Khizr Khan

Khizr Khan is an attorney with KM Khan Law and was recently commissioned by President Biden to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. He was born in Pakistan, where he grew up as the oldest of ten children and graduated from the University of Punjab with an LL.B. Praxis Circle interviewed Mr. Khan because of his fascinating life journey from Pakistan to America, his deep devotion to the founding principles of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, and his interests in reconciliation between Muslims and Christians, in part, through a joint vision of freedom.    

Rumi’s Wonderful Dream

Khizr Khan:

This is something really, really, as I said, when I finish reading Holy Quran and Holy Bible, both Old Testament and New Testament and the Gita and all other holy books, then I resort to this. That’s where my peace lies. And Rumi says, “Out beyond the world of right and wrong, there is a field. I’ll see you there.”

How do you think about worldview?

Khizr Khan:

Well, thank you for asking that question. Thank you for this opportunity. And thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts. Like any other human being., I am a humble, ordinary person, ordinary citizen, of this blessed nation. So my response to the question of worldview is surrounded, is engulfed, is wrapped, with my own personal life and experience. My lens is tainted by own life’s experience, how I saw the world, and how I see the world. And to me, whatever humble and very pedestrian definition of world view it may be, I cannot give you an answer of worldview in a very high level, intellectual thought or words.

My view had been, my worldview had been, the struggle of uplifting human beings, in different parts of the world, in different parts of humanity. We are all as mankind, we all one group of people moving forward, wanting to move forward, moving forward. Some of us are way ahead of the pack. Some of us are way behind the pack, but we are all moving. That is my perspective. That is my view of mankind. That is my view. That is how I see the world. That is how I have seen the world and I have lived the world and I continue to live in that world that is moving forward. And those who are way ahead of the rest of the mankind become the candle bearers. And candle bearers do not stand on the sideline. They do not stand, they do not come in the back. They are always front and center of this. And that is my worldview.

What worldview were you born into?

Khizr Khan:

Well, I was born in post-colonial era of the subcontinent. Subcontinent India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and that whole region had just gained its independence in 1947. I am a post-colonial era generation.

I opened my eyes to this struggle of trying to gain freedom, post-freedom, the chaos of establishing ourselves as independent nation with very little resource, large populations. Not then, but now I can relate to how America has felt since its independence, how American forefathers must have felt about the nation, about the country. So I was born in that, and that has shaped my perspective of life, my perspective of humanity, of the world. What took place during the colonization, what took place post-colonization, that is what has shaped my perspective and my view of the world.

Who has most shaped who you are?

Khizr Khan:

Well yes my grandparents they raised me, they taught me some basic human values by giving me education, giving me and my siblings. My siblings, I say this is out of gratitude because I was the privileged one. Whenever there was less food, I was given sufficient from their share so that I could continue to move forward. So they have been my anchor and my source of strength and source of forming. My teachers, I have had great teachers that focused on teaching us value. From early childhood my grandfather I remember every evening I used to crave for the night fall so that my grandfather would come to my bedside, sit with me and will tell me a story. And those stories came from ancient Persian literature that he was fluent in reading and that is how I got acquainted to Rumi, and my grandfather had a wonderful way of sharing these stories by making it so personal for me to be involved, that I would wonder all night about this story.

One story that comes to mind that he asked me that really, really has left an imprint on my being and that story was, one night he came and he asked me, “Where does God live?” And I haven’t seen… I think I was 10 years or 12 years old. Having seen people raise their hands when they pray. I thought maybe he lives up in the sky and he said, “If that was the case, the birds that fly would’ve found him.” So I said, “Okay, then he must live in the mountains because that’s where people look up to God.” And he said, “No. If God lived in the mountains, then the mountain dwellers would have found him.” I said, “My God, I need to give him the right answer.”

I thought that because God is such a big thing in everybody’s life that I have seen so far, he must live in oceans. That’s the largest thing I knew and he said, “No, it’s not in oceans. Otherwise, all the fish would have found God.” And so I said, “I give up, tell me where does he live?” He said, “I’ll tell you tomorrow. Think some more about it.” And all night long, that’s all I could think. Next night couldn’t come soon enough and he comes and he said, “Have you thought, did you find where God lives?” I said, “I have thought of it all night and all day, even in school I kept thinking of that question.”

He holds my hand, he says, “Open your finger.” I open my finger and he tilts it back towards my heart and he placed it here. He didn’t put it here, he put it here. He said, “That’s where God lives.” He said, “Remember always for everyone, that’s where God lives.” And I have had such a blessed childhood. We did not have running water, we did not have electricity, modest home but it was rich with the human values, training, teachings that had stayed, that had left such an imprint on my life that I have tried to convey to my children and to whoever I could share this with that, that’s where the answer to all of this chaos in the world lies. That if you could see the presence of God in each other, we will treat each other with that dignity and people ask me as a Muslim, “What is your perspective of all this chaos?”

I cite to them the verse from the Holy Quran which says, “I have created human being in my image.” Bible has similar verse in it as well, other holy books also say that there is a reflection of God in every human being. If we could remember this, lots of this chaos in the world would have no room to continue and prosper and harm all of us. That was my childhood, that was my early upbringing and those are my heroes, my teachers, my grandparents, my siblings that gave me the… where I am today.

Are all humans worshiping the same God?

Khizr Khan:

Well, there is a human desire to connect with the origin, with the source. Judaism, Christianity, Islam and other faiths are recent arrival, in those words, in those concepts, in the history of mankind. Humankind has lived millions of years.

And so there is innate desire to connect with our spirit. We are two beings, physical being and a spiritual being. And that desire takes us into different directions depending on where we are born and what culture we are born, what circumstances we live, we grow. That directs our search for our spiritual being, for our spirit to connect.

And that has taken us in different directions. But it is an answer to that search for the truth, search for the beings, the spiritual being, search for our better half, our other half that I call our spiritual being. That takes us in various directions.

And I don’t want to be excluded from my faith. I strongly believe personally that the God that monotheists believe is the creator of the universe, is the Creator. But same teaching teaches me not to consider those who do not believe in the same Creator as I do any less.

They have the same place in the eyes of my God. I cannot see them any less that you are wrong I am right. That concept doesn’t exist in my vocabulary, in my thinking. Therefore, I give this cowardly answer that all human beings, all beings have a value and they practice and they believe what their circumstances have brought to them. And neither one is wrong. I don’t know whether I answered your question to an extent.

Doug Monroe:

No. You answered it very well. I don’t want to put words on your mouth but I want to ask a follow-up question a little bit because it relates to some of the other interviews that you won’t be familiar with. But we’re looking at this issue-

Humans are on a spiritual journey; no?

Khizr Khan:

I agree, as I mentioned, that it is human nature, seeking. We are trying to connect with our creator in different forms, whichever way it has been defined by our circumstances, by our education, training, culture, family, and whatever. We are trying to find, and that search for finding, as my favorite poet, Rumi, says that all this struggle is the struggle of journey, there is no destination. As long as we walk on that journey, knowing that this is what life is. Don’t look for destination, it’s the journey that we are all involved in and we are all seeking. There is room for everyone to move in the direction of seeking answer to that.

So it is not a comprehensive answer to your wonderful question, but I again come back to that simple-minded thinking and simple-minded approach to the questions of life and question of who is right or wrong. I don’t give myself that authority or that… or even my faith does not, to my understanding, even my own faith does not give me that authority to declare someone not being of equal dignity, and of being equal respect and equal place in this journey of life.

Where did you get your good philosophy about work? Work is worship.

Doug Monroe:

One of the things that struck me, and I just love this I have to show my bias about the biography was, and I think this is really lost in a lot of Christianity, that I hear in church, and have heard all my life, the importance of work. Working, working. That was clearly, and I cite here, “Chop wood, carry water, getting paycheck for the family,” not worrying too much about whether it was… Here’s the question, what is your philosophy about work and where did you get it? Where did you get that good philosophy about work?

Khizr Khan:

Well, I don’t know about good or not, it’s a humble way of thinking and seeing. I grew up with this environment in my family, in my parents’ home, my grandparents’ home, that those who manage the home inside the home, that’s where the status of women, it was embossed in my heart and in my mind, was those who care for the family’s wellbeing are constantly involved and busy with worship. Every aspect of is part of worship and meaning that in the house, our ladies are responsible for the food, preparation of food, serving of the food, bringing the food to the table. And another aspects of… That is worship. And those who go out to earn living, regardless of as long as it is legal by the laws of the society, that is a worship as well.

That is the teaching of my faith to me. And I have always remembered there is nothing that is beyond my dignity, or beyond my status, or beyond my thinking that, “Oh, I am so and so, why would I do this, or doing this is of lesser status.” Not at all. To me, a street sweeper is as dignified as the world class lawyer of a large law firm. They both are busy doing something that is, in the eyes of my creator, is equally dignified. And so, these concepts were taught earlier. I saw them in practice in our homes. Not in those words.

These became crystallized in my mind when I was able to be out of that environment and then was able to have a moment to think where it comes from and what it really is all about that the dignity of work. Be it cooking in the kitchen or presiding the Supreme Court. The dignity of work is something that comes being a human being that is. And when I say human being, I don’t mean to exclude other beings as well because to me, as my life has moved on, I have begin to see the value of all beings in my life, all beings. And therefore, I grant every being the same dignity as I grant myself. And so, that concept of work paycheck and all this, these are humble and simple words, but it is all dignity of work.

Doug on Working and “Patriarchy” 

Doug Monroe:

I highly recommend to you all the book and if you hadn’t read it and somehow, and this isn’t a question, it’s a statement. We’ll move to the next question. But just the basics of living within your means, okay? Every step of the way, that’s what you did. Whatever it took, we’re going to live within our means, but we’re have hope and go forward. But the key is to be content where you are, live within your means and just keep doing it. It’s just beautiful lesson. Okay, that’s the perfect lead in to this, I don’t love this question, but I have to ask it and I don’t hate this word either. I’ll tell you what I think about this word when we’re walking to the car. But anyway, Americans think Muslim societies are patriarchies, okay? Are they? How would you answer that question? What can we learn from that as Americans? Because I think we have more to learn, really from you all. Personally, that shows my cards, than we can teach you.

Are Muslim societies “patriarchies”?

Khizr Khan:

Thank you for asking this wonderful question. It requires a little explanation and I would urge your audience and your readers for their indulgence. Most of Islam is defined by the cultures that it started, it prevails, or it prospered or even today. You go to the Arab world, mostly because it initiated from the Arab world it has an imprint of Arabic culture. For example, I give you just a very basic example. Because we are taught as Muslims there are two sources of your faith: one is the Holy Quran book and the tradition of the prophet, peace be upon him, who lived after the proclamation of Islam, 23 years. He had one daughter but he had all together four daughters and four children and one daughter lived, Fatima.

