Donald Trump has 'black soul', says Khizr Khan, father of fallen Muslim US soldier

The parents of a Muslim American soldier killed in Iraq said on Sunday Donald Trump was a “black soul” unfit for the White House, after he insulted them and suggested he had made sacrifices for the US comparable to their son’s.

Amid widespread astonishment at the conduct of the Republican presidential nominee, the family of the 27-year-old army captain Humayun Khan, who died in a suicide bombing in 2004, said Trump was morally deficient and incapable of empathy.

“He is totally unfit for the leadership of this beautiful country,” said Khizr Khan, Humayun’s father.

Khizr Khan: Donald Trump has a ‘black soul’

Hillary Clinton, Trump’s opponent in November’s election, spoke later on Sunday at a predominantly African American church in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. Trump, she said, had offered the Khan family “nothing but insults, degrading comments about Muslims, a total misunderstanding of what made our country great”.

Trump’s running mate, Mike Pence, sought to repair some of the damage by releasing a statement on Sunday night.

“Donald Trump and I believe that Captain Humayun Khan is an American hero and his family, like all Gold Star families, should be cherished by every American,” it said.

But it included a swipe at the “disastrous decisions of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton” that had led to “a once stable Middle East” being overrun by Islamic State.

“This must not stand,” the statement said. “By suspending immigration from countries that have been compromised by terrorism, rebuilding our military, defeating ISIS at its source and projecting strength on the global stage, we will reduce the likelihood that other American families will face the enduring heartbreak of the Khan family.

“Donald Trump will support our military and their families and we will defeat the enemies of our freedom.”

Khan also pleaded with Senator Mitch McConnell and the House speaker, Paul Ryan, the Republican leaders in Congress, to denounce Trump’s comments about his family and his attacks on Muslims. Neither McConnell nor Ryan responded with explicit criticism of Trump’s remarks about the Khans.

In a statement released on Sunday, McConnell said “Captain Khan was an American hero” and said he agreed “with the Kahns [sic] and families across the country” that a ban on Muslim immigration would be “contrary to American values”.

Ryan issued a statement that covered similar sentiments and said Captain Khan’s “sacrifice – and that of Khizr and Ghazala Khan – should always be honored. Period.”

Khan urged Trump’s children to intervene and fix his character after Trump mocked Khan’s wife and appeared to suggest she was blocked from paying tribute to her dead son at last week’s Democratic national convention because of her religion.

His wife, Ghazala, dismissed Trump’s insinuation and reiterated that she had been too upset to talk after seeing a picture of her son displayed on the stage. “What mother could?” she asked in an article written for the Washington Post. “Donald Trump has children whom he loves. Does he really need to wonder why I did not speak?”

She also rejected Trump’s claim that employing people in his property company and overseeing the building of “great structures” amounted to a sacrifice for his country. “Donald Trump said he has made a lot of sacrifices,” she wrote. “He doesn’t know what the word sacrifice means.”

Donald Trump responds to Muslim father’s DNC speech in interview with ABC’s This Week

The Khans were as roundly supported as Trump was condemned, after the Republican nominee criticised Ghazala Khan for standing silently beside her husband while he delivered his moving speech about their son and Trump’s attacks on Muslims to the Democratic gathering in Philadelphia on Thursday evening.

“His wife, if you look at his wife, she was standing there,” Trump told ABC’s This Week. “She had nothing to say. She probably … maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say. You tell me. But plenty of people have written that. She was extremely quiet. And it looked like she had nothing to say.”

Khizr Khan told CNN’s State of the Union Trump was “totally incapable of empathy”, adding: “I want his family to counsel him. Teach him some empathy. He will be a better person, but he is a black soul.”

Reiterating his wife’s explanation that she was too overcome by grief to say anything at the event as planned, Khizr Khan expressed disbelief that Trump still “had to take that shot at her”. His wife also has high blood pressure and felt so unsteady she worried she might fall offstage, he said.

“She said, ‘You know my condition – when I see my son’s picture I cannot hold myself together,’” said Khan, becoming tearful. “This country holds such a person in the highest regard, and he has no knowledge, no awareness. That is the height of his ignorance.”

