Gold Star father Khizr Khan addresses Islamophobia in America

Emily Getzoff | Contributing Reporter

Gold Star father Khizr Khan spoke at the on-campus panel “Speaking Truth to Power,” where panelists discussed discrimination and Islamophobia in America in Wilson Hall Friday, Nov. 3.

Khan is most well-known for his speech at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, during which he criticized then-Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and challenged him to read the Constitution. Khan’s son, United States Army Captain Humayan Khan, was killed in 2004 during the Iraq War, making his immediate relatives a Gold Star family.

During the panel, Khan spoke on various issues related to Islamophobia, including the travel ban on people from Muslim-majority countries, as well as recent rallies by neo-Nazis and white supremacists. He specifically addressed the recent events of Charlottesville, Va., where white supremacists protested the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee.

“[Islamophobia] is not the American value,” Khan said. “Freedom of speech is our constitutional value, a fundamental value, but it does not come bundled with harassing communities.”

Khan spoke about his experience traveling the nation and working with different communities and organizations, while emphasizing the importance of uniting various communities against hate.

“This is a perilous time in our nation’s history; we must continue to speak, we must come together, lend voice to each other,” he said. “I passionately support any vulnerable community in this nation. I stand with them; I lend them my voice. The reason is that sometimes there comes a time in every person’s life where we have two choices: one is to sit home and let it be, the second choice is to set your sail, face the challenge, stand up, speak.”

Although Khan addressed many of the issues related to Islamophobia in America, he also expressed a tremendous amount of faith in the American legal system.

“America is very much hopeful; [I have] a strong belief that we will endure this moment, anomaly, in our system, and…the good values of this country will prevail.” Khan said.

The event was sponsored by the Muslim Student Association at Washington University (MSA WUSTL) as well as the Missouri Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Vice President of MSA WUSTL and junior Amal Haque, felt that the event made her more hopeful about the future of Muslim-Americans.

“I think one of the most important things that he brought up was that young Muslims have probably never felt more empowered to speak up before now, and I think that that’s so true,” Haque said. “I think there’s a lot of hope in that. So, I’m pretty optimistic, and I think that he made me a little more optimistic than I was at the beginning of the panel.”

Khan was joined by other panelists: Professor El Hadji Samba Amadou Diallo, who teaches African and Islamic studies on campus, junior Clayton Covington and sophomore Hanna Khalil.

According to Haque, the panel sought to include a variety of perspectives, including both students and professors on the panel with Khan.

“We wanted to have a young perspective so that any time Mr. Khan was referencing some of the issues students have to face on campus, there was a voice to put a face to those issues that he was discussing,” Haque said. “I think that having that balance between adults and younger students really made for a more dynamic panel.”

Sign up for the email edition

Stay up to date with everything happening as Washington University returns to campus.