Ali his uncle’s son wanted to marry Fatima. Now this is taking place in Arab culture 1400 years ago. He comes to prophet and expresses his interest in marrying his daughter. And that is how I drive the lessons of my faith. The prophet didn’t say to him, “Fine, I will marry her or she will marry you,” or makes the decision. He said, “Fine. Thank you.” He immediately goes to his daughter and tells her, “Ali has asked to marry you.” In that transaction lies the answer of the status of women for Muslims. In that one gesture of prophet, going to the daughter, granting her the dignity of decision. Ask any Muslim. Do they practice that in their families? Majority of Muslims don’t. And that is what the world sees. That is what the world has become to know about Islam, the cultures that have placed the imprint of that culture on, on Islam. And she honors him by saying that, “I would be honored if you would approve of this decision.” And he approves. And then she’s married.

In that transaction by the prophet of Islam, we were taught, Muslims were taught to practice that dignity of consulting, consent, status. But Muslim world has not really learned those basic precepts, basic concepts and for that reason, I don’t blame America or Westerners to misunderstand. Because they want to see, “Well, so you talk about this, where is it practiced?” Well some of us do practice still. When I met Ghazala I met in a university environment. I didn’t go to her or to her parents and say, I want to marry her, respecting the culture, respecting granting the dignity and the respect to her family and to my family. I expressed that interest to my family. They then went and contacted Ghazala’s family and then this whole marriage matter was resolved was concluded.

What I mean to say that there are individual examples.I only could cite my own, but I know there are wonderful Muslims that practice their faith with clear understanding, but not as majority. So this misunderstanding about Islam, for the most part, the blame lies with Muslims, not reflecting the true spirit of Islam, the true meaning of the faith. This may be a right time, I’m recently reading a book and this has become my near future project. And the book is called “The Covenants Of The Prophet Muhammad With The Christians Of The World.”

“The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World”

Khizr Khan:

In 2016, Muslim majority countries realized the mistreatment of Christians and non-Muslims in their majority countries, they came together. These are the governments of the Muslim majority countries, and they passed a resolution, this was in January 2016 in Marrakesh. It is called Declaration of Marrakesh, and Muslim majority countries agreed that we will endeavor to make sure that our laws reflect that unfairness, that unfair treatment of non-Muslims in the Muslim majority countries.

And if you read the covenants of prophet Muhammad with the Christians, with Jews, with Zoroastrians, with other faiths, it is clearly said that they all have equal dignity of faith. And I looked at every page and every corner, maybe there was an expiration date for that covenant, and there is none, it applies even today in Muslim countries. It will be to my peril if I spoke too loudly about this in Muslim majority countries, as a Muslim I know this, it’s only in America that I can talk about this, it will be perilous, it will be difficult for me to speak so clearly, that there is no expiration date.

And there is so much that has not been openly talked about, the authors are writing, the Muslim scholars have just begin to raise their voice, that this ignorance has given Islam a bad name. 3000 terrorists define Islam to the rest of the world, they don’t speak for me, they don’t speak for 1.5 billion Muslims in the world, but they have become the face, they had become the face, since we started to talk, since I spoke, since others have started to speak, they don’t define us, that is not what the faith says.

My faith teaches me, it’s the saying of the prophet, that the ink of any scholar is more sacred than the blood of a martyr, that is my faith, ink of the scholar is more sacred than the blood of a martyr, that defines these terrorists that have been victimizing Muslims. In 2017, 30,000 victims of the terrorist acts, terrorism acts were Muslims, women, children, mosques, innocent people. They don’t define us, but that has become the focus of the non-Muslim world, I don’t blame the non-Muslim world because there are fair people and there are unfair people, they want to take that issue and turn it into…to pull it, size it and make too much out of it, but that is, the responsibility lies with Muslims, to define themselves, to be known.

There is an example of the prophet that whenever Muslims, during his lifetime, would travel to other parts of the world, and they would come to him, that we are going to such and such country or such and such place, long distance. How do you want us to preach Islam? And he used to get annoyed at that by saying, what do you mean preach Islam, just go and live, be part of that community, let them see how Muslims live, who Muslims are, and they will ask, then you tell them what your faith is, you don’t go and preach.

Look at the practice of Muslim world, how we are treating one another, how we are treating various sects and all that, there was no…there is no sect in Islam, this is all political creation, this is all for political and real estate issue, not issue of faith, not issue of Islam. Sorry for…

Doug Monroe:

So, I have so many things I could say or follow up with, but…

Khizr Khan:

Sorry to disturb.

Doug Monroe:

Just in agreement with what you say, and I know with Christianity, there are many insights that people have lost, they lose because of culture and because of the thrust of politics, or whatever it is, and it’s just something humans deal with, but those that are law abiding citizens, that tend to be quiet and just go do their jobs, deal with their families, they need to speak out more in these times.

Is family the foundation of civilization?

Doug Monroe:

Is family a foundation of civilization, are there alternatives and the role of respecting your elders? Obviously you honor that. And I think it’s important personally.

Khizr Khan:

Yeah. For me, family is the foundation of every human being. We are born as humans. We are born to a family. It could be just the mother, a single mother gives a birth to a child and the family is formed. So to not have the utmost respect and dignity for the person that gave you birth, carried you for nine months prior to birth is negation of the self. And that extends, then to father and then extended family and all this. To me, it has been the foundation. And yes, you’re right, that we are youth-centric society. There’s nothing wrong with being youth-centric. It’s an acknowledgement of the vigor and it’s an acknowledgement of the forward block of this humanity moving in that direction because of the strength and the power of ideas, mind, and physical being. But I must share, I have observed very quietly the importance of the family during these difficult times of COVID-19. I have had the unfortunate occasion of seeing two close family friends pass away.

The very last moment their desire and their wish and their utmost begging was, “Can I see my family?” It’s deep down in every person’s heart and soul to have that connection of family. Some of us are fortunate to have it realized. Some fail to understand in the last few moments of life, years, or months, or days or hours, we care. You must have seen in the media, you must have seen in the newspapers and television, when one member of the family is ill and sick on deathbed and is secluded, is extending the hand towards the family, that speaks volume of this human nature, human desire, human need for family. Extending the hand through the glass cannot touch them, through the glass they’re touching one another. This defines the place of family. Family doesn’t mean like my extended family, family could be just the child and the parent, child or the mother, child or the father or siblings, whoever is part of that connection, human connection.

So it is human nature and youth-centric is wonderful. I always think of when we call ourselves youth-centric, that when the difficulty descends on us, we run to our parents and we seek shelter with them, or in their home, or them. This is a very basic human need or human instinct to have family that has raised us, given us the strength when we could not help ourselves and to be grateful for that moment of life.

Some of us are appreciative of that and some don’t much care for that. But it is human desire, human nature, and being attracted to youth is, again, it’s built in us. As every human being is more active, stronger, more beautiful during the youthful years. So there is nothing wrong with that being, but when you begin to be youth-centric at the cost of not being respectful to elders as well, they have done their part, they have moved on coming back to the same humanity moving forward. Some of us are ahead and some of us are following, but we all have same and equal dignity and we must keep that in mind, in family relation as well that elders have same dignity and same respect. And in fact, we should show our gratitude. If we do not have elders ourselves, to other elders, we show the gratitude for doing their part, for paving the path for us to move forward.

What are some key differences in courtship between America and Eastern societies?

Khizr Khan:

Well, I speak from my personal experience and observation, I practiced what my culture taught me and I respected those cultural norms. It doesn’t mean I don’t respect the cultural norms of my country now, I respect those cultural norms now. But some of those freedoms that we have are taken little too far, meaning it is at the exclusion of other or at the disrespect of other. For example, I have both sets of families, meaning that nucleus family, father, mother, and children, our eldest son lives not too far from here. He married somebody that he had met at his college.

And later on, they got reacquainted and married and have three children and we respect and we love them. And they’re part of our family, as much as the son that lives with us. That was again, at the preference of Ghazala. She introduced them that this would be a wonderful match if it becomes possible. And then again, we left that decision up to our youngest son to make that decision, because he’s the one who will be living that life. What we think that would be taking these privileges and these cultural norms too far would be when young folks or folks of any time begin into live together for extended period of time. And I don’t mean to condemn, if that is their preference, if that is how they feel comfortable with one another, discovering one another, knowing about one and another. That’s wonderful.

That’s as good as anything. So I don’t mean to condemn anything I’m talking about showing you the differences that would the culture in Pakistan or in some of those societies, some of the Eastern societies would discourage that very much. In subcontinent, that arrangement will be discouraged. And in Western culture, that’s perfectly fine. It’s between two adults. If they wish to live together without forming a martial bond or announcement to the family or to the society that they are spouses, that is their choice. It will not be condemned here, but it will not be positively received in the Eastern culture. So those differences exist.

Other differences? Child birth? Dower?

Khizr Khan:

The childbirth out of wedlock is also very much discouraged in Pakistan, in subcontinent cultures. Whereas here in the current of the culture, it is fine, but it was not encouraged in few years ago. It wasn’t as acceptable as it is. There is then again it is personal choice, personal preference. As men and women begin to gain equal dignity of work, of status in the society, those decisions have to be left to the individuals to make who am I to say, how and why my son or my daughter should live up to my expectations. I can only teach them the preferences and the cultural norms, but it is their decision. It is the decision of dignity, but it’s evolving phenomenon in our cultures here and there.

The things that were considered impossible to be seen in and subcontinent are taking place now, meaning women working alongside men in those cultures. Now it is happening more frequently, more often. Those cultures are a few years behind as Saudi just decided that women could drive up until now women could not drive. As I said again, coming back to that mankind, moving forward, some are way ahead and some are following. But we are moving, we are in that journey of life. We are moving forward. These cultural differences, then the conversation will get into the marriage of these cultural differences, but these differences do exist. And one must be respectful to those differences, as we say, that difference of opinion ought to be respectfully heard and listened to instead of condemning that this is better, or that is not better evolution evolving. We are continuing to move forward in our life. So is our culture and but there are some basic norms and basic needs of human beings that are fulfilled by those cultural norms.

I give you an example. I was doing a case, a pro bono case for a Muslim women getting divorce in United States. And in the Muslim cultures, many Muslim countries, there’s a tradition of marriage being a civil contract. And the concept of dower is mentioned in the civil agreement. And most of the Muslim marriage contracts have that concept of dower and doing that research I found that prior to the social security enactment here in United States, there was a concept of dower as well in United. Only recently we abolished it because now we have social security.

And in that evolution is the wisdom that family needs to have some security if a woman is marrying a man, or if a man is marrying a woman and they have family, there ought to be some social net of security to survive if they separate, if they divorce. The concept of dowery is not only limited to the Muslim part of the world or other part of the world, but invest as well in United States itself, it’s recently that we thought and wisely saw that the Social Security Act will cover such circumstances as well.

