threat to our democracy, our decency, our foundation, is just because of political consequences.”
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