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Father of dead US Muslim soldier delivers powerful speech at DNC

Khizr Khan, whose son Humayun died in 2004 in Iraq, admonished Trump for his plan to ban Muslims from entering US
Father accused Trump of vilifying patriotic American Muslims while "sacrificing nothing" himself (AFP)

Perhaps the most powerfully emotional moment in the Democratic National Convention held in Philadelphia this week came from Khizr Khan, father of a Muslim US soldier who was killed in Iraq.

The father accused Donald Trump of vilifying patriotic American Muslims while "sacrificing nothing" himself, in a dignified rebuke that electrified the Democratic convention on Thursday night.

Khizr Khan - whose son Humayun died in a 2004 suicide bombing in Baquba - admonished the Republican presidential nominee for his plan to ban Muslims from entering the United States.

"Tonight we are honored to stand here as parents of Captain Humayun Khan and as patriotic American Muslims with undivided loyalty to the country," he said, stirring delegates who had watched a video tribute to his son in captivated silence.

"If it was up to Donald Trump, he never would have been in America," he said. "Donald Trump consistently smears the character of Muslims."

Trump, who was nominated as the Republican presidential candidate last week, favours banning Muslims from immigrating to the US. Other Republican leaders, too, have expressed varying degrees of Islamophobia. Newt Gingrich, who was House Speaker in the 1990s, said that Muslims who believe in Sharia law should be deported and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani said that Muslims on the government’s terrorism watch list should wear monitoring bracelets for tracking purposes.

Some Muslims have also grumbled about marginalization at the DNC as well. The Democratic Party’s platform, for instance, prioritises the rights of Israelis over Palestinians, despite the efforts of Clinton’s former Democratic rival, Bernie Sanders, to treat both sides equally in the decades-old conflict.

And what really bugged Muslims this week was Bill Clinton, the Democratic nominee’s husband and former president, who started riffing at the tail-end of an impassioned speech about why Americans should send his wife back to the White House.

“If you’re a Muslim and you love America and freedom and you hate terror, stay here and help us win and make a future together, we want you,” Clinton said in calling out various groups with a stake in a Democrat-led America.

Though essentially harmless, it jarred with many Muslims because it seemed to imply that they are in the US temporarily and must work harder than others to show patriotism – a touchy subject in the wake of post-9/11 racial profiling and police raids on mosques. 

“The assumptions behind this are that Muslim Americans should be singled out and required to prove their loyalty and Americanism more than others,” Raed Jarrar, a policy analyst at the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker group, told Middle East Eye.

“The assumption that they should be kicked out of the country is really shocking to hear in 2016.”

Meanwhile, at the convention, Khan continued to quietly blister the real estate mogul-turned-reality TV star.

"Donald Trump, you are asking Americans to trust you with their future. Let me ask you - have you even read the United States Constitution?" he said, brandishing a copy to loud cheers.

"I will gladly lend you my copy!" Khan said, demanding Trump look for the word "liberty" and consult the 14th amendment, which guarantees equal protection before the law.

"Have you ever been to Arlington cemetery?" he asked, as many in the audience were visibly moved. "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!" he said.

His somber, steely admonishment of Trump at once electrified the audience and brought many to tears in what Catholic intellectual Andrew Sullivan wrote was the "best and most necessary" speech of either convention.