Doug’s comments on marriage in America

Doug Monroe:

Excellent. Okay. This will be the last question on the social part of it. Although you’re an American citizen who lived here more than half your adult life, I think that the, let’s say, inside the beltway think-tank people up in DC, they agree you’re the kind of guy that doesn’t want to put your opinion on others, and if it’s okay with you, it’s okay with me, but I think there’s fair agreement that marriage is in trouble in this country.

The reason I say it’s trouble is that the statistics show at least up to now that if you do a couple of things in life, you’re going to be more certainly materially successful, and the first is to get married and stay married. The second is to get a good education, and of course, the third is to work and stay at work, but let’s assume just for the purposes of analysis that marriage is in trouble in this country, or we could do better. What are the reasons for that? It has deteriorated in every statistic very noticeably, with some sectors of the population having 80% of out of wedlock births. The only statistic that has started to improve recently, and it’s been in the last five years, is although young people don’t get married near as much, they don’t get married as early. When they do get married, the divorce rate has dropped a little bit, so that’s good, but marriage is in trouble. Let’s say the claim is marriage is in trouble. Why in the United States is that the case?

Why is marriage in trouble in America?

Khizr Khan:

Your question is beyond my pay grade. I am not expert on social issues or for that purpose on any issues, I’m just honored to have this conversation with you. So I would answer your question at a very pedestrian level is that there is a saying in Hindu culture, and the saying is that marriage is so sacred that it should not be left to children. And not having the protection of family around, not having the protection of the culture, meaning that the culture says no, once married, you must stay married. Happy or not happy, who cares? You must remain married. Marriage is a sacred institution and all that.

So if you remove all those boundaries, all those protections, then it becomes preference of my happiness. Am I happy or not, if I’m not happy, then who cares? Everything else is secondary. So as you remove those protections for the marriage, then of course, there would be some impact of that as we move forward in dignity, in equal dignity of women and men, and less emphasis on what is the foundational basic requirement for any relationship to continue. And I will give you my example in one word answer to your entire question, and that is the spirit of forgiveness.

We have been married 45 years, you think we have not had disagreements? Ooh, we have had our share of disagreements. But those disagreements have lasted only the day, not night. Next morning, when I come down, where is coffee, where is breakfast? Here is breakfast, here is coffee. And what happened this morning and look outside and all this, meaning nothing happened. It doesn’t mean that we have not suffered the disagreement, we have suffered and we have expressed our disagreements and all that.

But then I learned this from Ghazala that she’s first to forgive, first to forget the disagreement. What I’m pointing towards is that these characteristics, I am very weak in that. I am not so solid as she is. She’s quick to forgive and quick to ignore my bad, my weakness. So each member of the marriage has to have some basic foundational characters for it to last. Same thing as with the employment.

People that are employed longest, you will talk to them and you will see one thing that is common among all of them, and that is loyalty. Loyalty to the employer, loyalty to the job. They’re faithful, they’re loyal, they’re working hard. They’re putting their share in all of this or anything. The government service, military service, loyalty, loyalty and faith. But when you remove those factors, those protections from any institution, the institution changes.

That is why the marriage in not only in Western world, but in my observation in East as well, in subcontinent as well, it is not as a strong an institution as it used to be because of the social changes that are taking place. So that is a give and take, you have economic change taking place. Societies are calibrating how to place whom, where and how. And so it is that calibration is taking place, and that is why the institution of marriage, institution of elder parents and all of this is recalibrating. And I am certain, I have a great hope and faith in the human spirit and human nature that it will move in a better direction.

Doug Monroe:

That’s a great answer. And one of I’ve been lucky enough to be married 38 years, you rang some bells for me that are the key and so very wonderful answer. Nice pedestrian movement there.

Is the American dream still alive?

Khizr Khan:

Oh, yes. Very much so. Very much so. Current turmoil not withstanding current, difficulty not withstanding. I am not only an immigrant citizen of United States, I am a patriot, not because it sounds good. Not because it sounds good. It is because I know I have read, I have experienced, I have seen, I have observed the character of this nation, of my blessed nation. It will survive. It will be the United States of post Second World War United States of Marshall Plan. The world because of hate and division saw two world wars in the first half of last century. World was destructive because of those two world wars and differences and hate against each other. The humanity realized that in being together with one another, standing together is the solution.

In the first half, the League of Nations was defeated, which had come together after First World War was destructive was dissolved. We decided that was unwise move, so the United Nation was created under the leadership of United States. European Union, NATO was created because we realized the benefit of standing together against those who do not wish us well, and there are many. Tyrants, authoritarians, there are many. Look at the result of that and that is the reason why I am so hopeful that destination, my nation, my country, will prevail, will survive. Look what happened after we decided, the second half of the last century was the longest prosperity and peaceful time that humankind has ever had. That is the proof of staying together, uniting, joining hands with other nations, with other countries. We have realized that America was made for that purpose. There is a divine wisdom in the role of America, in the role and in the creation of this country. Let’s not take it to injustices unfairness, 13, 14, 15 constitutional amendments that is still remains to be implemented with full faith and credit. That work still needs to be done.

America is vital to the world.

Khizr Khan:

I look back and I say, no, we have been at more perilous times, we have survived, we will survive because majority of this nation knows the goodness of this country, the value of this country, the tradition of this country. As I said, there was no other country. And I ask and I urge the indulgence of your audience, your readers, to look back what role America played in the construction of the world after Second World War, the Marshall Plan.

America was the only nation that said we will rebuild the world. It is that spirit that still lives in us. And with that spirit, we will rebuild, we will rebuild stronger, we will come out this turmoil, this racial injustice and other ailments that prevail in our society today, we will come out of it. These accumulation of frustration about injustice and all is an indication that we have reached a boiling point. We will come out of it successful, we will come out of it stronger, we will come out of it better.

Doug’s comments on discrimination in America

Doug Monroe:

Follow up question, but it’s coming at it from a different angle. And it does relate to today. For example, Maria and I were talking about in the car driving here that the local schools that we went to, my daughter teaches at, my son-in-law, they’re doing a lot of listening now. They’re really trying to, in my opinion, they’re whipping themselves too hard. But in any case, they are doing a great job of listening to those that talk about discrimination, those that need to be listened to that are students and parents and that kind of thing.

So to get to you, in your family, in reading your book, you were very gracious, but I know that you all were discriminated against. You had to have experienced some challenging and sad things and mistreatment. I’d just like for you to comment on that a little bit in any way you would like to. But really, you’re so complimentary of America that I think we don’t deserve it. And so I’d like to know some of the difficult times that you all had and that kind of thing.

Why are you so complimentary toward the U.S.?

Khizr Khan:

Why would I not be complimentary and narrate the facts, what we faced? And we cite in the book, the very first American person I meet is my first boss. And it’s a long story, but it’s in the book. And then we get to Houston and the kids have just arrived and we had rented a $200 apartment and we put the kids, they were tired and put to bed and there’s a knock at the door. And I opened the door and there is a lady standing with two bags in her hand. And she said, “I’m your neighbor, Paulette. I brought some things. I saw that you have small kids and all.” She didn’t ask what country you came from, what religion you have, you look different, what faith, what your name is. It’s pure humanity, kindness in its purest form that we feel towards one another. Same thing.

Ghazala always cites an example of her neighbor. Ghazala was mowing the lawn. She always wears her traditional clothes and the lawn mower, and she was mowing the lawn. Her neighbor came to her and said, “Ghazala why you wear this… These baggy pants and this loose shirt and all?” And the neighbor was wearing a t-shirt and a short, it was summer. And Ghazala said, “How do you feel in your short and in your shirt?” She said, “I feel comfortable.” “Same thing. I feel comfortable in this.

Have you experienced discrimination in America? How bad is the problem?

Khizr Khan:

It has left those imprints of understanding, respect, courtesy to one another. We really, I don’t know it. When you ask the question, I have to think back, what can I cite? There really has not been anything that I can cite. I can say, oh, I’ve been discriminated. I’ve been, I don’t know. I may have to think harder to find something to narrate. There just had not been, I am blessed to have worked. Whatever my share was. I have received that my children blessed to have done whatever they wanted to do. They are doing whatever they wanted to do as a family. Are there prejudices. Yes, there are. I see them. I observe them. I’m a living being, and I see them around me and here and there and all that. But personally, we really have not.

Now, if you want to know that I should have been placed on the front chair, I was placed on the back chair in an event or something. I don’t consider that anything, maybe I deserve to be seated there. That’s why I was placed there. But no, we have not to, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist because sometime people misunderstand. When I speak my personal experience, my family’s experience. People begin to think that I’m saying that it doesn’t exist no. It does exist. And I’ve seen with my own eyes, how much it exists. And it is evident in the press, in the media, at it full volume now, but unfairness prejudices exist. So, and you will ask, well, how do you see it? I see it this way. Have I seen these prejudices only limited to United States? No, I have seen them elsewhere as well. And that is why I cited this governance of prophet Muhammad with Christians.

I have seen these prejudices exist other parts of the world as well. And here, these are more pronounced because of our freedoms, because of it has gotten to a point where the goodness of America cannot stand it anymore. And it has come to a boiling point now and we will deal with it. We will remove it. We will complete the work that we started many years ago when we implemented 13th amendment 16th, 14th, and 15th amendment. But I am fortunate to have not personally or family wise experienced any of prejudices.

Has discrimination in America increased since the 1980’s?

Khizr Khan:

I see certain aspects. I’m aware of these voices in our country, in our society. They have become more visible because of checks and balances that are implemented, meaning that did this illness exist or not? Well, we don’t know whether it exists or not, because there were no tests that were being conducted. Now we know because the tests are being conducted, that these things exist. And the community, the society, the nation has become more conscientious of this. And therefore the reactions are more visible. And so these prejudices existed, and I’m not justifying by saying that I have seen them in other parts of the world as well. And it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be the first one to eradicate all of these prejudices. They’re all must be condemned and must be removed so that we can live more peacefully, in harmony and make better progress.

Do Americans understand how different we are from the rest of the world?

Khizr Khan:

Now I’m speaking country as a whole. No, we don’t because of the vastness of the country, because of the lack of interaction and travel, we don’t, I wish we did. Those who do, would tell you that that has become a must for our future to be more prosperous because the humanity, the world has become so interconnected because of the technology, because of the industry, because of our agriculture, because of how we live nowadays.

Therefore, it is imperative for every American to get to know the world, because that makes us respond better. That makes us deal with our fellow beings better. If we know, if we understand and closing the curtains and closing the doors is not the solution because the things have changed in the last 30 years, last 40, 50 years, we have become much more interconnected.

