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Khizr Khan shares message of community engagement, unity

By Don Dike Anukam

Gold Star father Khizr Khan came to Reno last week to speak on behalf of Joe Biden’s presidential campaign and visit with leaders of the area’s Muslim community.

Khan is the Pakistani-American father of U.S. Army Captain Humayun Khan, who was killed in 2004 during the Iraq War. Khan and his wife, Ghazala, famously spoke at 2016 Democratic National Convention criticizing then Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump for his anti-Muslim views and proposed Muslim ban. 

Starting his swing through northern Nevada at the Biden campaign office in South Reno, Khan attended a caucus training event to give words of encouragement and inspiration to those in attendance.

Khan’s inspirational message

Khzir Khan speaks at the Northern Nevada Muslim Community Center

The main event of Khan’s visit, however, was a speech to a packed house, nearly 125 in attendance, at the Northern Nevada Muslim Community Center in Sparks. The attention and praise was high. Khan is considered a highly-respected member of Muslim community for his 2016 DNC speech, for defending his son, and for decrying Trump for his perceived racism and bigotry toward Muslims. Some attendees even said that Khan is seen as an ambassador to the greater public of the Muslim faith.

“We are here tonight, first of all, to share our moments with one of the most inspiring speakers. And not only that, he shares our values and hopes and aspirations and dreams with us,” said Dr. Mohammed Quddus. “He went through the same kind of experience that we did. He is an immigrant, and he worked hard to establish himself, and the same way that those people who are coming after us they are working very hard to establish themselves.

I came to speak to the Muslim community, and other communities as well, and emphasize that we all must participate in this political process.”

“And on top of that, I think, in the Quran, there is a reference that people [use] a lot, ‘God help those who help themselves,’ and that it is our hope that our chief guest, Mr Khizr Khan, the inspiring speaker, will kind of make it easier for us to make the choice of the presidential candidate.”

Sherif Elfass, president of the Northern Nevada Muslim Center, introduced Khan at the event. After the talk he shared his thoughts.

“The message was inspiring. The examples from the previous communities and how they rose up from calamites is very similar to what we’re facing right now. By engaging, by talking, by going out and volunteering, and doing something…I believe we will have a lot of people coming out and we will make a change. It may be slowly but, we eventually we will make that change.”

Elfass was also hopeful that Khan’s talk would encourage an increase in voting and participation in the political process.

Khan spoke for close to an hour, covering much more than his decision to speak at the 2016 DNC and his support of Biden for president. He also talked about urging members of the Muslim community to become more involved in local and national politics. He highlighted the political development in other cultural minority communities including the Jewish, Irish-American, and Japanese-American communities after World War II.

Kzhir Khan and local supporters
Khzir Khan, third from right, poses with members of the Muslim community including Sherif Elfass, second from right, and Dr. Mohammed Quddus, far right. Image: Don Dike-Anukam

On voting, impeachment, and Nevada

In an interview with Khan after his talk, we discussed why he was in Reno and his thoughts on President Trump’s impeachment and Senate trial. Khan’s visit to northern Nevada was on the same day as Trump’s acquittal by the Senate. Listen to the audio below, or read the transcript.

Why come to Nevada?

“Well, I came here to support Joe Biden. And because Nevada is a very important state, its caucus time is coming. I came to speak to the Muslim community, and other communities as well, and emphasize that we all must participate in this political process. Sometimes minority communities are discouraged from participation. So I came to support the campaign.”

About the impeachment trial, Khan remarked, “The history will judge this impeachment trial and the behavior of our Republican brothers and sisters and it will not be very kind. It was disappointing. The impeachment charges, the article one and article two, both articles of impeachment were proven very clearly.

“And the behavior of the President had been further shameful calling names, calling our military leaders losers and morons, and then making funny gestures when the anthem is being played when everyone else is being respectful. These are an indication that this incumbent, Donald Trump in the White House, is not a democratic mentality president. He is an authoritarian, he is a dictatorship-minded person, and not suitable for a democracy like the United States. So history is not going to be very kind.”

Khan also talked about unity in politics. ”Well, I say this with the humility that I implore everyone to participate in the caucus process. It strengthens our democracy. It sends a clear signal to those who are against our democracy that America is vigilant, America is fully participating. Among us we have a candidate, Joe Biden, that will unite us, that will bring us together and that will lead us to make America a beacon of hope. Again.”

Speaking with Khizr Khan on such an historic day proved an interesting contrast to the events going on, not just throughout the country but in our community.