From Humayun Khan to Kamala Khan : ambivalence towards the Muslim super hero
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The 2016 Democratic National Convention saw the emergence of an unlikely national hero: Humayun Khan. Khan had passed away long before the Democratic National Convention while on duty as an American soldier in Iraq, but his parents brought him back to life as they stood on the DNC stage and his father, Kazir Khan, delivered a speech about his bravery as a soldier. Kazir Khan described how a suicide bomber drove a taxi through his son’s base, how Humayun shouted for everyone to take safety, and how he ran towards the car to prevent it from getting any further before it exploded and killed him (Hirsh). In the wake of anti-Muslim sentiments being released by then presidential candidate Donald Trump, this speech did something important: it allowed Muslim Americans to be viewed as heroes. Yet, the amazement and surprise elicited by Kazir Khan’s speech about his son reveals that many Americans were conditioned to think that a Muslim-American could not be a hero. In a society where 40% of Americans believe in reinstating a Muslim registry to prevent terrorism, the shock of most people over Humayun Khan’s story was not because of his bravery in the face of danger, but was because a Muslim-American showed bravery, heroism, and proved their biases incorrect (Gallup). While Kazir Khan’s speech was a rebuttal to Trump’s Islamophobia, these discriminatory sentiments are not new and many Americans have been conditioned to view Muslim Americans as the enemy in response to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 (also referred to as the 9/11 terrorist attacks throughout the paper).