In her article on Sunday, Ghazala Khan wrote: “I cannot walk into a room with pictures of Humayun ... Walking on to the convention stage, with a huge picture of my son behind me, I could hardly control myself.”

Khizr Khan said Trump lacked both the moral compass and sense of empathy necessary for any president. “This candidate is void of both traits that are necessary for the stewardship of this country,” he said.

Trump was sharply criticised by Clinton; Tim Kaine, her running mate; and Bill Clinton, the 42nd US president. Bill Clinton said: “I cannot conceive how you can say that about a Gold Star mother,” referring to the award given by the military to mark a death in combat.

On Sunday at Imani Temple Ministries in Cleveland Heights, Clinton said: “[Khizr Khan] and his wife stood before our country to tell the story of their son, Capt Khan, who lost his life running toward danger to protect his soldiers. Mr Khan paid the ultimate sacrifice in his family, didn’t he?

“And what has he heard from Donald Trump? Nothing but insults, degrading comments about Muslims, a total misunderstanding of what made our country great: religious freedom and religious liberty. It’s enshrined in our constitution, as Mr Khan knows because he’s actually read it.”

Clinton added: “I don’t begrudge anyone of any other faith or of no faith at all, but I do tremble before those who would scapegoat other Americans, who would insult people because of their religion, their ethnicity, their disability. It’s just not how I was raised. It’s not how I was taught in my church.”

Later, on the campaign trail, she told reporters: “It’s hard to imagine anyone who has ever run to be president of the United States saying any of what [Trump has] said. And the accumulation of it all is just beyond my comprehension.”

Trump also faced criticism from Republicans. Ohio governor John Kasich said on Twitter: “There’s only one way to talk about Gold Star parents: with honor and respect. Capt. Khan is a hero. Together, we should pray for his family.”

Khizr Khan said on Sunday that he and his wife had been inundated with support, including from “distinguished Republicans” who “have seen the blackness of [Trump’s] character”.

Ignoring calls from some conservative commentators to cease hostilities with the Khans, Trump again insisted on having the final word. “I was viciously attacked by Mr Khan at the Democratic Convention,” he said on Twitter. “Am I not allowed to respond?”

Trump was also ridiculed for disputing Khan’s comment in his speech that Trump had “sacrificed nothing and no one” while disparaging Muslims including those, like his son, who had died for their country.

“I think I have made a lot of sacrifices,” Trump told ABC. “I’ve worked very, very hard. I’ve created thousands and thousands of jobs, tens of thousands of jobs, built great structures ... I’ve had tremendous success.”

Asked whether he was seriously stating that this amounted to sacrifice, Trump replied: “Oh, sure. I think they’re sacrifices.”

Trump, who avoided the draft for the Vietnam war with a medical exemption for an apparent bone spur in a foot – he has been unable to remember which one – once said that avoiding sexually transmitted diseases had been his “personal Vietnam”.

After Trump’s remarks were first published in advance of their broadcast on Sunday, the candidate issued a statement declaring: “While I feel deeply for the loss of his son, Mr Khan who has never met me, has no right to stand in front of millions of people and claim I have never read the constitution, (which is false) and say many other inaccurate things.”

The dispute over the memory of Humayun Khan was also picked up by the Islamic State terrorist group. The group’s online magazine featured a picture of Khan’s tombstone in Arlington national cemetery in Virginia with the caption: “Beware of Dying as an apostate.”

The first two opinion polls taken after the end of last week’s Democratic convention indicated that Hillary Clinton had received a “bounce” in her ratings and had retaken a lead against Trump. Her national support stands at 44.5% against 43.4% for Trump, according to an average of polls by RealClearPolitics.

Late on Sunday, after McConnell and Ryan had failed to rebuke Trump over his attacks on the Khan family, Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid released a statement of his own.

“This shouldn’t be hard,” he said. “Donald Trump is a sexist and racist man who insults Gold Star parents, stokes fear of Muslims and sows hatred of Latinos. He should not be president and Republican leaders have a moral responsibility to say so‎.”


Jon Swaine in New York and Lauren Gambino in Cleveland Heights

The GuardianTramp

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