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Muslim American Veterans Blast Trump's Comments About Khizr And Ghazala Khan

"This is a new low, even for him,” said Robert Salaam, a Muslim American who served in the United States Marine Corps for six years.

Last updated on August 1, 2016, at 12:08 p.m. ET

Posted on July 31, 2016, at 5:27 p.m. ET

United States military veterans who are Muslim have blasted Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's comments criticizing the family of a Muslim Army captain who died in a suicide bomb attack in Iraq.

The veterans, who spoke to BuzzFeed News, called Trump's comments "disrespectful" and said they were a "new low" for the reality television personality.Trump, on Saturday, said the mother of Army Captain Humayun Khan had “nothing to say” about her son at the Democratic National Convention. Trump was referring to the moving speech by Ghazala Khan’s husband, Khizr Khan, last week, where he questioned if Trump has ever read the Constitution. “If you look at his wife, she was standing there, she had nothing to say,” Trump said in an ABC News interview. “Maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say, you tell me.” Trump added Sunday on Twitter, "I was viciously attacked by Mr. Khan at the Democratic Convention. Am I not allowed to respond? Hillary voted for the Iraq war, not me!"Ghazala responded Sunday in a scathing op-ed in the Washington Post by calling Trump “ignorant” and saying she was too emotional to speak.The Pentagon has said there are over 5,000 Muslim serving in various branches of the military.
John Moore / Getty Images

The veterans, who spoke to BuzzFeed News, called Trump's comments "disrespectful" and said they were a "new low" for the reality television personality.

Trump, on Saturday, said the mother of Army Captain Humayun Khan had “nothing to say” about her son at the Democratic National Convention. Trump was referring to the moving speech by Ghazala Khan’s husband, Khizr Khan, last week, where he questioned if Trump has ever read the Constitution.

“If you look at his wife, she was standing there, she had nothing to say,” Trump said in an ABC News interview. “Maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say, you tell me.”

Trump added Sunday on Twitter, "I was viciously attacked by Mr. Khan at the Democratic Convention. Am I not allowed to respond? Hillary voted for the Iraq war, not me!"

Ghazala responded Sunday in a scathing op-ed in the Washington Post by calling Trump “ignorant” and saying she was too emotional to speak.

The Pentagon has said there are over 5,000 Muslim serving in various branches of the military.

Mohammad Shaker, an Army veteran and former combat medic with the 82nd Airborne, said Trump’s comments were “very disrespectful” to a Gold Star family — a term used for immediate family members of military personnel killed in combat.

“Those could have been my parents,” said Shaker, a Republican who does not support Trump, of Khan family's appearance and speech at the DNC. “I appreciate that [Khizr Khan] came up there with his wife and showed Americans that Muslims serve in the armed forces — I’m glad we got the exposure,” Shaker said, adding that he believes ordinary Americans don’t know that Muslims are enlisted. “I left and joined the Army against my parents' wishes, so I can only imagine if it was me who died,” said Shaker, who was deployed in Iraq for a year. Shaker, who believes the Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, would be no better for Muslims at home and abroad, said the only way for Americans to combat those who believe Trump and his rhetoric about Muslims is to get to know one. “Muslim Americans are just like every other American in society: We’re doctors and engineers, we run businesses, some of us are veterans, we go to schools, we are libertarians and democrats. We‘re just as diverse as any other American,” said Shaker, who is the chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus of Tampa Bay, Florida.
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“Those could have been my parents,” said Shaker, a Republican who does not support Trump, of Khan family's appearance and speech at the DNC.

“I appreciate that [Khizr Khan] came up there with his wife and showed Americans that Muslims serve in the armed forces — I’m glad we got the exposure,” Shaker said, adding that he believes ordinary Americans don’t know that Muslims are enlisted.

“I left and joined the Army against my parents' wishes, so I can only imagine if it was me who died,” said Shaker, who was deployed in Iraq for a year.

Shaker, who believes the Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, would be no better for Muslims at home and abroad, said the only way for Americans to combat those who believe Trump and his rhetoric about Muslims is to get to know one.

“Muslim Americans are just like every other American in society: We’re doctors and engineers, we run businesses, some of us are veterans, we go to schools, we are libertarians and democrats. We‘re just as diverse as any other American,” said Shaker, who is the chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus of Tampa Bay, Florida.

Robert Salaam, who served in the Marines for six years, said he expected Trump would say something negative after the Khizr Khan's speech, since he “always does,” but he did not expect Trump to question Mrs. Khan.

“Never in a million years did I think he [Trump] would go this low,” said Salaam. "This is a new low, even for him."He added, “For too long we've been painted as other or un-American. Those of us who are also serving as police, firefighters, or in my case, who has served in the military ... I was proud to hear our voice heard at that level."Attacking military families is something you don’t do, Salaam said of Trump’s comments about Mrs. Khan.“It is a new low for him because it's such a blatant assault," Salaam said. "And what's even worse is to watch his surrogates or other members of the party try to defend what's not defendable."
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“Never in a million years did I think he [Trump] would go this low,” said Salaam. "This is a new low, even for him."

