Khizr Khan to speak at Old Cabell Hall

Father of late Capt. Humayun Khan to appear on Miller Center's "American Forum"

humayun_khan_anc_2016

Capt. Humayun Khan graduated from the University in 2004. He was killed while deployed in Iraq in 2004.

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

The University’s Miller Center will host Khizr Khan on Nov. 1 for a public dialogue about his role as a Muslim-American public figure during this year’s presidential election.

Khan, a Charlottesville resident and father of late University alumnus Capt. Humayun Khan, became a national public figure after delivering a speech at the Democratic National Convention in support of Hillary Clinton.

In the speech, Khan detailed his son’s sacrifice as an army captain and his family’s experience as Muslim-Americans.

“Like many immigrants, we came to this country empty-handed,” Khan said at the convention. “We believed in American democracy — that with hard work and the goodness of this country, we could share in and contribute to its blessings.”

Douglas Blackmon, director of public programs and host of the Miller Center’s show “American Forum,” said he anticipates the dialogue with Khan will receive a substantial amount of local attention, as well as a greater national audience. The event will be livestreamed over Facebook due to the notoriety Khan gained after his speech at the convention.

Blackmon said one of the major points of the discussion will focus on Khan’s status as a national spokesperson of sorts for Muslim-Americans.

“I think the general understanding of the American people, though of course there will be people who disagree with me, is that one of the reasons that there has been so much uncharacteristic behavior toward Muslims has been a kind of empathy gap,” Blackmon said. “There have not really been models for non-Muslim Americans to look to and feel like they understand this group of American citizens.”

“American Forum” is a nonpartisan show which recognizes and hosts a variety of guests across the political spectrum. However, Blackmon acknowledged the difficulty of maintaining journalistic balance when hosting a guest, like Khan, who has a strong political affiliation.

When speaking at the convention, Khan heavily criticized Donald Trump.

“Donald Trump consistently smears the character of Muslims,” Khan said. “He disrespects other minorities — women, judges, even his own party leadership.”

After the speech, Trump criticized the Khan family, alleging Ghazala Khan, Khizr’s wife, wasn’t allowed to speak at the convention.

Most recently, Khan appeared in an advertisement for Clinton in which he asked Trump, “Would my son have a place in your America?”

Tuesday’s dialogue will not focus predominantly on Khan’s political views regarding the presidential race, Blackmon said.

“It won’t be a political advertisement,” Blackmon said. “At the same time, obviously [Khan] feels strongly and is deeply offended by what Mr. Trump has said in this election, based on what he has said publicly elsewhere. We will address that.”

Blackmon said he first had the idea of hosting Khan on the Miller Center’s show at the Democratic National Convention, which he attended.

Only after the convention did Blackmon also find out Khan’s local ties to Charlottesville.

“Then I thought that he would be an even more applicable guest,” Blackmon said. “I thought this is also just something we should do as a part of our role in the community that we live in.”

University students have been heavily involved in the organization of the event.

Students from several media studies classes participated in building the questions Blackmon will ask Khan during the dialogue. Other students also created a short video about Humayun which will be played before or after the main interview.

“Students are deeply integrated into the development of these programs, and then these programs go out to such a wide national audience,” Blackmon said. “It’s a very cool thing.”

The event will take place at Old Cabell Hall at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 1. It is open to the public, and admission is free, although tickets for entry will only be given that day on a first-come, first-served basis.

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