Something that happens in United States impacts the rest of the world, so is other parts of the world. They have also emerged to some extent emerging as partners in the world affairs, therefore America must see and know. And that is part of the mission that I have in my constitutional literacy project is that this constitution and values that are enshrined define us to the rest of the world. They look up to us for these values. We get to know how these values have impacted them. And that can only happen if we know a little more about the rest of the world.

Are nation states necessary?

Khizr Khan:

Yeah, nation estate is it’s not a derogatory term. It’s a nation estate. All the elements of it are, are necessary for a nation to live. The reason is that I will go to very fundamental faith-based answer to your question. In Quran I am taught as a Muslim that I have created human being in various groups for identification purposes. In that word identification is the nation estate that if we cannot be identified as, you know, some have taken it too far, the nation estate and it’s protections and preferences and prevalence and all of that. I don’t mean to point in that direction, but for identity purpose, nation estate is absolutely necessary so that we can, we can have some, some discipline in life, some rules and regulations, meaning international law, international bodies, international commerce, international between states and the governance of that existence and relationship in our life, so it is absolutely necessary. To me the nation estate doesn’t have any derogatory meaning.

Doug Monroe:

Okay. That’s a surprise. As you know, that’s a surprisingly controversial question today, so. And it’s a legitimate how we think about it. Okay. A follow-up that question would be, I’m going to say you would call that the fundamental unit of organization as of today. Not the only one by any means, there are many.

Do nations need borders?

Khizr Khan:

Yes, of course, of course we definitely need borders. And because otherwise, how would you define state? How would you define group of people without borders? It is… Under the current system we used to have no border states. We had continents and the kingdoms and limitless territories and the modern concept of nation estate with borders and with citizenship, with rules and regulations. That is the foundation of democracy, meaning that the people that live within certain border are the citizen of the country and are participant in the governance of that. So border is absolutely necessary under the current, the way the world exists today. And as coming from a subcontinent I have had some interesting experience about borders.

Doug Monroe:

Which I read, and that was fascinating. I wish I could go into that. Okay. Just to give you an idea of some of the people we’ve interviewed in the last year, we’ve gotten different answers here, okay on all sides. And you’re obviously someone who came through the system and have prospered by coming up through the system, so to speak in the United States, in the citizenship system.

Should citizens have rights non-citizens do not?

Khizr Khan:

I am a very strong believer in the governance of the state affairs by the state itself. Meaning somewhere state says that now looking into our resources, our preferences we will grant certain benefits to the citizens. Certain benefits to non-citizens or non-citizens are not entitled to these benefits or anyone that is within our borders is entitled to all of this. That decision has to come from the state itself and its legislative body. If the Congress decides that everyone is entitled to Medicare, free education and all other things that are needed. Because some smaller countries in Europe have done that they’re successfully practicing that, but a vast country like United States with extreme views on both sides could be… So I defer to the decision of the legislative body. I am a strong believer in the wisdom of the legislative process.

Would Muslims replace the U.S. Constitution with Sharia law?

Khizr Khan:

Simple minded approach to all of this has really, to some extent, has made my life easy because I don’t dwell too much into this. I very strongly believe in section one of 14th Amendment, and that is that equal protection of law. There are some fundamental defect of Sharia, in Sharia, as described today. And now I am talking about the awareness that I have extended to several judges’ courts doing pro bono work on the issue of rights of women is that I believe that to be entitled to the citizenship benefits, right to go out and whatever else, I don’t jump to the financial aspects of it or other benefits and all that. That is part of the package that goes up and down.

Those Americans that have paid social security all of lives, all of a sudden, they see there is a drop in that. The state has taken certain portion of it because of the budgetary adjustments and all that. So that’s a separate, totally separate issue, but sharing what I believe is the defect in what is notoriously known Sharia in United States or in Europe as well, that I will limit myself to United States, an American citizen should be heartened. And I would encourage them to read section one of 14th Amendment, and they will be very much hard on that no Sharia is coming, 51% of… Unless they abolish the Constitution. Then of course, then anything can happen. But without abolishing the Constitution, Sharia has no room.

Give us an example. Here is an example. Sharia says… Now, let me define the current Sharia. Sharia is no one set of rules. Each state, Muslim estate has its own rules and regulations. Pakistan family law says women, unless she reserves the right to divorce, cannot divorce. Men can divorce at any moment whenever he wishes or desires. Is the Sharia treating men and women differently? Yes. Can that be brought into United States? No. 14th Amendment, section one says equal protection of law. Both men and women would be treated equally. Throw that out. So if we want to have that conversation or debate for political reasons, political purposes, to malign a community, to malign their faith and all that, of course we can. And we have done that in some, I call them learn it professionals have conducted themselves totally irresponsibly generate hate and difference and division. Judges under stand that concept very quickly.

Is there one “Sharia law” across Muslim majority countries?

Khizr Khan:

There was a case that I was consulted. And I went in and appeared in Boston, one in Arizona, a family matter. But this was a commercial case in Boston. The person was injured in Saudi Arabia, when she went to perform her inspection services. She hit a swimming pool. She jumped and got injured and all that, and was seriously injured. Came back to United States and sued the owner of the hotel chain in United States. They objected that the site of the accident was Saudi Arabia. The location was there. The owners are there. The laws applied there and the women said that the laws will be of the site of the event.

The lower court then sought advice from various experts. Some said, “Yes, it should go to Saudi Arabia”. My opinion, humble suggestion, was that let’s look at how she will be treated if she went to get this case prosecuted in Saudi Arabia. First, she has to bring male witnesses. Female witnesses will not be heard. Then, certain procedures are not favored in the favor of women. Certain evidence law is not favored, meaning that one woman says, “I saw this person murder this guy. He did it in front of me”. Okay. On the other side, one man says, “I did not see it”. The court will believe the man. Women on the other hand has to bring another witness, meaning two women witnesses are equal to one man witness. And when the judge understood that difference, “So wait a minute, I’m not going to send this case to Saudi Arabia to be decided. It’ll be decided right here”. Meaning that it is the unawareness and that’s, as Muslims, it’s our issue that we have not spoken loudly.

We have not written about this. We have not spoken to enough people so that people are aware that there are safeguards in our own constitution. Either we don’t know our constitution, or we don’t know what Sharia is. So this is all under the umbrella of Sharia happening. Same thing in Arizona, this Egyptian couple that was married for 20 years. The man was a real estate investor and millionaire, divorces his wife of 20 years and gives her $20 because that’s what the marriage agreement said as a dowry.

And she, “Wait a minute”. Her lawyer say, “Not at all, $20 is …” He said, “No, read the marriage agreement”. Marriage had the consideration clause in consideration clause. $20 was given as a gift at the time of signing of that. Therefore, they were presenting that contract of $20 as a prenup agreement to the court. And court was accepting it. Court was saying, “Oh, this is what you decided. This is what you signed. This is what you agreed”, and all that. Up until we got there, and we tried to explain that this is a consideration for the execution of the contract, not a prenup agreement. And so the judge called a recess for 30 minutes and said, “You guys talk. You decide, otherwise I’m going to decide”. And they got the feeling that this is not going to go in our favor. She got $7 million as a settlement, from $20 to $7 million.

We have corrupted these practices. We, Muslims are not doing favor to themselves by not clarifying these abhorrent practices that have existed, not under the name of Sharia, of the name of laws that were left by the colonist. For example, the Zia-ul-Haq takes over in Pakistan. I want to put the Sharia in practice, implemented. All court system will have the Sharia law. So the very first thing is they changed the family law. It used to be the Pakistan Family Law Act of 1826, Islamic Sharia Law of Pakistan of 1978. That’s all changed. The rest underneath. Even today, is exactly the same. So are you going to call that Sharia now? To a person who wishes to exploit that, you’ll say, “Well, yeah. They’re coming. They’re coming”. That is not Sharia Law. If you go with the same concepts to Saudi Arabia, it’s totally different. If you go to Kuwait, it’s totally different. If you go to Egypt, it’s totally different. To Muslim majority countries of Malaysia and Indonesia, totally different, left by the colonist.

I can stand in front of any judge and I can show to the judge, “Your honor, this is not Sharia. Sharia doesn’t say that at all. Sharia means the laws enacted by the local government”. That is Sharia. American legal system, American family law is as Sharia, better Sharia than any other Muslim countries. Section by section, I can prove that. You just change the title of the entire code by calling it Sharia law of family or family Sharia law. It doesn’t make it Sharia. So it’s out of ignorance on both sides. When presented, when shown, then there’s no concern. There’s no fear. People accept the political hooplah.

Doug Monroe:

I haven’t heard it quite explained like that at all. That is fascinating. And I read a whole lot too, so that’s a great explanation.

How do you think about corruption?

Khizr Khan:

You know, in certain parts of the world where I come from, parents always have a jar sitting at the kitchen table with the loose paper notes in it. So their son is going to get some groceries, they will put in his pocket, he said this is for your safe driving. “So wait a minute, why are you putting this money in my pocket?” He said, “Instead of getting a ticket, just pay this to the cop.” And…people do.

Well, corruption is to me something that is a violation of the law, basic concept, the cultural clash, the example of cultural clash… example, I would give you the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of United States. Meaning, in Middle East, for example, in a Muslim country where bribery is forbidden by the teaching of the religion, but receiving gratuity, receiving a thank you money or receiving… for expediting the matter is common practice, and that would be prosecuted in United States. How dare you are paying somebody that… all of that. So cultural differences ought to be adjusted, understood and… But basically to me, corruption is that violation of the basic concept of fairness, that law teaches us the rule of law, the democratic values teach us to treat each other with the… with equal rights and responsibilities, and anyone that interrupts that is committing corruption.

And I was… I’m very much familiar with your frustration about the corruption in United States. But let me share with you how I have seen in certain parts of the world where I have lived, and there are several… It is said to have the loose money in your pocket that when the traffic cop stops, just offer the money quietly and be on your way, and it happens on daily basis. It is not that a religious scholar will not be stopped, it happens too. And that is the easiest way and most practiced, not by everybody, but most practiced way of avoiding delays and hassles and all of this.

How does corruption compare in America to less free countries?

Khizr Khan:

So corruption is much more prevalent. Public corruption is much more prevalent in other parts of the world than United States. There are still ombudsman in each department and government. There are still sections of each government agency, which does nothing but observes and monitors that everyone follows the root of law. Public corruption here and there. Human beings by nature are, are tempted some time and we see their prosecution but there are institutional safeguards that are built in democracy, in our system of government. It is not as prevalent as certain other parts of the world have corruption prevalent.

