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Trump hits out at the Khans, faces widespread criticism

world Updated: Jul 31, 2016 21:55 IST
Yashwant Raj
Khizr and Ghazala Khan

Khizr Khan, whose son Humayun S. M. Khan was one of 14 American Muslims who died serving in the US Army in the 10 years after the 9/11 attacks, said Trump’s words were “typical of a person without a soul”.(Reuters File)

Donald Trump responded to Khizr and Ghazala Khan, parents of a fallen American Muslim soldier, in the only way he is known to: by disparaging and insulting them.

“Who wrote that? Did Hillary's script writers write it?” Trump said in an interview that aired on Sunday, about Khan’s now-famous remark addressed to him: “You have sacrificed nothing and no one.”

“I think I’ve made a lot of sacrifices,” Trump said. “I work very, very hard.” When pressed for details, it was still just his work and how he employed thousands of people.

Trump then turned upon Ghazala Khan. “If you look at his wife, she was standing there. She had nothing to say,” he said. “She probably, maybe she wasn't allowed to have anything to say.”

His attacks on a family that lost their son triggered a national, bipartisan outrage, with furious commentators warning that the nominee may have gone “way over the line” this time.

As outrage mounted, Trump released a statement saying Captain Humayun Khan was a hero and should be honoured as one. But he inisted t he issue at hand was “radical Islamic” terrorism.

His campaign also released a transcript of the interview, seeking to give an impression that Trump may have been quoted out of context. But no one was convinced.

Least of all the Khans, who are of Pakistani descent and came to the US in 1980. Their son died at the age of 27 in a suicide bombing while serving in Iraq in 2004.

Speaking movingly about his son at the Democratic convention last week, Khan had attacked Trump in a seven-minute speech that continued to reverberate around the country and the world.

Encouraged by the support they received since, they continued to speak out. Khizr Khan called Trump campaign’s statement about his son being a hero “faked empathy”.

In an interview to The Washington Post, Khan, a trained lawyer from Harvard, said Trump’s words were “typical of a person without a soul”.

His wife Ghazala Khan explained her silence in a signed piece, also in the Washington Post, on Sunday: “I cannot walk into a room with pictures of Humayun. For all these years, I haven’t been able to clean the closet where his things are — I had to ask my daughter-in-law to do it. Walking onto the convention stage, with a huge picture of my son behind me, I could hardly control myself. What mother could?

“Donald Trump has children whom he loves. Does he really need to wonder why I did not speak?”

She went on to call Trump “ignorant” about Islam: “If he studied the real Islam and Koran, all the ideas he gets from terrorists would change, because terrorism is a different religion.”

In conclusion, she delivered another powerful rebuke to the Republican nominee, saying Trump may claim to have made sacrifices but he doesn’t “know what the word sacrifice means”.

That parents of a fallen soldier have to explain themselves has offended many. Republican Governor John Kasich said in a tweet only way to treat such parents is with “honour and respect”.

Russian chess great Gary Kasparov said, in a tweet, “As I wrote in March, Trump is useful as a litmus test for political decency. Anyone still backing him doesn't have any. Even clearer now.”