He added, “For too long we've been painted as other or un-American. Those of us who are also serving as police, firefighters, or in my case, who has served in the military ... I was proud to hear our voice heard at that level."

Attacking military families is something you don’t do, Salaam said of Trump’s comments about Mrs. Khan.

“It is a new low for him because it's such a blatant assault," Salaam said. "And what's even worse is to watch his surrogates or other members of the party try to defend what's not defendable."

Tayyib Rashid, who served as a Marine for five years, called Mr. Khan’s speech a “proud and watershed moment” for himself and Muslim Americans and said he was deeply “offended” by Trump’s comments.

Hey @realDonaldTrump, I'm an American Muslim and I already carry a special ID badge. Where's yours? #SemperFi #USMC

Everybody has the right to have freedom of religion and speech, and so does Trump, said Rashid, who said he would “defend his right to speak his mind” if he had to.

“But when you’re running for president and the most respected office," Rashid said, "words of prejudice and words that are insulting are beneath what a president should be saying or promoting."

Rashid said he could relate to Mr. Khan’s speech, not only as a Muslim American veteran and as an immigrant, but especially because he was around the age of Humayun Khan, whose parents were around the same age as his parents.

“I’m just a couple months younger" than Humayun, Rashid said. "Coming from Pakistan as an immigrant, Mr. Khan’s words resonated with me especially. This was an important moment."

He added, “American Muslims have sacrificed just as much as those who served before us."

Though Trump’s comments offended him on a personal level, Rashid said he was “first and foremost” offended as an American.

“What he’s doing is dividing the country even more, and he provides ammunition to extremist elements who wish to do us harm," Rashid said. "It only serves as a recruitment mechanism for them. When he offends me as an American, and he puts people at risk, and divides our country, that’s when I have the biggest problem."

Ajmal Achekzai, who came to the US as refugee from Afghanistan and later served as a Marine for four years, said Mr. Khan was right: Trump does not “understand the constitution.”

“You are free to practice the religion of your choosing,” said Achekzai, 41, who served two tours in his home country of Afghanistan — first in Kandahar and later in Kabul. On Trump’s comments about Ghazala Khan being “not allowed” to speak, Achekzai said, “Who can speak in front of thousands of people? It’s hard, it's not easy, especially when you're talking about losing your son." “Donald Trump should understand my religion, peace, love, compassion, and unity. I know what my religion is about, and I served this country honorably,” Achekzai said, adding, “It's easier to sell hate and fear than peace and love.”
Facebook: ajmal.achekzai

“You are free to practice the religion of your choosing,” said Achekzai, 41, who served two tours in his home country of Afghanistan — first in Kandahar and later in Kabul.

On Trump’s comments about Ghazala Khan being “not allowed” to speak, Achekzai said, “Who can speak in front of thousands of people? It’s hard, it's not easy, especially when you're talking about losing your son."

“Donald Trump should understand my religion, peace, love, compassion, and unity. I know what my religion is about, and I served this country honorably,” Achekzai said, adding, “It's easier to sell hate and fear than peace and love.”

Mansoor Shams, a Marine Corps veteran, said he was “literally in shock” when he heard Trump comparing “his sacrifice of building infrastructure and hiring people to someone who died for this country.”

Shams said that as a Muslim of Pakistani descent and a “proud” US Marine who served his country for eight years, “it never occurred to me that this was a conversation or a conflict of interest." “[Trump] just took out the human component from the conversation. The human component is that someone died, whether he was Muslim or Jewish or Christian.” The 34-year-old Marine vet, who was on active duty from 2000 to 2004, also said that the backlash from GOP leaders about Trump’s comments was “not going to cut it.” “These people are saying, ‘we wouldn’t have said that, but we’re still going to vote for him. He’s still our man,’” Shams said. “It obviously doesn’t cut it.” Calling Trump’s comments “emotionless and feelingless,” Shams said it was “sickening that the American public is falling trap to this sort of ideology.” Addressing Trump, he said, “You are the GOP nominee. You are votes away from taking the highest office of the land. To you, the sacrifice of a Muslim soldier buried in Arlington compares to the Trump Tower you built and the employee you hired? That’s your equation?”
Mansoor Shams

Shams said that as a Muslim of Pakistani descent and a “proud” US Marine who served his country for eight years, “it never occurred to me that this was a conversation or a conflict of interest."

“[Trump] just took out the human component from the conversation. The human component is that someone died, whether he was Muslim or Jewish or Christian.”

The 34-year-old Marine vet, who was on active duty from 2000 to 2004, also said that the backlash from GOP leaders about Trump’s comments was “not going to cut it.”

“These people are saying, ‘we wouldn’t have said that, but we’re still going to vote for him. He’s still our man,’” Shams said. “It obviously doesn’t cut it.”

Calling Trump’s comments “emotionless and feelingless,” Shams said it was “sickening that the American public is falling trap to this sort of ideology.”

Addressing Trump, he said, “You are the GOP nominee. You are votes away from taking the highest office of the land. To you, the sacrifice of a Muslim soldier buried in Arlington compares to the Trump Tower you built and the employee you hired? That’s your equation?”

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