So we are fortunate that those safeguards need to be strengthened, so that it is eliminated. Will we be able to eliminate? No, it’s human nature, but we can minimize it. And the safeguards in the government agencies and public institutions, and public places. Existence of the ombudsman in various agencies is a concept that is worth making more prevalent. And the one important distinction that speaks volume of each country’s strength, system of government’s strength, how much your press is free to report. And that is why the authoritarians, the autocrats, the dictators do not like free press because it reports, it exposes their corruption. So the stronger free press, the stronger the judiciary, less corruption you will find in those countries.

And if you, with a cursory review of all the authoritarians throughout the world, country by country by country, and the democratic countries, if you compare, you will see that the media, the press is much more free in the democratic countries. And they expose the corruption of the authoritarian of the government leaders of the politicians. More frequently, vigorously than those that are in more corrupt countries.

Please give us your perspective on colonialism.

Khizr Khan:

I’m honored that you asked the question. You phrased this question with dignifying me beyond my deserving. But I leave it to America to read their Declaration of Independence, one more time. During these perilous times, read one more time. It spells every injustice that was inflicted upon this country and by the colonist in the colonized world, even up until now. Be it Africa, be it Asia, be it America. Read it.

And that was my falling in love with the United States Constitution when I was second year student in law school, I took a course which did not have the hard bound book. These were the loose materials. I picked them up one afternoon, finishing from college, went to the shop and picked up the materials and brought them home, brought them to the dormitory where I was living, got in the bus and then came to my dormitory.

And I placed the materials on the table in my dorm and was taking my shoes off, my glance from this corner of my eye, I saw the title of the page, which said Declaration of Independence. I thought declaration, that word is curious. And then I looked at the year, 1776, I thought 19, no 17. And then that was enough curiosity. I started to read, I read the entire Declaration of Independence, all of the 1,432 words. Yes, I have counted them by now and half understanding the English at that time, I reread it thereafter.

I was in awe how early America had realized, because as people in subcontinent did not gain their independence up until 1947. 1947, another 200 of years of exploitation by the colonists. So I have no sympathy and no respect of the exploitations. My American Declaration of Independence speaks volume of the unfairness of the injustices count by count all 18 grievances listed in our Declaration of Independence, speak volume of the unfairness the world has been treated, some of the vices that exist.

I don’t mean to forgive the local authorities or politicians that have not been able to repair those vices or deal with those vices. But those have been rooted by, caused by the colonist. I will never, I have tried to find forgiveness. I have tried to find cautious in my heart, but when I see the impact of those injustices in the colonized world, I just, and I see how the colonist prospered by the loot from the colonies.

It revives that spirit of, why didn’t we throw them out as America did in 1776? We could have lived freely longer than what we have. The colonists, pro colonists say, “Well, we build roads. Well, we build hospitals, academic institutions.” And all of this, but you took, you stole the spirit of the people. It is that example, the poem that comes to mind, I will translate it to where the poet says that, after the bird spent so long, so much time in the cage, that when the door of cage was open, the bird has forgotten how to fly. It is that robbery, that loot, that took place by the colonist. And if anybody wants to see the words of the unfairness justice read the Declaration of Independence, and you will see that how fortunate we were to have gained our independence.

Can America be proud as a country that fought colonialism?

Khizr Khan:

Once you read the American Declaration of Independence you begin to appreciate the country, that we have the system of government that we have. Oh, is this the perfect system? No, not at all. But since our independence we have made it better, we are improving it, we will make it better. But it is the best in the world, I have compared it. I have had the opportunity to read the constitutions of the world almost approximately close to 100 now, where I compare to the salient features of the constitutions of other countries and all. I don’t find any constitution, and it’s a challenge to your readers, it’s a challenge to your audience, find me a constitution of the world that embodies those humanities that are enshrined in our institution. A perfect document, no. But among the existing documents, the best.

What were the sources of the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution?

Khizr Khan:

Well, it really is a question for learned philosophers to answer. I can only say what my understanding is that there are some questions that were being discussed, were prevalent in Europe, in Western thought. The period of Enlightenment comes to mind, the issues that were being discussed at that time. There are line of philosophers that people have written about.

All of that put together comes to United States. Our forefathers were very much aware of it. These are learned people, lots of them lawyers, are aware of the post colonized world, what would it require? They have seen the various stages of implementation of enlightenment in Europe, in books, and other sources. They brought that and that’s where the wisdom of our forefathers lies that they were able to debate and put together.

One thing that has really been instructional for me has been the reading of the Federalist Papers and Anti-Federalist Papers. That’s where the history of the Constitutional values and Constitutional norms lies. That it wasn’t that forefathers got up and hammered Article One, Article Two, Article Three. Not at all. It was debate, it was writings, and it was considering the views that are offered in the Anti-Federalist Papers. So it is both.

Here is the history of the framing of the Constitution and these written documents. They very well refer to the various Western philosophers that have explained the ideals and the ideas of the government, of the separation of power, of checks and balances, and how it benefits the human dignity, how it benefits the human beings, why it is necessary. Especially for American experience, because this is a unique system of government that forefathers were enacting, were designing and the concerns were addressed.

But one thing, that even though it was a rowdy group and tribe that existed within the Congress, within the earlier part of the framing of the Constitution, noisy debates and all that. But those were differences of opinion, and considered, and expressed, and listened to. Then, finally, it came together. It is not just one source that I can point to.

Should America assimilate immigrants into citizenship?

Doug Monroe:

I would say that based on reading your book, that you are okay with some degree of assimilation for immigrants, some degree is that fair?

Khizr Khan:

Yes.

Doug Monroe:

So my question is, are you okay with some degree of that and should all Americans possibly take the same oath even if they were born here?

Khizr Khan:

Yes, absolutely. I think it is heartening to… I have looked into, I have inquired from many Americans that have read the oath, that humble citizen, like myself take and what their expression would be if they have to take the oath. And most of them have said that they have never taken oath of citizenship. And I’m trying to see if I can find it. It is somewhere in my collection of citizenship, but yes, I would very much like, as I encourage Americans to read the constitution of United States that… And the declaration of independence, I would very much urge that reading, the oath of citizenship would serve all of us better.

Doug Monroe:

Born again, citizens.

Khizr Khan:

Yeah, yeah.

 Is freedom a universal value?

Khizr Khan:

Yes. I personally feel, and I feel very strongly about that. This is a universal human dignity, I call it, that… And history proves that we have lived centuries of slavery and colonization. It’s another form of slavery and indignities that have come out of it. And, the world thrived and the world prospered when liberty, when freedom, was granted to people. Initial chaos, some of nations are still going through the initial chaos after the liberty, after the freedom, but it’s a basic human right and human dignity as defined by our forefathers in our Declaration of Independence. They were right on spot when they talk about the liberty of human beings and of human spirit.

What are the basic differences between Sunni and Shia Muslims?

Khizr Khan:

For me, there is no difference, personally speaking. Now, that doesn’t answer the question. That doesn’t answer how it exists today in the world. The definition comes from two words. The tradition of Prophet is called Sunna, so those who follow the tradition of Prophet strictly are called Sunnis. They are Sunnis. Shia are from the family of the Prophet. Initially, there were no Sunni, no Shias. After the passing of the Prophet, peace be upon him, a group of leaders said that the leadership the faith shall remain in the family of the Prophet. Others said, “No, the most recognized and popular or accepted person would be the faith leader,” so there’s a conflict now.

The people that followed, they insist that Islam’s leadership should remain in the family of the Prophet, go to the Ali, who was married to Prophet’s daughter, Fatima. That lineage is the custodian of the status of the Prophet and all the dignities that come with it. On the other hand, the Sunni followed the lineage that is the Caliphs and then thereafter. Then philosophically, it is that the Sunnis believe we can stand before God and we are heard. Shias believe that we have to have, for organizational and for faith, organizational purpose, a living imam.

That is what gives the imam in Iran or among Shias that power and authority, that we have to have… It is like status of Pope, that to reach God, you have to have that channel. Even though you pray, you’re straightforward, and there is really little difference of the dogma in the practice, but for Shias, you have to have an imam, a leader that leads the part of faith. And so the role of imam in Shia Islam is very powerful, because they connect directly, that this is the shadow that we must follow.

That lineage has continued, and it is that difference, that even today in political theory, both Shias and Sunnis continue to butt heads or there’s political conflicts in the world based on minor differences, which are highlighted because of the politics and because of the geopolitics of it. Iran is the center of the Shia Islam, and of course, the Saudis and other Muslims are part of the Sunni Islam.

Are Sunni or Shia Muslims more or less democratic?

Doug Monroe:

So it would lead me to believe that part of what you’re saying is, and this is not a precise analogy at all. It’s probably way off, but maybe Sunnis are more democratic, almost like Protestants, and that Shia are less democratic, arguably, and this is the olden days in the west, but like Catholics is there a theme there or is it really today? Are they really the same? The, the counter to that of course is Saudi Arabia is Sunni, but that’s not a democratic country. So that’s why it’s confusing to us a little bit.

Khizr Khan:

No, but there is no per se the Western democracy is something recent on a stage. And Iqbal criticizing the modern democracy, says this is a point of subcontinent philosophical point Iqbal. He says that democratic is a system of government where you count people, you don’t weigh them, meaning you don’t weigh their point of view. You just count whoever has the majority rules, that’s the criticism of Iqbal of the democracy-

Doug Monroe:

By the way, valid criticism.

Khizr Khan:

And that is so true.

Doug Monroe:

It’s so true.

Khizr Khan:

So it doesn’t fit in the Muslim definition of a government, a system of government and all. That’s why there had been conflicts of opinion and conflict of governance, some followed democracy and democratic norms, and some consider it against the spirit of Islam. And so that issue has not been resolved and it continues.

Does the Muslim world need to develop a stronger foundation for freedom?

Khizr Khan:

Oh, yes. Oh, yes. There is so much needed, so very much needed and it will not come from within Muslim world. I assure you. Intellectually or politically, it will not come from within Muslim world. And Professor Bruce Lawrence’s Quran in English gives you an answer that why redefining of certain basic fundamental concepts is so very important for Muslim world to see the light. Without that, it’s not going to happen and it will, the locks are so tight, the chains are so powerful, the minds and the eyes and the thoughts of the people that will, that could make the difference. It’s very difficult. And there are lots of scholars right now that are talking about, to look, redefine certain basic concepts, redefine not the fundamental, but to read it fairly, read the basic concepts of faith fairly, as I mentioned in because of the politics and all of it, that brings me back to Declaration of Independence.

As a Muslim, I look at it from another angle. There had not been any scholar, an author that was so powerful, that was so direct to point to the unfairness, indignities of the human being as Declaration of Independence does. Some of my Muslim friends may get annoyed when I say this, but so be it because centuries and centuries and centuries of dictatorships, kings, and queens and princes and all this, no one has the courage to say, “Enough is enough.” We are declaring our independence up until the Declaration of Independence of United States.

