WASHINGTON – The war of words between Donald Trump and Gold Star father Khizr Khan echoed among the Muslim groups for and against the GOP presidential nominee this week, with each side seemingly becoming more entrenched in its position.
Khan made headlines when he took the stage at the Democratic National Convention last week and criticized Trump, who has said that if elected he would temporarily deny Muslims from certain countries entry to the U.S.
Khan pulled out a pocket copy of the Constitution and questioned whether Trump had ever read it, challenging him to look in it for the “words ‘liberty’ and ‘equal protection of law.'” Khan, whose son, Army Capt. Humayun Khan, was killed while serving in Iraq in 2004, also asked if Trump had ever sacrificed anything for the country.
Trump fired back with a stream of tweets and comments, saying he had been “viciously attacked by Mr. Khan,” who he charged had been prepped by Democrats and was “now all over TV doing the same.”
Trump’s comments were condemned by Democrats and questioned by some Republicans, including Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, who said the remarks that “defame” a Gold Star family and “do not represent the views of our Republican Party, its officers or candidates.”
But Muslims for Trump founder Sajid Tarar said Wednesday that it was Khan who should be rebuked, for politicizing his son’s sacrifice.
“It was upsetting the way he addressed it,” Tarar said of Khan’s speech. “He looked like a politician. It looked like somebody prepared him.
“The way he chewed every single word, and took the copy of the Constitution from his pocket – I knew it, that he’s being played by the hands of the DNC,” Tarar said.
– Cronkite News video by Wafa Shahid
Trump was also criticized for noting that Ghazala Khan, Khizr’s wife and Humayun’s mother, did not speak while standing on the DNC stage with her husband. Trump’s suggestion that she “maybe wasn’t allowed to have anything to say” was seen by many as a reiteration of stereotypes about Islam.
Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American Islamic Relations, said Trump’s “bigotry” had reached a new level with his comments about the Khans.
“He seems to do that consistently. He seeks out vulnerabilities in people, in groups of people, and he goes after them like a schoolyard bully,” Hooper aid.
Saif Inam, spokesman for the Muslim Public Affairs Council, echoed Hooper.
“Out of the many deplorable comments that Trump has already made, this definitely stood out – the fact that he could go against a Gold Star family,” Inam said.
Khizr Khan has said this week that he does not need an apology from Trump, who he would rather see empathize with the plight of Gold Star families.
But Tarar noted that Trump has already called Humayun Khan a hero, and accused Khan and other critics of playing into ‘liberal media’ bias over the flap.
“Mr. Khan has some sort of political objective in his mind. He has political intentions and he has gone to every single channel on the planet since that time to start enjoying the limelight. So, what does that mean?” Tarar asked.
Not all Republican Muslims came to Trump’s defense. Republican Muslim Coalition founder Saba Ahmed said her coalition was “a little disappointed by the way he reacted and his anti-Muslim comments.”
She called for less shouting between proxies and more active dialogue – a discussion between the Khans and Trump.
“We’d like to see a meeting of Donald Trump and the Khans. I think, you know, having a dialogue would be much more fruitful,” Ahmed said.