Republican frontrunner Donald Trump’s attempts to stir up Islamophobia for cheap political points have been dominating the news cycle in recent weeks, provoking widespread outrage and condemnation from a vast majority of American society. The responses from American Muslims have been inspiring and gratifying, and their stories are the best weapons we have to fight Donald Trump exclusionary propaganda and remind his bigoted base that “real” Americans come from all nations, are of all colors and all faiths – and they have all put their lives on the line to ensure that opportunistic blowhards like Trump have the freedom to say the things he does.
One of the most moving of these stories is that of Captain Humayun S. M. Khan of the 201st Forward Support Battalion, 1st Infantry Division. A Pakistani Muslim born in the United Arab Emirates, he moved to Bristow, Virginia, and later graduated from the University of Virginia, joining the Army to help pay for law school. Captain Khan lost his life in Baquabah, Iraq on June 8th, 2004 when a car bomb exploded at his checkpoint. In a show of incredible bravery, he ordered his unit to take cover while he approached the vehicle alone, prompting the suicide bombers to detonate their deadly payloads. Thanks to his intuition and selflessness, his was the only American life lost that day. He was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and laid to rest with full honors. “His colleagues and superiors remembered him for his courage, honesty, sense of humor and grace while in the field, even under pressure” reads his obituary.
We shall never know his like again.
His father, Khizr Khan, recently spoke to Vocativ about Donald Trump’s appalling ban on Muslims entering the United States, and did not mince his words:
“Muslims are American, Muslims are citizens, Muslims participate in the well-being of this country as American citizens. We are proud American citizens. It’s the values of this country that brought us here, not our religion. Trump’s position on these issues do not represent those values.
We still wonder what made him [Humayun] take those 10 steps [towards the car]. Maybe that’s the point where all the values, all the service to country, all the things he learned in this country kicked in. It was those values that made him take those 10 steps. Those 10 steps told us we did not make a mistake in moving to this country. These were the values we wanted to adopt. Not religious values, human values. Those values that he learned throughout his life came together and made him a brave American soldier. This country is not strong because of its economic power, or military power. This country is strong because of its values, and during this political season, we all need to keep that in mind.”
This is the story that Republicans need to hear. Humayun Khan was a better American than draft-dodging Trump or any of the bigoted cowards that support him ever could be, and he wasn’t even born here. He understood the true value of freedom, was grateful for his opportunity to share our values and take his place in the melting pot of human civilization, and gave his life for his adopted nation when she called for his service. We must make sure that his story is heard; that his sacrifice was not in vain. Muslims are not our enemy; the real battle is against the fear that fills the hearts and minds of the weak and the stupid. That fear manifests itself in many ways; it begins as words but soon turns to violence. We cannot allow a rabble-rousing demagogue to throw away the values of tolerance and inclusion that has made our nation great.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.