The only state prior to then, I come from state of Virginia, a proud Virginian as well. It was the state of Virginia, which enacted the Religious Freedom Act in Virginia. No other nation in the world. It’s a challenge to your audience. Find me any state which enacted and implemented. I’m not talking about article in a book or drafting and writing a book on a concept of freedom of religion and all that. Show me where it was enacted, made into law. I am a proud Virginian because it’s the first state on the planet earth that enacted, made it law. In practice, if we have failed, that is a different topic, but you don’t find such dignities anywhere in the world, in any literature, in any system of government, but in United States. First Amendment, the forerunner was, of course, the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom and then comes the First Amendment. Show me any Constitution of the world that, and I’m not talking about just on piece of paper, I’m talking about the jurisprudence.

I’ll take you to the library that is full of cases that have handled under First Amendment, one way or the other, whichever way it is, but it has been debated. It has been discussed. It has been implemented. It has been, and it continues even today, forcefully. So, it is such moment that will, that needs to take place. And that in a faith, among people of faith that takes centuries. First Amendment or The Declaration of Independence or U.S. Constitution didn’t happen. It took hundreds of years of people going through of suffering of realizing what is our destiny, where we are headed, thoughtful people, putting their heads together, writing, discussing, suffering. I must pay tribute to those who penned, put their names and their counties and their states on The Declaration of Independence full well, knowing what they were doing, what the consequences would be. It’s that kind of courage is needed to get Muslims out of the slumber that they have fallen. It has not taken. It should have come. Declaration of Independence should have come in the Muslim world, hundreds of year before Declaration of Independence of America.

You don’t see it anywhere. A Statute for Religious Freedom should have come somewhere in one of the Muslim countries, somewhere long before it was enacted in the state of Virginia. So it’s long coming, but there are hopes because I do read some scholars that are working on these matters, trying to enlighten. These are Muslim scholars, and these are current, my contemporaries, meaning that they’re still working, they’re alive, they’re writing, but they’re in such a minority that it will take a really long time before this redefining of the basic concept of the faith are brought to light.

Does Islam have a theological basis for freedom?

Doug Monroe:

I want to ask you a direct question that comes out of what you said, but just given my simple knowledge of this, and I’m sure you know. I’m just stating it, but these debates about freedom became central in Catholicism well before the Protestant revolution and I would also say that, although you can grab all kinds of credit for the West for that, had America not been here and it’s basically like the body and you’ve got a splinter, had that not been there, the world could have past and it may never have been realized for whatever reason. I think it would be very easy for the West still to be having not had this basic insight you’re talking about and so that we would not be as advanced as you seem to be saying we are in some ways.

Doug Monroe:

So it’s just a fickle finger of history to some extent. All right, but here’s my question. You’re telling me, you’ve been telling me in this whole interview that you believe that Islam has it in it, it has the principles there, is that yes or no?

Khizr Khan:

Yes, Islam has in it. And I will cite anecdotal story that is said, but that answers your question.

Doug Monroe:

Yeah.

Khizr Khan:

There is a scholar of Islam that is traveling to study Islam and learn so that he could increase his understanding of Islam. He’s a Muslim and a scholar. He travels to Saudi Arabia and learns and sees and observes, then he goes to Egypt, the center of Islam, and then he comes to United States and he sees, and he observes and he reads and he learns and all that. And then finally, he says, I’m a Muslim. I traveled to learn about Islam to Saudi Arabia, I did not find it there. Then I went to Egypt to learn about it, I did not see it there. Then I came to United States and I found most Islam being practiced in United States.

Doug Monroe:

Very interesting. Okay.

Khizr Khan:

So it is all about uplifting the human dignity.

Doug Monroe:

Yeah. Yeah. It’s…

Khizr Khan:

You cannot open a place of worship in Pakistan other than mosque.

Doug Monroe:

I think it’s there. I’ve read the Quran-

Khizr Khan:

You cannot open a place of worship in Saudi Arabia if you are not a Muslim. Muslims of their choosing, meaning Shias cannot open a place of worship.

Doug Monroe:

Yeah.

Khizr Khan:

Can a Shia or Sunni or Wahabi or any sector Muslim open a place of worship in the United States, in my country? Yes. And they have.

Why freedom a western obsession?

Doug Monroe:

Very interesting. Okay.

Khizr Khan:

So it is all about uplifting the human dignity.

Doug Monroe:

Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I mean, it’s-

Khizr Khan:

You cannot open a place of worship in Pakistan other than Mosque.

Doug Monroe:

I think it’s there. I mean, I’ve read the Quran.

Khizr Khan:

You cannot open a place-

Doug Monroe:

Yeah.

Khizr Khan:

… of worship in Saudi Arabia if you are not a Muslim. Muslims of their choosing, meaning Shia’s cannot open a place of worship.

Doug Monroe:

Yeah.

Khizr Khan:

Can a Shia or Sunni or Wahhabi or any sector Muslim open a place of worship in the United States, in my country? Yes, and they have.

Doug Monroe:

I got to keep my mouth shut.

Khizr Khan:

No, no, no, no, no.

Doug Monroe:

Okay. All right. Well one observation is that, you hear about freedom, an Exodus and all that, and the Jews coming out of Egypt is why freedom is important in the Bible. That’s true, but, here’s the big but. From what I’ve seen in the early Church, right after in the first two or three centuries, this was the problem Christians had, they were in a pagan world where there were many gods and all of a sudden they were taking a monotheism to the rest of the world. And so the pagans, I don’t like that term, but that’s what we call them, were saying, okay, if there’s only one good God, why is there so much evil in the world. When we had many gods-

Khizr Khan:

Sure.

Doug Monroe:

… we had many gods they were just evil gods. And so the early Church fathers had to deal with this notion. And so as a theodicy of freedom, that was the only way they could even start addressing it. And by the time Muhammad came along, that was in the sixth century I believe, that issue had long passed, had been dealt with and they would… Muhammad, you know, it was a revelation, but he also had his own cultural issues.

Khizr Khan:

Sure.

Doug Monroe:

Sure different issues.

Khizr Khan:

Sure.

Doug Monroe:

Simple.

How would you classify yourself from a political point of view?

Khizr Khan:

Well, I’m an American. I’m a patriate American, and I’m a Virginian, a proud Virginian. These labels confine you… these labels… To answer your question, because you asked the question of a label, I am financial conservative, social liberal, to answer your question. Financially conservative, meaning that I want myself to live within my means and to expand that my state and my country to live within its means, that takes us into the deficits and budgets and all of this. It’s not wise, it’s not prudent for our leadership to not be concerned about our deficits. It’s integral part of our prosperity, our health, our strong nation and social justice.

It’s the well-being of the citizen that all of our expenditures should reflect. Meaning that our tax system, its distribution in the copy that I have written, the book that I’ve written, I have included because I ask that question to lots of students, senior and junior and lots of citizens. “Do you know the distribution of your budget?” Most Americans are not aware of it, how it is distributed. And then I ask them, “Do you know you get that every year in the mail?” And most people are startled when I ask them that. “When do you?”… Well when you get that tax booklet, look at last page of it, there is a big pie. It says so much money on this section, this section, all of your money is designed and defined how it is being spent.

Take a look at it, how much we are spending to take care of the deficit. That will discourage you. You will tell your politician, “I don’t want to borrow any more money, I don’t want to see so much going, so little going to my healthcare and my social security and so much going to take care of the deficit.” It is lack of education. It is lack of awareness. So to re-answer your question, I am fiscal conservative. I am social liberal.

Would you prefer a balanced federal budget?

Doug Monroe:

So I would say you would be in some sort of amazing world. You would prefer a balanced budget, but that’s kind of what I’m hearing.

Khizr Khan:

Yes, yes. It is absolutely necessary. Balanced budget is you’ll say, well, who has done it recently? Yeah, it was done a few years ago. It was done. The budget was balanced and we survived and we moved forward and it could still be done if we are disciplined, if we are so.

Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the Middle East?

Khizr Khan:

I am pessimistic. The reason is that the current leadership in the Middle East has not realized the bad circumstances and situation that they have put their people because of self-interest and nobody is willing to give. America’s unwise leadership has played a role in destabilizing Middle East. War on Iraq. I had been opponent of the war in Iraq. My son went, fought for American values, for America and died in Iraq. But I had been before him going and him serving, I had been against the invasion of Iraq. It was unwise. It did not serve the country’s interest. It rather harmed us. There had been other ways to protect American interests. So America has its own role to play in the destabilization of Middle East. So I do not see in near future any better condition in Middle East.

Are you optimistic or pessimistic about America?

Khizr Khan:

I am very optimistic.

Doug Monroe:

Over the next 20 years let’s say, not this election or anything like that. How do you feel about America?

Khizr Khan:

Sorry to interrupt your question, but I’m in such a hurry to answer you this particular question, because it requires urgent to commands of this hope and to all of your audience and those who are interested in the history of United States of America, we have been in the worse situation before we have come out stronger. As I said earlier, at the end of second world war, the first half of the last century, the world was destroyed it laid destructed. International institution were destroyed and abandoned.

And then America took the leadership and said, “We will build.” It was the only nation in the world that said, “”We will build Japan, we will build South Korea, we will build Germany, we will build Europe,'” and America did. And the second half of the last century, the most prosperity never ever before any nation of the world has experienced the prosperity stability, democratic institutions, prevailed prospered. And here we are today. And I have felt, I have seen, I have experienced the American spirit. America will prevail.

We face very serious challenges to our existence, to our democracy, to our institutions. But I know the American experience, I know the American spirit which will prevail. American constitution, American democracy, American values live in the hearts of Americans. I have experienced that. We have received a letter that I want to quickly mention a letter that came from West coast written to us saying, “I am a paralyzed person. I wanted to go and see the Statue of Liberty, but because of my paralysis, I could not travel.” She said, “Mr. and Mrs. Khan, when you brought the constitution out of your pocket at the convention, my lifelong dream was fulfilled that there are others that love this Constitution as much as I do.” It is such Americans, their spirit, their love of this Constitution, this system of government, this beacon of hope for the rest of the world will prevail.

Doug Monroe:

Thank you very much. It’s been such a pleasure.

Khizr Khan:

Thank you.

Doug Monroe:

I don’t even… wow. Top that one guys.

The American and PC Public Square’s Mission

Khizr Khan:

Freedom of speech is a great privilege, and it’s also a great responsibility. We must respect each other’s right to speak freely, especially when we strongly disagree. Bullies tend to shout down their opponents. Those who love our Constitution, listen to other views carefully, consider them seriously, and then add their voices to the debate. Differences of opinion are essential to a healthy society. No one has all the right answers. No one has all the wrong ones. We cannot learn from one another, unless we know how to listen respectfully to what other person has to say.

