Capt. Khan's parents in Rosemont: 'So much goodness in the world'
In a year the Islamic community is calling a "turning point," any Muslim can take a stand for positivity and love over divisiveness and hate -- and that was the message Saturday in Rosemont shared by Khizr and Ghazala Khan.
Internationally known for Khizr Khan's speech at the Democratic National Convention in July challenging Donald Trump to read the U.S. Constitution, the Gold Star parents have become a beacon of hope and motivation for Muslims across the nation, attendees of the 53rd annual Islamic Society of North America convention said.
"They are inspiring everybody," said Ashfaq Syed of Naperville, secretary of the convention steering committee for the Islamic Society of North America, which works to foster Muslim community development, interfaith relations and a better understanding of Islam. "He's someone who has sacrificed his son. He has given his heart for the United States of America."
In turn, the Khans said Saturday an outpouring of love from people of all faiths is inspiring them to continue reaching out. The parents of U.S. Army Capt. Humayun Khan, who was killed by a suicide bombing in 2004 in Iraq, said they spoke on the national stage seven years after their son's death out of patriotism and concern for Muslim youth.
"I'm very happy that my son gave his life in love because he wanted to save, save the people he cared about," Ghazala Khan said. "There's so much goodness in the world, and we are just fighting a few terrorists."
Capt. Khan's mother told a crowd of about 750 people Saturday afternoon that her silence on the Democratic National Convention stage, which was mocked at one point by Trump, has awakened in thousands -- many of whom have written her letters -- the desire to engage politically in their communities. Online, it inspired a #CanYouHearUsNow campaign of Muslim women proving the power of their voices.
"Without saying a word, I stepped in every heart in America and the world," she said Saturday at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center. "I'm so grateful for all of you. I feel so close to you that I can't imagine. I have given one son and I got this many back."
The Khans said they are pushing for Muslims to become more engaged in the civic and political processes to help children who are growing up in an era of Islamophobia and hate speech. Khizr Khan said he still frequently carries with him the pocket Constitution that he pulled out at the Democratic convention, and he hands out the country's governing document for "smart people" to read and draw their own conclusions.
"Our postelection mantra is for civility in political discourse," he said.
The Khans' brief speech during a community recognition luncheon preceded a second appearance set for Saturday evening before an estimated crowd of 10,000 at an event that also was to include a speech by U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson.
In a time when Muslims are working to confront bigotry, racism and intolerance, leaders at the largest Muslim gathering in the U.S. and Canada encouraged adults in attendance to speak out with their vote.
"I want to appeal to each one of you," Islamic Society of North America President Azhar Azeez said, "the best way to counter hateful rhetoric is to reaffirm our commitment to democracy."