21 October 2008

Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan

In the same interview during which Colin Powell endorsed Senator Obama, the former Secretary of State spoke powerfully of American Islamaphobia--of suggestions that Islam equates with terrorism, with anti-Americanism:
"I'm also troubled by, not what Senator McCain says, but what members of the party say, and it is permitted to be said. Such things as 'Well you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim.' Well the correct answer is 'He is not a Muslim, he's a Christian, he's always been a Christian.' But the really right answer is 'What if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country?' The answer is 'No. That's not America.' Is there something wrong with some 7-year old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she can be president? Yet I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion he's a Muslim and he might be associated with terrorists. This is not the way we should be doing it in America.

"I feel strongly about this particular point because of a picture I saw in a magazine. It was a photo-essay about troops who were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay was of a mother in Arlington Cemetery and she had her head on the headstone of her son's grave. And as the picture focused in you can see the writing on the headstone. And it gave his awards, Purple Heart, Bronze Star, showed that he died in Iraq, gave his date of birth, date of death. He was 20 years old. And then at the very top of the headstone, it didn't have a Christian cross, it didn't have a Star of David. It had a crescent and a star of the Islamic faith. And his name was Karim Rashad Sultan Khan. And he was an American, he was born in New Jersey, he was 14 at the time of 9/11 and he waited until he can go serve his country and he gave his life." (qtd. in Newsweek)

An evocative, heartfelt statement. Let's hope that it paves the way to some serious rethinking on the part of politicians and pundits who perpetuate the Muslim=America hating bigotry.

The photograph Powell alludes to appeared in The New Yorker. The black and white picture of the soldier's mother, Elsheba Khan, with her son's gravestone is here.

You can read numerous moving tributes at the young soldier's online guest book. You can sign it as well.

Guest book link: h/t to Rumproast

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