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Overview

Khizr Khan

Khizr Khan is an attorney with KM Khan Law and was recently commissioned by President Biden to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. He was born in Pakistan, where he grew up as the oldest of ten children and graduated from the University of Punjab with an LL.B. Praxis Circle interviewed Mr. Khan because of his fascinating life journey from Pakistan to America, his deep devotion to the founding principles of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, and his interests in reconciliation between Muslims and Christians, in part, through a joint vision of freedom.    
Transcript

Rumi’s Wonderful Dream

Khizr Khan:

This is something really, really, as I said, when I finish reading Holy Quran and Holy Bible, both Old Testament and New Testament and the Gita and all other holy books, then I resort to this. That’s where my peace lies. And Rumi says, “Out beyond the world of right and wrong, there is a field. I’ll see you there.”

How do you think about worldview?

Khizr Khan:

Well, thank you for asking that question. Thank you for this opportunity. And thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts. Like any other human being., I am a humble, ordinary person, ordinary citizen, of this blessed nation. So my response to the question of worldview is surrounded, is engulfed, is wrapped, with my own personal life and experience. My lens is tainted by own life’s experience, how I saw the world, and how I see the world. And to me, whatever humble and very pedestrian definition of world view it may be, I cannot give you an answer of worldview in a very high level, intellectual thought or words.

My view had been, my worldview had been, the struggle of uplifting human beings, in different parts of the world, in different parts of humanity. We are all as mankind, we all one group of people moving forward, wanting to move forward, moving forward. Some of us are way ahead of the pack. Some of us are way behind the pack, but we are all moving. That is my perspective. That is my view of mankind. That is my view. That is how I see the world. That is how I have seen the world and I have lived the world and I continue to live in that world that is moving forward. And those who are way ahead of the rest of the mankind become the candle bearers. And candle bearers do not stand on the sideline. They do not stand, they do not come in the back. They are always front and center of this. And that is my worldview.

What worldview were you born into?

Khizr Khan:

Well, I was born in post-colonial era of the subcontinent. Subcontinent India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and that whole region had just gained its independence in 1947. I am a post-colonial era generation.

I opened my eyes to this struggle of trying to gain freedom, post-freedom, the chaos of establishing ourselves as independent nation with very little resource, large populations. Not then, but now I can relate to how America has felt since its independence, how American forefathers must have felt about the nation, about the country. So I was born in that, and that has shaped my perspective of life, my perspective of humanity, of the world. What took place during the colonization, what took place post-colonization, that is what has shaped my perspective and my view of the world.

Who has most shaped who you are?

Khizr Khan:

Well yes my grandparents they raised me, they taught me some basic human values by giving me education, giving me and my siblings. My siblings, I say this is out of gratitude because I was the privileged one. Whenever there was less food, I was given sufficient from their share so that I could continue to move forward. So they have been my anchor and my source of strength and source of forming. My teachers, I have had great teachers that focused on teaching us value. From early childhood my grandfather I remember every evening I used to crave for the night fall so that my grandfather would come to my bedside, sit with me and will tell me a story. And those stories came from ancient Persian literature that he was fluent in reading and that is how I got acquainted to Rumi, and my grandfather had a wonderful way of sharing these stories by making it so personal for me to be involved, that I would wonder all night about this story.

One story that comes to mind that he asked me that really, really has left an imprint on my being and that story was, one night he came and he asked me, “Where does God live?” And I haven’t seen… I think I was 10 years or 12 years old. Having seen people raise their hands when they pray. I thought maybe he lives up in the sky and he said, “If that was the case, the birds that fly would’ve found him.” So I said, “Okay, then he must live in the mountains because that’s where people look up to God.” And he said, “No. If God lived in the mountains, then the mountain dwellers would have found him.” I said, “My God, I need to give him the right answer.”

I thought that because God is such a big thing in everybody’s life that I have seen so far, he must live in oceans. That’s the largest thing I knew and he said, “No, it’s not in oceans. Otherwise, all the fish would have found God.” And so I said, “I give up, tell me where does he live?” He said, “I’ll tell you tomorrow. Think some more about it.” And all night long, that’s all I could think. Next night couldn’t come soon enough and he comes and he said, “Have you thought, did you find where God lives?” I said, “I have thought of it all night and all day, even in school I kept thinking of that question.”

He holds my hand, he says, “Open your finger.” I open my finger and he tilts it back towards my heart and he placed it here. He didn’t put it here, he put it here. He said, “That’s where God lives.” He said, “Remember always for everyone, that’s where God lives.” And I have had such a blessed childhood. We did not have running water, we did not have electricity, modest home but it was rich with the human values, training, teachings that had stayed, that had left such an imprint on my life that I have tried to convey to my children and to whoever I could share this with that, that’s where the answer to all of this chaos in the world lies. That if you could see the presence of God in each other, we will treat each other with that dignity and people ask me as a Muslim, “What is your perspective of all this chaos?”

I cite to them the verse from the Holy Quran which says, “I have created human being in my image.” Bible has similar verse in it as well, other holy books also say that there is a reflection of God in every human being. If we could remember this, lots of this chaos in the world would have no room to continue and prosper and harm all of us. That was my childhood, that was my early upbringing and those are my heroes, my teachers, my grandparents, my siblings that gave me the… where I am today.

Are all humans worshiping the same God?

Khizr Khan:

Well, there is a human desire to connect with the origin, with the source. Judaism, Christianity, Islam and other faiths are recent arrival, in those words, in those concepts, in the history of mankind. Humankind has lived millions of years.

And so there is innate desire to connect with our spirit. We are two beings, physical being and a spiritual being. And that desire takes us into different directions depending on where we are born and what culture we are born, what circumstances we live, we grow. That directs our search for our spiritual being, for our spirit to connect.

And that has taken us in different directions. But it is an answer to that search for the truth, search for the beings, the spiritual being, search for our better half, our other half that I call our spiritual being. That takes us in various directions.

And I don’t want to be excluded from my faith. I strongly believe personally that the God that monotheists believe is the creator of the universe, is the Creator. But same teaching teaches me not to consider those who do not believe in the same Creator as I do any less.

They have the same place in the eyes of my God. I cannot see them any less that you are wrong I am right. That concept doesn’t exist in my vocabulary, in my thinking. Therefore, I give this cowardly answer that all human beings, all beings have a value and they practice and they believe what their circumstances have brought to them. And neither one is wrong. I don’t know whether I answered your question to an extent.

Doug Monroe:

No. You answered it very well. I don’t want to put words on your mouth but I want to ask a follow-up question a little bit because it relates to some of the other interviews that you won’t be familiar with. But we’re looking at this issue-

Humans are on a spiritual journey; no?

Khizr Khan:

I agree, as I mentioned, that it is human nature, seeking. We are trying to connect with our creator in different forms, whichever way it has been defined by our circumstances, by our education, training, culture, family, and whatever. We are trying to find, and that search for finding, as my favorite poet, Rumi, says that all this struggle is the struggle of journey, there is no destination. As long as we walk on that journey, knowing that this is what life is. Don’t look for destination, it’s the journey that we are all involved in and we are all seeking. There is room for everyone to move in the direction of seeking answer to that.

So it is not a comprehensive answer to your wonderful question, but I again come back to that simple-minded thinking and simple-minded approach to the questions of life and question of who is right or wrong. I don’t give myself that authority or that… or even my faith does not, to my understanding, even my own faith does not give me that authority to declare someone not being of equal dignity, and of being equal respect and equal place in this journey of life.

Where did you get your good philosophy about work? Work is worship.

Doug Monroe:

One of the things that struck me, and I just love this I have to show my bias about the biography was, and I think this is really lost in a lot of Christianity, that I hear in church, and have heard all my life, the importance of work. Working, working. That was clearly, and I cite here, “Chop wood, carry water, getting paycheck for the family,” not worrying too much about whether it was… Here’s the question, what is your philosophy about work and where did you get it? Where did you get that good philosophy about work?

Khizr Khan:

Well, I don’t know about good or not, it’s a humble way of thinking and seeing. I grew up with this environment in my family, in my parents’ home, my grandparents’ home, that those who manage the home inside the home, that’s where the status of women, it was embossed in my heart and in my mind, was those who care for the family’s wellbeing are constantly involved and busy with worship. Every aspect of is part of worship and meaning that in the house, our ladies are responsible for the food, preparation of food, serving of the food, bringing the food to the table. And another aspects of… That is worship. And those who go out to earn living, regardless of as long as it is legal by the laws of the society, that is a worship as well.

That is the teaching of my faith to me. And I have always remembered there is nothing that is beyond my dignity, or beyond my status, or beyond my thinking that, “Oh, I am so and so, why would I do this, or doing this is of lesser status.” Not at all. To me, a street sweeper is as dignified as the world class lawyer of a large law firm. They both are busy doing something that is, in the eyes of my creator, is equally dignified. And so, these concepts were taught earlier. I saw them in practice in our homes. Not in those words.

These became crystallized in my mind when I was able to be out of that environment and then was able to have a moment to think where it comes from and what it really is all about that the dignity of work. Be it cooking in the kitchen or presiding the Supreme Court. The dignity of work is something that comes being a human being that is. And when I say human being, I don’t mean to exclude other beings as well because to me, as my life has moved on, I have begin to see the value of all beings in my life, all beings. And therefore, I grant every being the same dignity as I grant myself. And so, that concept of work paycheck and all this, these are humble and simple words, but it is all dignity of work.

Doug on Working and “Patriarchy” 

Doug Monroe:

I highly recommend to you all the book and if you hadn’t read it and somehow, and this isn’t a question, it’s a statement. We’ll move to the next question. But just the basics of living within your means, okay? Every step of the way, that’s what you did. Whatever it took, we’re going to live within our means, but we’re have hope and go forward. But the key is to be content where you are, live within your means and just keep doing it. It’s just beautiful lesson. Okay, that’s the perfect lead in to this, I don’t love this question, but I have to ask it and I don’t hate this word either. I’ll tell you what I think about this word when we’re walking to the car. But anyway, Americans think Muslim societies are patriarchies, okay? Are they? How would you answer that question? What can we learn from that as Americans? Because I think we have more to learn, really from you all. Personally, that shows my cards, than we can teach you.

Are Muslim societies “patriarchies”?

Khizr Khan:

Thank you for asking this wonderful question. It requires a little explanation and I would urge your audience and your readers for their indulgence. Most of Islam is defined by the cultures that it started, it prevails, or it prospered or even today. You go to the Arab world, mostly because it initiated from the Arab world it has an imprint of Arabic culture. For example, I give you just a very basic example. Because we are taught as Muslims there are two sources of your faith: one is the Holy Quran book and the tradition of the prophet, peace be upon him, who lived after the proclamation of Islam, 23 years. He had one daughter but he had all together four daughters and four children and one daughter lived, Fatima.

