Another Headstone at Arlington Speaks to Us (Update)
As mentioned at the end of this post, we are finally beginning to see influential Republicans speak out against the idiocy and un-Americanism of Trump’s Islamophobia.
Today, on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee called Trump’s call to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. a “huge mistake” that would fuel terror recruitment in the United States, according to The Hill.
Burr thinks it “sends the wrong message to people that have to be part of our partnership for a solution,” and that it serves as fuel for ISIL recruitment.
Burr also laments the many Muslims who have been killed or injured while working as interpreters alongside our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is concerned about the image projected with Muslim countries and frets about the possible radicalization of those already in our country.
While this is progress, it would have been even more genuine and powerful if Burr was also concerned about the assault on American core values the Trump banality represents.
About three months ago, when Republican presidential candidates questioned the patriotism and integrity of Muslim-Americans, Nevada Senator Harry Reid spoke poignantly and powerfully on the U.S. Senate floor against such divisive and shameful rhetoric.
“In Arlington National Cemetery, there is a white headstone, which, like so many others, marks the final resting place of a courageous service-member who gave his life in combat. This grave belongs to Kareem Khan of New Jersey, who was just twenty years old. Kareem was Muslim,” Reid commenced.
Then he spoke about the patriotism and “Americanism” of this Muslim-American:
Kareem’s rank was that of Specialist in the Stryker Brigade of the U.S. Army’s 2nd Infantry division. By all accounts, he was a good soldier. He received a Purple Heart, Bronze Star and a medal for good conduct. Tragedy struck on August 6, 2007, as Kareem and three others were checking abandoned Iraqi houses for explosives, a hidden bomb exploded, killing all four soldiers. Like thousands of other soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, Kareem Khan sacrificed everything for his country. Kareem gave, as President Abraham Lincoln said, “the last full measure of devotion” for the United States.
Reid then riled against how “a Republican candidate for President denigrated Kareem Khan and all Muslim-Americans.” That candidate was Ben Carson who “questioned Muslim-Americans devotion to the United States. He questioned their integrity. And then Ben Carson unilaterally disqualified every Muslim-American from becoming President of the United States.”
I call upon every Republican to denounce Ben Carson’s disgusting remarks. That shameful intolerance and bigotry should have no place in America today. Sadly, it seems to have a lasting place in the Republican Party. Republicans should open their eyes and take note of the contributions of our country’s Muslim community. Until they do, none of them will be worthy of leading this nation.
Apparently that message has fallen upon deaf ears, because less than three months later, another Republican presidential candidate has picked up the mantle of hate and bigotry with even more zealotry, even more hate — even more forebodingly and alarmingly.
Today, the leading Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump, is raising the level and intensity of bigotry, intolerance and especially of Islamophobia by calling for barring all Muslims from entering the United States. This un-American, unconstitutional and unconscionable dog whistle follows on the heels of calls for establishing surveillance on mosques, compiling a database for all Muslims living in the U.S. and other similar reprehensible measures.
But also today, yet another white headstone at Arlington National Cemetery cries out against the profanities of a man who never served.
The headstone marks the final resting place of Muslim-American U.S. Army Captain Humayun S. M. Khan.
Captain Khan was killed in Iraq on June 8, 2004.
The Department of Defense news release at the time simply said:
The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Captain Humayun S. M. Khan, 27, of Bristow, Virginia, died June 8, 2004, in Baquabah, Iraq, after a vehicle packed with an improvised explosive device drove into the gate of his compound while he was inspecting soldiers on guard duty. Khan was assigned to Headquarters, Headquarters Company, 201st Forward Support Battalion, 1st Infantry Division, Vilseck, Germany.
A June 16, 2004, Washington Post report added:
On June 8, Khan died in a suicide car bombing at the main gates of his base. Khan, an ordnance officer with the Germany-based 201st Forward Support Battalion, 1st Infantry Division, had watched as several of his soldiers prepared to do a routine vehicle inspection. His unit was charged with the day-to-day security and maintenance of the camp.
When an orange-colored taxi drove toward them, Khan ordered his soldiers to “hit the dirt,” said his father, who received details of his son’s death from his commanding officer.
Khan walked toward the car, motioning for it to stop, his father said. A makeshift bomb inside it exploded, killing him and two Iraqi civilians in addition to the two suicide bombers. Ten soldiers and six Iraqi citizens were also wounded, the Army said.
Buried with full military honors, Khan was posthumously awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.
At the time, Khan’s father, Khizr M. Khan, proud of his son’s courage, but devastated by his death, said, “Where did his strength come from to face such a danger instead of hiding behind a pole or booth or something?”
Now, in the face of Trump’s appalling hate and bigotry, Captain Khan’s father, speaking to Vocative, remembers his son’s bravery. Referring to his son’s courageous but fatal last steps 11 years ago, he says:
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.
Khan also said, “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.”
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.
But we are also — finally — beginning to see similar “inspiring and gratifying” responses from influential Republicans.
For example, Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., on Friday told the congregation at a north Scottsdale mosque, “We are a better country than has been on display this week…My hope and prayer today is that the isolated voices calling for division are overwhelmed by the chorus of voices, like those in this room today, calling for acceptance, for tolerance and inclusion.”
Read more here.