A week seems like an eternity in an election cycle, especially in one as eventful and incendiary as this year’s presidential contest. And yet, almost a week after his fiery speech at the Democratic National Convention, we are still talking about Muslim-American Gold Star father Khizr Khan.
Khan’s brief speech made him an unexpected star of the convention and kicked off days of debate between his family and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. It was, and is, a lot to process, and the complexity of the situation has driven people to revisit the basics: Who is Khizr Khan, and how did he and his family come to be such a public example of American values?
Since Trump and the Khans have locked horns, some Google searches have risen that are related to the controversy. Below, we answer those, and more.
1. Who is Khizr Khan?
Khizr Khan is the father of Humayun Khan, an Army captain who was killed in Iraq in 2004. The younger Khan is considered a war hero and was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.
Prior to their DNC debut, Khizr Khan and his wife Ghazala had been mentioned by Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, who called their son “the best of America” in a December 2015 speech in Minneapolis. The Khan family are American citizens, and also Muslim.
Khan’s big moment came when he denounced Donald Trump’s proposed immigration policies during his DNC speech and held up a small copy of the U. S. Constitution. Since then he has sparred indirectly with Trump and he and his wife have appeared on numerous national news outlets, including CNN.
2. Where was Khizr Khan born?
Khan and his wife were both born in Pakistan, but moved to the United Arab Emirates. There, Humayun was born in 1976. They moved to Boston with their three sons in 1980 and then settled in Silver Spring, Maryland.
When explaining why he moved from his birth country, Khan told The Washington Post it was because, in the 1970s, Pakistan was under military rule.
Ghazala Khan has also spoken about the hardships she endured growing up in the country. In an op-ed for the Washington Post, Mrs. Khan said her son’s deployments scared her because she knew about the pain of war.
“I had already been through one war, in Pakistan in 1965, when I was just a high school student,” she wrote.
3. What does Khizr Khan do for a living?
Khan is a lawyer. According to the website for his law offices, based in New York City, Khan holds degrees from Punjab University and Harvard Law School. Also according to his website, he works with immigration and international business law and founded a pro bono project to provide legal services for the families of men and women serving in the military.
The contact number for Khan’s office is a D.C.-based number, and as of Tuesday morning, it directs to an automatic voice-messaging system.
Former colleagues of Khan have expressed praise and support following his DNC speech. Helen Trilling, a former colleague from a firm in Washington, D.C. told Law.com that Khan is “a lovely man, and was a great colleague.”
“We were proud of the impressive speech he gave, but not surprised at its power,” she said, “given what we know of his character.”
4. What did Trump say about Mrs. Khan?
Following Khan’s speech, Donald Trump responded during an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopolous.
“I saw him. He was very emotional, and probably looked like a nice guy to me. His wife, if you look at his wife she was standing there, she had nothing to say. Probably, maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say, you tell me, but plenty of people have written that. She was extremely quiet and it looked like she had nothing to say, a lot of people have said that, and personally I watched him, I wish him the best of luck.”
Trump’s comments were criticized by some military supporters and politicians, who considered it unacceptable that Trump would insult a family that had lost a son in war. Ghazala Khan responded in an op-ed for the Washington Post. She said her silence was not, as Trump implied, because of some restrictions placed on her by her religion. It was because she was still grieving her son.
“Walking onto the convention stage, with a huge picture of my son behind me, I could hardly control myself,” she wrote. “What mother could?”
5. What did Trump say about Khizr Khan?
In the Stephanopoulos interview, when asked to comment on Khan’s claim that Trump had “sacrificed nothing and no one,” Trump replied:
“Who wrote that? Did Hilary’s scriptwriters write it?”
Following that interview, Khizr Khan told CNN’s Jim Acosta that Trump had a “black soul” for making implications about his wife and the authenticity of his own words. “[This behavior] is totally unfit for the leadership of this country,” he said.
Trump defended himself on Twitter, saying that while Humayun Khan is a hero, the GOP candidate’s policies are about “radical Islamic terror and the weakness of our leaders to eradicate it.”
6. What is a ‘Gold Star family?’
There has been a lot of talk about the Khans being a “Gold Star” family or Ghazala Khan being a “Gold Star” mother. The term “Gold Star” refers to any family who has lost an immediate member who was serving in the military while in a time of conflict.
The term comes from World War I, when a banner was flown by families who had a member serving in the war. A blue star represented each member, and if one of them was killed in the war, it would be replaced with a gold star.
After Trump’s comments about Khizr and Ghazala Khan, representatives from 23 Gold Star families wrote an open letter defending the Khans.
“Ours is a sacrifice you will never know,” they wrote. “Ours is a sacrifice we would never want you to know.”