The father of a University of Virginia graduate who enlisted in the U.S. Army after Sept. 11 and died in Iraq protecting his troops will speak next week at the Democratic National Convention.
Khizr Khan’s son, Capt. Humayun S.M. Khan, was one of 14 American Muslims who died serving their country in the 10 years after the 2001 terrorist attacks.
Now Khan, whose war-hero son died in 2004, will have a prime speaking role when Democrats gather in Philadelphia, part of a diverse lineup of speakers assembled by party officials and the campaign of Hillary Clinton to promote its “Stronger Together” theme.
The Democratic convention starts next Monday, July 25. Khan will speak Thursday, July 28.
A number of Republican leaders, including presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump, have called for bans or restrictions on Muslims traveling to the U.S. in the wake of terrorist attacks involving radicalized Islamists who claim allegiance to the Islamic State militant group.
“We are patriotic American Muslims with undivided loyalty to this beautiful country, this blessed country,” said Khan, a lawyer who lives in Charlottesville. He moved from the United Arab Emirates to the U.S. with his family in the late 1970s.
“We are against all terrorism — it’s something that we reject,” Khan said. “The only solution to resolve the menace of terrorism is joining hands,” he said.
“We were concerned that the remarks that Donald Trump made would cause more difficulty for our country,” Khan said. “We have a candidate that threatens liberty and equal dignity, and it is that threat that causes us to stand with Hillary Clinton and her campaign.”
Khan spoke as he and his wife, Ghazala, were driving home from Fort Knox in Kentucky, where the Army had honored Humayun by naming a junior officer cadet command regiment after him.
Humayun had followed his brother, a Jefferson Scholar at U.Va., to Charlottesville as an undergraduate and enrolled in the school’s ROTC program.
He graduated in 2000, joined the Army, rose to the rank of captain, and was deployed to Iraq.
In June 2004, while his infantry unit was guarding the gates of their base, a suspicious vehicle appeared. Khan told his men to hit the ground as he went forward.
He took 10 steps toward the oncoming terrorist vehicle before it exploded — killing him but saving the lives of his soldiers and untold numbers inside the base.
Khan was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart posthumously. He was 27 years old.
Khan said he hopes his son’s story, and his remarks next week, can send a message that terrorism can be defeated only by uniting Americans, not dividing them.
“Equal dignity, equal protection, honor, sacrifice — all good things this country taught our son and us — they are a blessing that should not be taken for granted,” Khan said.
“Defending and vigilantly watching them — these are (Humayun’s) paths that we continue to see light from. They continue to shine regardless of him not being here. ... These are not just words for us.”