Beliefnet
Steven Waldman

Thumbnail image for kareem khan.jpg

For me, most significant moment of Colin Powell’s appearance was not his endorsement of Barack Obama but his statement about the role of Islam in America. He spoke about how Republicans have turned being a Muslim into a slur and spoke movingly about the death of Army Spc. Kareem R. Khan, a Muslim-American soldier. Khan died when an improvised explosive device blew up on August 6, 2007 in Baqubah. He had already won a purple heart. A bit more about Khan from a Gannett account after his death:

Spurred by the Septermber 11 attacks on the World Trade Center, Khan, a 2005 graduate of Southern Regional High School, wanted to show that not all Muslims were fanatics and that many, like him, were willing to lay their lives down for their country, America. He enlisted immediately after graduation and was sent to Iraq in July 2006. So when his father, Feroze “Roy” Khan, saw three soldiers walking up to his door on Monday, he knew what it meant. Specialist Kareem Khan, 20, was killed with four others earlier this week when a blast destroyed a house he and members of his division, the Stryker Brigade Combat Team, were clearing in Baqouba, Iraq. Khan’s faith in Islam is important now to his father and stepmother, Nisha Khan, because they want to make sure people in America know that Muslims like Kareem were willing to fight for their country. “His Muslim faith did not make him not want to go. It never stopped him,” said Feroze Khan. “He looked at it that he’s American and he has a job to do.” The last package Nisha Khan, 40, sent her stepson included a necklace that had Kareem’s name in Arabic, next to the word “Bismillah,” which means praise to Allah.

Colin Powell said on Meet the Press:

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; has 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’s “No, that’s not America.” Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim American kid believing that he or she could be President? Yet, I have heard senior members of my own Party drop the suggestion he’s 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 could 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 twenty 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 Kahn. And he was an American. He was born in New Jersey, he was fourteen years old at the time of 9/11 and he waited until he could go serve his country and he gave his life. Now, we have got to stop polarizing ourself in this way. And John McCain is as non-discriminatory as anyone I know. But I’m troubled about the fact that within the Party we have these kinds of expressions.

This part of Powell’s statement starts around 4:38.

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