Capt. Khan's parents to speak in Rosemont as inspiration for Muslims

Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the Muslim parents of a U.S. Army captain who died in Iraq and have sparred with GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, will speak in Rosemont over Labor Day weekend.

Their appearance will be between 8 and 11 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 3, at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, during the 53rd annual convention of the Islamic Society of North America. They'll be among several speakers in a prime-time slot known as the "Saturday Night Special."

While the nonprofit ISNA does not endorse political parties or candidates, the Khans were added to the speaker lineup a few days ago because they've inspired thousands of Muslims, said ISNA spokeswoman Faryal Khatri.

"The DNC (speech) wasn't the motivation," Khatri said. "They represented the Muslim community's voice."

The Khans gave a speech at last month's Democratic National Convention that blamed Trump for the growing intolerance of Muslims in America. Khan suggested Trump read the U.S. Constitution where it mentions "liberty" and "equal protection of law."

That started a series of barbs between Khan and Trump, including one where Trump criticized Ghazala Khan for not speaking up, suggesting she's not allowed to because of her religion.

Trump later released a statement saying Khan had "no right" to make those accusations and called the Khans' son "a hero to our country."

"The real problem here are the radical Islamic terrorists who killed him, and the efforts of these radicals to enter our country to do us further harm," Trump's statement said.

The Khans, Pakistani-born Muslims who live in Virginia, have been American citizens for decades. The Khans' 27-year-old son, Humayun, a U.S. Army captain, was killed by a suicide bomber in Iraq in 2004. He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star.

Trump's comments sparked action in the Muslim community, Khatri said, including a #CanYouHearUsNow campaign on social media to show Muslim women have powerful voices.

Khatri said she's not sure what the Khans will speak about during their Rosemont appearance, but it will likely be along the lines of the convention's theme, "Turning Points: Navigating Challenges, Seizing Opportunities."

The ISNA is the largest and oldest Islamic umbrella organization in North America, and its conference is the largest Muslim gathering in the U.S. and Canada. More than 15,000 people from around the world are expected to attend the four-day convention. About 10,000 are expected for the Saturday Night Special.

The public can attend the convention, but attendees must register and buy tickets, which are $120 each at Discounts are available for students and for advance purchases.

The convention will have hundreds of speakers, roundtable discussions, art exhibits, films, fashion shows, a basketball tournament, a bazaar with more than 550 booths and more.

Azhar Azeez, ISNA president, said the organization's goal is to unite people across faiths and backgrounds in the spirit of peace and better understanding.

"We live in challenging times by showcasing a diverse array of voices, stories and viewpoints. We hope to continue shaping a new narrative around what it means to be a mainstream Muslim today," he said during a recent news conference.

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A crowd listens to a speaker at the 2015 Islamic Society of North America convention in Rosemont. courtesy of ISNA
Shoppers peruse the bazaar at last year's Islamic Society of North America convention in Rosemont. courtesy of ISNA
Islamic Society of North America Secretary-General Hazem Bata addressed the audience during last year's ISNA convention in Rosemont. courtesy of ISNA
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