One of the most powerful moments during the Democratic National Convention was when Ghalaza and Khizr Kahn, the mother and father of Captian Humayun Kahn who died in combat in Iraq, appeared before the convention to denounce Donald Trump's call to ban Muslims entering our country. In a moving speech, Mr. Kahn speaking for both himself and his wife, underscored the sacrifices that Muslim Americans have made. To Mr. Trump, Kahn said, as he held a copy of the United States Constitution, "you have sacrificed nothing and no one."
The power of their grief gave an entire nation pause as we considered the complexity and diversity of who we are as a nation. Yet, Mr. Trump, in his usual bombastic style criticized the Kahns speculating that Mrs. Kahn's silence was indicative of female subservience under Islam.
Not only did Mrs. Kahn help write that speech (ironically, tempering her husbands even harsher criticism of Mr. Trump) she is anything if silent. Mrs. Kahn did speak to MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell saying she "cannot even come into the room where (her son's) pictures are." Standing on a stage in front of millions of people while a picture of her son was projected behind her and her husband was almost too much, she said. It was all she could do to stand there supporting her husband.
Donald Trump is gravely mistaken in this attack as he is in all others. Mainstream Islam does not prohibit women to speak and, in fact, was the first of the mono-theistic religions to provide for the rights of women in the Koran. The South Coast Interfaith Council in Southern California where I last served is headed by a very outspoken Muslim woman, Milia Islam-Majeed.
Even more egregious is Trump's insensitivity to grief itself. I admire the grit it took for two grieving parents to stand before a nation and proclaim the right of Muslim Americans to exist. Their cost was ultimate but it reflected the immense contributions of Muslims across our country. Most of the Muslims I know are "all in". Many of whom we meet everyday; scientists, teachers, social workers, religious leaders, friends and colleagues. Trump's attacks are not only cruel, they are racist in the largest sense of that word. There is very little to distinguish his rhetoric from that of Adolf Hitler and his renounciations of Jews.
As one friend commented to me, the Kahn's speech to the DNC and their reponse to Trump's further attacks are a example of grace and grit. The grit to share their grief and their anger in the name of all that is good in Islam and their grace to stand before us at all. Courage of this sort is admirable and holy in the midst of so much that is wrong about our political climate. I, for one, stand in admiration and cheer for the Kahn's, their son and all Muslim Americans who are trying to change their lives and our world for the better.
With Grace and Grit, John