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The Khan family's road to confrontation with Donald Trump

One of the more emotional moments of the Democratic National Convention was the stirring speech by the father of fallen U.S. Army Capt. Humayun Khan.

Khizr and his wife, Ghazala Khan, who lost their son to a suicide bomber in Iraq 12 years ago, made headlines when they stood on the convention stage and addressed Donald Trump.

“You have sacrificed nothing and no one,” Khan said. “If it was up to Donald Trump, he never would have been in America,” he said, referring to his son.

Khan’s remarks were given a standing ovation. They also prompted an unusual response from Trump, the Republican nominee: a repudiation of Khizr Khan’s comments and the suggestion that his wife’s Muslim faith might be the reason she stayed silent during the couple’s appearance. The result was an instant and ongoing back-and-forth. Some background on the Khans:

They came to the U.S. in 1980

Khizr and Ghazala Khan were born in Pakistan. In 1976, their second son, Humayun, was born in the United Arab Emirates. The family moved to the U.S. in 1980 and settled in Boston, where Khizr studied law at Harvard University.

The family moved to Maryland, where Humayun went to high school and later attended the University of Virginia, where he joined the ROTC program. Humayun, who dreamed of becoming a military lawyer, graduated with a degree in psychology and joined the Army. He was deployed to Iraq in 2000, and quickly climbed the ranks to captain.

Killed in action

Capt. Humayun Khan is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Capt. Humayun Khan is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. (Getty Images)

In 2004, Humayun was deployed to Iraq for a second tour. On Mother’s Day, he called home and talked to his mother for the last time.

He was killed a month later guarding the gates of a U.S. military base. He spotted a car approaching and told his soldiers to get back. He walked 10 steps toward the car before more than 200 pounds of explosives went off, killing him and injuring others. Humayun, who was 27, was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.

Trump calls for a ban on Muslims

On Dec. 7, and in the midst of the Republican primary, Trump released a statement in response to the San Bernardino terrorist attack, calling for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims” entering the U.S. 

The next day, Khizr Khan denounced Trump’s statement on Vocativ, saying: “It’s the values [of this country] that brought us here, not our religion. Trump’s position on these issues do not represent those values.”

“We still wonder what made him take those 10 steps,” he told Vocativ. “Maybe that’s the point where all the values, all the service to country, all the things he learned in this country kicked in. It was those values that made him take those 10 steps. Those 10 steps told us we did not make [a] mistake in moving to this country.” 

Clinton features Humayun Khan’s story

Hillary Clinton first mentioned Humayun Khan in a speech in Minneapolis on Dec. 15, when she quoted the elder Khan’s Vocativ comments.

https://twitter.com/HillaryClinton/status/678239724742422528?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

The Clinton campaign said it had not yet forged a relationship with the Khans at the time of her speech.

“If you want to see the best of America, you need look no further than Army Capt. Humayun Khan,” Clinton said in the speech.

Invited to speak at Democratic convention

Before the convention speech, Khizr Khan told the San Francisco Chronicle that he was nervous and had practiced a lot.

“Nowhere but in the United States is it possible that an immigrant who came to the country empty-handed only a few years ago gets to stand in front of patriots and in front of a major political party,” he told the Chronicle.

Flanked by his wife, Khan spoke directly to Trump during his speech.

"Let me ask you: Have you even read the United States Constitution?" he said, holding a pocket-sized Constitution. "I will gladly lend you my copy." 

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Khizr Khan speaks at the DNC

Trump responds

Trump responded to Khizr Khan’s remarks in an interview on ABC’s “This Week,” insisting that Khan was misguided. Trump said he had made sacrifices by creating jobs and building buildings.

“I think I’ve made a lot of sacrifices. I work very, very hard. I’ve created thousands and thousands of jobs, tens of thousands of jobs, built great structures,” Trump said in the interview. “I’ve had tremendous success. I think I’ve done a lot.”

Trump also went on to suggest that Ghazala Khan did not speak at the convention because of her Muslim faith.

https://twitter.com/realdonaldtrump/status/760070280932982784

Watch the interview:

Trump's ABC "This Week" interview

Ghazala Khan answers Trump

Ghazala Khan wrote in the Washington Post that her reason for remaining silent on the stage was simple: grief.

Walking onto the convention stage, with a huge picture of my son behind me, I could hardly control myself. What mother could?”

— Ghazala Khan

“Donald Trump has children whom he loves,” she wrote. “Does he really need to wonder why I did not speak?”

“Donald Trump said he has made a lot of sacrifices. He doesn’t know what the word sacrifice means.”

More interviews

Since her statement was published, the Khans have given interviews. Khizr Khan called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan to speak out against their party's presidential nominee.

“Two things are absolutely necessary in any leader or any person that aspires, wishes to be a leader. That is a moral compass and, second, is empathy. This candidate is void of both traits that are necessary for the stewardship of this country," Khan said on CNN's "State of the Union."

Watch Khizir Khan’s CNN interview:

Republicans condemn Trump’s remarks

Sen. John McCain and the Veterans of Foreign Wars are among those who have condemned the remarks.

“I cannot emphasize enough how deeply I disagree with Mr. Trump’s statement,” McCain said. “I hope Americans understand that the remarks do not represent the views of our Republican Party, its officers or candidates.”

The Veterans of Foreign Wars also released a statement saying it “will not tolerate anyone berating a Gold Star family member for exercising his or her right of speech or expression.”

Ryan and McConnell released separate statements Sunday. Neither denounced Trump directly, but said they disagreed with the idea of a Muslim ban and honored Capt. Humayun Khan’s sacrifice.

“Capt. Khan was an American hero, and like all Americans I’m grateful for the sacrifices that selfless young men like Capt. Khan and their families have made in the war on terror,” McConnell’s statement said.

alexia.fernandez@latimes.com

Twitter: @alexiafedz

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