As Muslim lawyer Khizr Khan made one of the most lauded speeches at the Democratic National Convention last Thursday, about his fallen son, U.S. Army Captain Humayan Khan, his wife Ghazala stood stoically by his side. On Saturday, Republic presidential nominee Donald Trump responded to the speech — which was highly critical of his policies and his statements about Muslims — by speculating that Ghazala had “not been allowed to have anything to say.”
The inference for many was that Ghazala’s religion had dictated her silence. But on Friday, she spoke briefly in an interview with MSNBC about her final interaction with her son (on Mother’s Day 2004) and, on Sunday, she responded in full to Trump in an Op-Ed for the Washington Post.
“Donald Trump has asked why I did not speak at the Democratic convention,” she wrote. “He said he would like to hear from me. Here is my answer to Donald Trump: Because without saying a thing, all the world, all America, felt my pain. I am a Gold Star mother. Whoever saw me felt me in their heart.”
Captain Khan was killed by a car bomb in 2004 while guarding the gates of his base in Iraq, saving the lives of many soldiers and civilians. He was posthumously awarded a Bronze Star and Purple Heart.
In the Op-Ed, Ghazala also wrote movingly about her son, Humayun, describing the pain of his loss:
It has been 12 years, but you know hearts of pain can never heal as long as we live. Just talking about it is hard for me all the time. Every day, whenever I pray, I have to pray for him, and I cry. The place that emptied will always be empty.
I cannot walk into a room with pictures of Humayun. For all these years, I haven’t been able to clean the closet where his things are — I had to ask my daughter-in-law to do it. Walking onto the convention stage, with a huge picture of my son behind me, I could hardly control myself. What mother could?
On Monday, the families of 11 service members who died fighting for the U.S. demanded an apology from Trump, accusing him of “cheapening the sacrifice made by those we lost.” In their letter, they called Trump’s comments “repugnant, and personally offensive” and accuse him of lacking decency.
“When you question a mother’s pain, by implying that her religion, not her grief, kept her from addressing an arena of people, you are attacking us,” they wrote. “This goes beyond politics. It is about a sense of decency.”
On Saturday evening, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton released a statement about the Khans’s appearance at the convention. “I was very moved to see Ghazala Khan stand bravely and with dignity in support of her son on Thursday night,” she wrote. “And I was very moved to hear her speak last night, bravely and with dignity, about her son’s life and the ultimate sacrifice he made for his country.”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations also reacted to Trump’s comments, asking Muslim women activists to “tweet about who they are and how they speak out” using the hashtag #CanYouHearUsNow.