Khizr Khan urges Americans to stand up for the values they cherish

February 17, 2017
by Sarah Abrams

Constitutional rights advocate Khizr Khan, who captured the attention of Americans last summer when he spoke at the Democratic National Convention, reassured the audience at the JFK Jr. Forum on Wednesday (Feb. 15) that the United States would get through this “dark chapter.”

The Gold Star father of U.S. Army Captain Humayun Khan, who was killed in Iraq in 2004 in a suicide bomber attack, spoke of his love for the U.S. and its founding principles. A passionate believer in the U.S. Constitution, Khan described how it was alleged that a copy of the Constitution was placed in his pocket by the Clinton campaign before he and his wife, Ghazala, appeared on the convention stage.

“I fell in love with the U.S. Constitution of the United States not recently — long ago,” explained Khan about his longtime practice of keeping the Constitution on hand. Khan read with emotion from one of his favorite sections — the 14th amendment — which speaks to the rights and privileges of all U.S. citizens, including the right to due process and the equal protection of laws.

“It is so relevant today. It is so relevant … to what men and women, the citizen of this country faces today,” said Khan, referring to the current political environment. What is missing in the White House today, he noted, is that there is no “moral compass.”

Khan’s message for the evening, however, was overall one of optimism for the country’s future.  “Look what our forefathers have said, drafted and we have practiced for 240 years and we shall continue to practice because we continue to prevail,” Khan said.  “Most of the world does not have these privileges and these dignities. We are a beacon of hope.”

Asked by moderator and Harvard Law School professor Intisar A. Rabb for what advice he would offer, Khan urged members of the audience to get involved.  “You like it or not, history has chosen each and every one of us to remain standing in this time,” he said. “Sometimes people cannot decide what my role is going to be in humanity and mankind. We are so fortunate, all of us are so fortunate to be part of this moment.” Khan encouraged audience members to accept the challenge. “Have voice, say something, do something in favor of the values that we have cherished, that we continue to enjoy, and the rest of the world aspires.”

The American people stand as a testament to the values expressed in the U.S. Constitution, Khan said, adding that Americans love their country’s plurality. “The majority of this country loves the values enshrined in the Constitution, so my humble request and my humble suggestion would be to remain faithful to these values. These values have gone through the test of time and have survived and shall survive. This dark chapter is momentary. You will look back. Very soon you will look back and you will say I am so glad I am part of this history, the history of mankind. The United States remains a beacon of hope. Its values remain a beacon of hope for the rest of the world. Remain standing. Remain strong.”

Khan added that he would like to tell the administration that the Muslims living in this country are patriotic Americans. “The values of this country are so dear to them, so close to them. A small group of criminals don’t define most of Muslims,” he said. “They are criminals. They must be defeated, but defeated by joining hands, not alienating an entire society, an entire community throughout the world.”

The event was co-sponsored by the Center for Public Leadership, the Islamic Legal Studies Program: SHARIAsource, and Harvard Law School Veterans Impact Day.

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Khizr Khan and Intisar Rabb

Khizr Khan (right), lawyer and constitutional rights advocate, spoke at a Forum event moderated by Harvard Law School professor Intisar Rabb (left). Photo by Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer

“You like it or not, history has chosen each and every one of us to remain standing in this time." --Khizr Khan

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