Gold Star father Khizr Khan speaks out against travel bans
NEWARK — Khizr Khan, the Gold Star father of an American soldier killed in Iraq, said he didn’t expect to become a nationally famous voice of outrage over proposed Muslim travel bans when he spoke out against bias last year at the Democratic National Convention.
But the Pakistani-born lawyer said he’s OK with his role as a Muslim American advocating what he calls equal treatment under the law.
“There isn’t a moment of privacy anymore, but life has changed for the better in that we are able to speak more freely,” Khan told reporters Saturday afternoon before speaking at a fundraising dinner in Newark.
As for courts blocking two Trump administration orders banning travel by people from up to seven Muslim-majority counties, Khan said, “It heartens us that the rule of law has prevailed, but concerns us that it is still in limbo,” he said. “We want to ensure this country has executive orders and policies that bring us together rather than divide us.”
Khan calls himself an ordinary person, “neither a scholar or a speaker,” but he burst into the national limelight July 28 at the Democratic convention when he gave a speech about his son, Humayun, an Army captain blown up by a suicide bomber in 2004 while serving in Iraq.
“Let me ask you,” Khan said figuratively to then-Republican candidate Donald Trump. “Have you ever read the United States Constitution. I’ll gladly lend you a copy.”
Referring to American casualties of war at Arlington cemetery, Khan also said of Trump, “You will see all faiths, genders, and ethnicities. You have sacrificed nothing — and no one.”
Khan’s words became a rallying cry for critics of Muslim travel restrictions, and also inspired an increase in sales of pocket constitutions like the one he displayed at the Democratic convention.
Khan, a naturalized citizen who lives in Virginia, said he doesn’t worry that he would be barred from re-entering this country if he traveled outside it. But he acknowledged Saturday that he passed up on some international travel opportunities earlier this year because he worried that immigration and TSA agents might not be fully informed about enforcing travel rules that could lead to privacy violations related to personal emails and computers.
“I decided not to travel because I was worried my privacy would be challenged,” he said. “I don’t carry anything illegal, but the immigration and TSA officials were still learning about the regulations.”
Khan and his wife, Ghazala, were keynote speakers Saturday night in Newark before some 500 guests at the Silicon Valley branch of the Human Development Foundation, which raises funds to provide job training, education and medical care for disadvantaged people in Pakistan.
The Khan’s declined to accept speaker fees to boost the fundraising, organizers said.
Athar Siddiqee, a San Jose high-tech executive and one of the event organizers, said the group was honored to host the lawyer.
“Khan is a hero,” Siddiqee said, “for speaking up to respect people’s rights.”
Meanwhile, on Friday, the Trump administration filed documents with an appeals court and argued that Trump’s revised travel ban does not discriminate on the basis of religion and was wrongly second-guessed by a federal judge in Hawaii.
U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson in Hawaii last month blocked the revised travel ban in response to a lawsuit by the state of Hawaii that argued the policy discriminates against Muslims. Watson said there was “significant and unrebutted evidence of religious animus” behind the ban, which prevents new visas for people from six Muslim-majority countries and suspends the nation’s refugee program.
Associated Press contributed to this report