With a Politician’s Flair, Khizr Khan Tries to Push Clinton to Finish Line
By Alan Rappeport
Norfolk, VA: With the polish of a seasoned politician, Khizr Khan strode through the door of a seafood restaurant to the serenade of clicking cameras, clasped hands with cheering Democratic lawmakers and, as he has become famous for doing, unflinchingly argued that Donald J. Trump must not be president.
To the naked eye, Mr Khan, whose son was an American soldier killed in Iraq and who skewered Mr Trump at the Democratic National Convention , could have been mistaken for someone running for office. But as he made his first appearance on the campaign trail for Hillary Clinton on Wednesday, he said his mission was greater than politics.
“Donald Trump as a candidate has proven himself to be temperamentally unfit to be the commander-in-chief of this great nation,” Mr Khan said, his voice shaking. “There are no second chances.”
Mr Khan emerged as one of the Clinton campaign’s most effective weapons after he made an impassioned plea for tolerance at the convention in July and accused Mr Trump of not understanding the Constitution or personal sacrifice. When Mr Trump responded by insinuating that Mr Khan’s wife, Ghazala, had not spoken at the convention because she was muzzled by her Muslim faith, he faced intense backlash for attacking the grieving mother of a fallen soldier.
In the final weeks of the race, the Clinton campaign is deploying Mr Khan as part of a closing argument that Mr Trump would usher in a new era of intolerance. In an emotional ad released last week, Mr Khan spoke about the death of his son, Captain Humayun Khan, and tearfully asked Mr Trump, “Would my son have a place in your America?”
Although Mrs Clinton is already polling well in Virginia, the campaign sent Mr Khan here because of his strong appeal to veterans.
Virginians who came out to see him on Wednesday said he embodied an authenticity that had been lacking in a campaign marked by caustic personal attacks. With Islamophobia on the rise, attendees said Mr Khan was a beacon of hope that a time for healing was ahead.
For KhayriyyaAzeez, whose son was just chosen to be the chaplain at the local naval base, the way Mr Khan publicly stood up to Mr Trump made him a hero in his own right.
“He’s a revolutionary, fighting for the cause,” she said.
Some wondered how they should feel about Mr Trump, and they listened when Mr Khan said it was time to move on in spite of Mr Trump’s initial proposal to bar Muslim immigrants from entering the United States.
“Our great religion forgives Mr Trump for his acts, even though he doesn’t apologize to us,” said MouradAmer, of Yorktown, who came to pray with Mr Khan at Masjid William Salaam, a mosque in Norfolk.
But not everyone who came to meet Mr Khan was Muslim, showing that his calls for inclusiveness have broad appeal. Terrance Afer-Anderson, a Christian, said he had been captivated by Mr Khan’s raw emotions at the convention and wanted to see him in person.
“He has a genuine voice because he speaks with great clarity and passion,” MrAfer-Anderson said.
Gaylene Kanoyton, the first vice chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Virginia, said that Mr Khan took her back to the civil rights movement of the 1960s, comparing his message to that of the Rev Martin Luther King Jr.
“There was a deep divide then, and African-Americans were trying to get their civil rights and be equal,” she said.
American Muslims have intensified their political activism in response to Mr Trump’s candidacy. His proposals to increase surveillance of mosques and ban Muslim immigration have stirred fear within the community and motivated many to help register new voters who support Mrs Clinton. Mr Khan has become a prominent messenger for that cause because many voters view him as being above politics.
“Khan’s message is also largely nonpolitical in the sense that he is not attacking Trump over partisan issues,” said Kyle Kondik of the University of Virginia Center for Politics. “Rather, he’s attacking Trump over matters of decency.”
Still, as Mr Khan made the rounds at the Croaker’s Spot restaurant, it appeared that he had quickly become comfortable with the basics of political gamesmanship. He made close eye contact with the residents who turned out to see him, effortlessly squeezing elbows. At one point, he stepped away to listen to himself in an interview he had recorded earlier with CNN’s Jake Tapper. And he masterfully turned away queries about his own political future, pivoting to attacks on Mr Trump.
“This has nothing to do with celebrity,” Mr Khan said, dressed in a black pinstriped suit and wearing a Gold Star family lapel pin. “The fundamental values of pluralism are under attack.” - The New York Times