It was perhaps the most important speech at the Democratic National Convention, and may be of any in this campaign. Mr. Khan became the face and voice of American Muslims in such a dignified and effective way that it could affect the Fall election. Most Americans have no personal relationship with a Muslim family. I have known several through my work as a trial lawyer. So when Trump and his allies began to caricaturize American Muslims as “silent participants” in terrorism (Trump said they are not “turning over the terrorists,”) and claiming they seek to impose Shari’a law in the United States, many Americans believed them.
We’ve been through this type of process with virtually every wave of immigrants in our history and African-Americans have been going through it for centuries. It’s easy to hate someone you don’t know or understand. Integration of immigrants (and to a lesser extent, races) means that a face – a relationship replaces racist stereotypes and fear. Mr. Khan not only provided that experience for the first time to millions of Americans, he did it in a way that could only be called inspirational. He virtually shamed the Trump campaign and many of his well-meaning supporters. He put into clarity the moral and patriotic choices we face in this election, but even more importantly he reminded us that the way to end fear and hatred is to seek dialogue. When there is a personal experience with an individual of a group, then the fear of the group disappears.
Now, Trump responded with an attack on the mother, implying that she was silenced by her Muslim faith, consistent with their attacks on the Muslim faith as oppressive to women. Her response to his attack was even more powerful – she was still grieving so much that she could barely talk about her loss. Yet she had the courage to stand before thousands of delegates and millions of Americans on television. Their challenge to GOP leadership to have some moral courage and repudiate Trump has been met with only the confirmation of their cowardice. Moral clarity is a powerful thing. Dr. King exemplified that principle and now we have the Khan’s.