Life hasn’t been the same for Khizr Khan since his epic speech against Trump

  • Yashwant Raj, Hindustan Times, Washington
  • Updated: Aug 07, 2016 01:37 IST
Khizr Khan and wife Ghazala at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. (Reuters File)

It was another one of the string of speaking invitations Khizr and Ghazala Khan accepted since their epic seven-minute takedown of Donald Trump at the Democratic convention.

As they stepped out of their home in Virginia to get into the car waiting for them, the driver, who had no prior knowledge of his passengers, rushed out to them and hugged Khizr.

With tears running down his cheeks, the driver, a recent immigrant from an African country, said that when Khan pulled out the constitution, “We felt safe, as a family”.

Khan, a Pakistani-descent lawyer who studied advanced law at Harvard, had been planning his speech and his appearance with Ghazala for a while now, on the Clinton campaign’s invitation.

The parents of Muslim American soldier Captain Humayun Khan, who was killed in Iraq in 2004, Khizr and Ghazala Khan have emerged as the most profound repudiation of Trump’s politics.

But the constitution was not part of the plan till the last moment, not until he and Ghazala prepared to leave their hotel for the convention venue on the outskirts of Philadelphia on July 28.

Read | Khizr Khan’s journey from Pakistan to Democratic convention spotlight

Khan spoke on Friday to Hindustan Times over phone from their home in Charlottesville, Virginia, as a German TV crew interviewed Ghazala, and Al Jazeera waited outside.

“I discovered the copy in my coat,” Khan said, “as I patted myself down to make sure I was not carrying anything that wouldn't clear security — coins and keys, metallic stuff.”

Khan said he mentioned the pocket-sized copy of the constitution to his wife only when they were in the car, and on their way to the convention.

“I told her I am going to be speaking about the constitution (she knew his speech, had helped him edit it down from six pages to two) and won’t it be nice if I showed it … kind of raised it.”

Ghazala, whose silence on the stage has made as much news as her husband’s eloquent speech, agreed, but told him to make sure to “pull it out right, the back is totally flat”.

So, as they drove to the convention venue in the cab, Khan practised pulling out the book the right way, supervised by his watchful wife, by placing it in his pocket the right way.

When he flourished it on stage, watched by Trump, the immediate target, and millions, and more in replays, the book was cover-in-front, just the way Ghazala had wanted.

Life hasn’t been same for the Khans since.

A TV cameramen takes video of the grave marker(L) for US Army Captain Humayun Saqib Muazzam Khan in Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. (AFP file photo)

“I cannot go to get a cup of coffee anymore, I cannot walk on the street any more, I cannot go to do shopping any more. I try to step out and I go three feet and someone will stop me.”

They will try and grab his hand, give him a hug and try and embrace him. They say kind things, Khan said, thank his family for the sacrifice and service to the country.

“And then I would walk to the corner of the street and wait for the light to change,” he said, “when people with children would walk up and ask if they could take a picture with me.”

These are the responses he gets and treasures.

Read | What did Donald Trump sacrifice? Twitter has some funny, sarcastic answers

Khan offered these observations in response to a question about how he felt about Trump, the man, he said, he had been thinking about since last year when the billionaire started his divisive campaign.

“I will tell you what is common to all (the responses I have been getting on the street) — Hispanics, Indians, Pakistanis , Japanese, Chinese, Taiwanese and Europeans” — the fear they feel, and uncertainties of a new place. 

But has he found the miracle solution, Khan asked, answering himself, “No, not at all, that was not the goal... Have I found some encouragement for them? Yes, and that was the goal.”

Khizr Khan said his family went to Pakistan from India during the Partition. They were in Shahbad, near New Delhi. Almost half of his clan, he said, is buried in and around that area. His wife Ghazala Khan, is also from India. Her family is from Ludhiana, he said, adding there are still some buildings there that bear her family name: Durrani.

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