Khizr Khan visits Duke's campus

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Khzir Khan, father of a Muslim American soldier and speaker at the Democratic National Convention spoke at Duke University Thursday about his experience in the election cycle.

Khizr Khan is the father of Humayun Khan, a Muslim U.S. Army captain who was killed in Iraq in 2004. Khizr Khan spoke at the 2016 Democratic National Convention — criticizing the anti-Muslim rhetoric of then-candidate Donald Trump. Trump later tweeted that Khan “viciously attacked” him.

The event is the first annual James P. Gorter Lecture, said Julie Maxwell, program coordinator at the Duke Islamic Studies Center, in an email. Gorter is a founding member of the Duke Islamic Studies Advisory Board.

Ingrid Zavala, a junior at Meredith College from Chapel Hill, said she heard about Khan during the DNC controversy and came to the lecture pursuing an interest in immigration.

“I want to see input, obviously, in the current administration and how the world’s turning,” Zavala said.

Khan spoke on the experience for Muslims living under a Trump presidency.

Friends of Khan’s have been asked by their small children if they are going to be “thrown out of the country” even though they were born here, Khan said. They’re scared to go to school.

When returning stateside, Khan said his niece asked her aunt if she should remove her scarf.

Khan said he carries a pocket U.S. Constitution with him wherever he goes — which he proudly showcased to the crowd at the DNC.

“Waving that constitution in our mind was a reminder of the values of the United States, the goodness of this country that is enshrined in this document,” Khan said.

He said he doesn’t call The Bill of Rights amendments.

“I call them human dignities,” Khan said.

Regardless of the mistakes the U.S. makes, Khan said he is hopeful for a brighter future. The U.S. has given him the most rights and dignities, and he considers it to be the best country — despite this dark place in history.

Khan said he knows what it’s like to be without these dignities. Americans are blessed to be born with them here, he said.

“The main conversation is to remind ourselves that when our values come under attack, we stand up like a wall of steel,” Khan said.

Khan said Americans must work to nurture freedom.

“Although we all have the right to live in peace and freedom, these are not qualities that fall from the sky,” he said.

Khan said he often finds reminders to speak out — like one woman’s advice to speak even as a single voice.

Cheryl Moy, a chemistry lecturer at UNC, said she came to the lecture because she wanted to hear more about Khan in person.

“He is an incredibly humble person and has been given a really large task to talk about, and I think it’s inspiring to see him take it on,” Moy said.

Viji Sathy, a UNC psychology lecturer in attendance, said she was curious about what happened after Khan’s speech at the DNC.

“As an immigrant myself, I really just enjoyed the message that he was sharing, and I appreciated that same message tonight,” she said.

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