Ali his uncle’s son wanted to marry Fatima. Now this is taking place in Arab culture 1400 years ago. He comes to prophet and expresses his interest in marrying his daughter. And that is how I drive the lessons of my faith. The prophet didn’t say to him, “Fine, I will marry her or she will marry you,” or makes the decision. He said, “Fine. Thank you.” He immediately goes to his daughter and tells her, “Ali has asked to marry you.” In that transaction lies the answer of the status of women for Muslims. In that one gesture of prophet, going to the daughter, granting her the dignity of decision. Ask any Muslim. Do they practice that in their families? Majority of Muslims don’t. And that is what the world sees. That is what the world has become to know about Islam, the cultures that have placed the imprint of that culture on, on Islam. And she honors him by saying that, “I would be honored if you would approve of this decision.” And he approves. And then she’s married.

In that transaction by the prophet of Islam, we were taught, Muslims were taught to practice that dignity of consulting, consent, status. But Muslim world has not really learned those basic precepts, basic concepts and for that reason, I don’t blame America or Westerners to misunderstand. Because they want to see, “Well, so you talk about this, where is it practiced?” Well some of us do practice still. When I met Ghazala I met in a university environment. I didn’t go to her or to her parents and say, I want to marry her, respecting the culture, respecting granting the dignity and the respect to her family and to my family. I expressed that interest to my family. They then went and contacted Ghazala’s family and then this whole marriage matter was resolved was concluded.

What I mean to say that there are individual examples.I only could cite my own, but I know there are wonderful Muslims that practice their faith with clear understanding, but not as majority. So this misunderstanding about Islam, for the most part, the blame lies with Muslims, not reflecting the true spirit of Islam, the true meaning of the faith. This may be a right time, I’m recently reading a book and this has become my near future project. And the book is called “The Covenants Of The Prophet Muhammad With The Christians Of The World.”

“The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World”

Khizr Khan:

In 2016, Muslim majority countries realized the mistreatment of Christians and non-Muslims in their majority countries, they came together. These are the governments of the Muslim majority countries, and they passed a resolution, this was in January 2016 in Marrakesh. It is called Declaration of Marrakesh, and Muslim majority countries agreed that we will endeavor to make sure that our laws reflect that unfairness, that unfair treatment of non-Muslims in the Muslim majority countries.

And if you read the covenants of prophet Muhammad with the Christians, with Jews, with Zoroastrians, with other faiths, it is clearly said that they all have equal dignity of faith. And I looked at every page and every corner, maybe there was an expiration date for that covenant, and there is none, it applies even today in Muslim countries. It will be to my peril if I spoke too loudly about this in Muslim majority countries, as a Muslim I know this, it’s only in America that I can talk about this, it will be perilous, it will be difficult for me to speak so clearly, that there is no expiration date.

And there is so much that has not been openly talked about, the authors are writing, the Muslim scholars have just begin to raise their voice, that this ignorance has given Islam a bad name. 3000 terrorists define Islam to the rest of the world, they don’t speak for me, they don’t speak for 1.5 billion Muslims in the world, but they have become the face, they had become the face, since we started to talk, since I spoke, since others have started to speak, they don’t define us, that is not what the faith says.

My faith teaches me, it’s the saying of the prophet, that the ink of any scholar is more sacred than the blood of a martyr, that is my faith, ink of the scholar is more sacred than the blood of a martyr, that defines these terrorists that have been victimizing Muslims. In 2017, 30,000 victims of the terrorist acts, terrorism acts were Muslims, women, children, mosques, innocent people. They don’t define us, but that has become the focus of the non-Muslim world, I don’t blame the non-Muslim world because there are fair people and there are unfair people, they want to take that issue and turn it into…to pull it, size it and make too much out of it, but that is, the responsibility lies with Muslims, to define themselves, to be known.

There is an example of the prophet that whenever Muslims, during his lifetime, would travel to other parts of the world, and they would come to him, that we are going to such and such country or such and such place, long distance. How do you want us to preach Islam? And he used to get annoyed at that by saying, what do you mean preach Islam, just go and live, be part of that community, let them see how Muslims live, who Muslims are, and they will ask, then you tell them what your faith is, you don’t go and preach.

Look at the practice of Muslim world, how we are treating one another, how we are treating various sects and all that, there was no…there is no sect in Islam, this is all political creation, this is all for political and real estate issue, not issue of faith, not issue of Islam. Sorry for…

Doug Monroe:

So, I have so many things I could say or follow up with, but…

Khizr Khan:

Sorry to disturb.

Doug Monroe:

Just in agreement with what you say, and I know with Christianity, there are many insights that people have lost, they lose because of culture and because of the thrust of politics, or whatever it is, and it’s just something humans deal with, but those that are law abiding citizens, that tend to be quiet and just go do their jobs, deal with their families, they need to speak out more in these times.

Is family the foundation of civilization?

Doug Monroe:

Is family a foundation of civilization, are there alternatives and the role of respecting your elders? Obviously you honor that. And I think it’s important personally.

Khizr Khan:

Yeah. For me, family is the foundation of every human being. We are born as humans. We are born to a family. It could be just the mother, a single mother gives a birth to a child and the family is formed. So to not have the utmost respect and dignity for the person that gave you birth, carried you for nine months prior to birth is negation of the self. And that extends, then to father and then extended family and all this. To me, it has been the foundation. And yes, you’re right, that we are youth-centric society. There’s nothing wrong with being youth-centric. It’s an acknowledgement of the vigor and it’s an acknowledgement of the forward block of this humanity moving in that direction because of the strength and the power of ideas, mind, and physical being. But I must share, I have observed very quietly the importance of the family during these difficult times of COVID-19. I have had the unfortunate occasion of seeing two close family friends pass away.

The very last moment their desire and their wish and their utmost begging was, “Can I see my family?” It’s deep down in every person’s heart and soul to have that connection of family. Some of us are fortunate to have it realized. Some fail to understand in the last few moments of life, years, or months, or days or hours, we care. You must have seen in the media, you must have seen in the newspapers and television, when one member of the family is ill and sick on deathbed and is secluded, is extending the hand towards the family, that speaks volume of this human nature, human desire, human need for family. Extending the hand through the glass cannot touch them, through the glass they’re touching one another. This defines the place of family. Family doesn’t mean like my extended family, family could be just the child and the parent, child or the mother, child or the father or siblings, whoever is part of that connection, human connection.

So it is human nature and youth-centric is wonderful. I always think of when we call ourselves youth-centric, that when the difficulty descends on us, we run to our parents and we seek shelter with them, or in their home, or them. This is a very basic human need or human instinct to have family that has raised us, given us the strength when we could not help ourselves and to be grateful for that moment of life.

Some of us are appreciative of that and some don’t much care for that. But it is human desire, human nature, and being attracted to youth is, again, it’s built in us. As every human being is more active, stronger, more beautiful during the youthful years. So there is nothing wrong with that being, but when you begin to be youth-centric at the cost of not being respectful to elders as well, they have done their part, they have moved on coming back to the same humanity moving forward. Some of us are ahead and some of us are following, but we all have same and equal dignity and we must keep that in mind, in family relation as well that elders have same dignity and same respect. And in fact, we should show our gratitude. If we do not have elders ourselves, to other elders, we show the gratitude for doing their part, for paving the path for us to move forward.

What are some key differences in courtship between America and Eastern societies?

Khizr Khan:

Well, I speak from my personal experience and observation, I practiced what my culture taught me and I respected those cultural norms. It doesn’t mean I don’t respect the cultural norms of my country now, I respect those cultural norms now. But some of those freedoms that we have are taken little too far, meaning it is at the exclusion of other or at the disrespect of other. For example, I have both sets of families, meaning that nucleus family, father, mother, and children, our eldest son lives not too far from here. He married somebody that he had met at his college.

And later on, they got reacquainted and married and have three children and we respect and we love them. And they’re part of our family, as much as the son that lives with us. That was again, at the preference of Ghazala. She introduced them that this would be a wonderful match if it becomes possible. And then again, we left that decision up to our youngest son to make that decision, because he’s the one who will be living that life. What we think that would be taking these privileges and these cultural norms too far would be when young folks or folks of any time begin into live together for extended period of time. And I don’t mean to condemn, if that is their preference, if that is how they feel comfortable with one another, discovering one another, knowing about one and another. That’s wonderful.

That’s as good as anything. So I don’t mean to condemn anything I’m talking about showing you the differences that would the culture in Pakistan or in some of those societies, some of the Eastern societies would discourage that very much. In subcontinent, that arrangement will be discouraged. And in Western culture, that’s perfectly fine. It’s between two adults. If they wish to live together without forming a martial bond or announcement to the family or to the society that they are spouses, that is their choice. It will not be condemned here, but it will not be positively received in the Eastern culture. So those differences exist.

Other differences? Child birth? Dower?

Khizr Khan:

The childbirth out of wedlock is also very much discouraged in Pakistan, in subcontinent cultures. Whereas here in the current of the culture, it is fine, but it was not encouraged in few years ago. It wasn’t as acceptable as it is. There is then again it is personal choice, personal preference. As men and women begin to gain equal dignity of work, of status in the society, those decisions have to be left to the individuals to make who am I to say, how and why my son or my daughter should live up to my expectations. I can only teach them the preferences and the cultural norms, but it is their decision. It is the decision of dignity, but it’s evolving phenomenon in our cultures here and there.

The things that were considered impossible to be seen in and subcontinent are taking place now, meaning women working alongside men in those cultures. Now it is happening more frequently, more often. Those cultures are a few years behind as Saudi just decided that women could drive up until now women could not drive. As I said again, coming back to that mankind, moving forward, some are way ahead and some are following. But we are moving, we are in that journey of life. We are moving forward. These cultural differences, then the conversation will get into the marriage of these cultural differences, but these differences do exist. And one must be respectful to those differences, as we say, that difference of opinion ought to be respectfully heard and listened to instead of condemning that this is better, or that is not better evolution evolving. We are continuing to move forward in our life. So is our culture and but there are some basic norms and basic needs of human beings that are fulfilled by those cultural norms.

I give you an example. I was doing a case, a pro bono case for a Muslim women getting divorce in United States. And in the Muslim cultures, many Muslim countries, there’s a tradition of marriage being a civil contract. And the concept of dower is mentioned in the civil agreement. And most of the Muslim marriage contracts have that concept of dower and doing that research I found that prior to the social security enactment here in United States, there was a concept of dower as well in United. Only recently we abolished it because now we have social security.

And in that evolution is the wisdom that family needs to have some security if a woman is marrying a man, or if a man is marrying a woman and they have family, there ought to be some social net of security to survive if they separate, if they divorce. The concept of dowery is not only limited to the Muslim part of the world or other part of the world, but invest as well in United States itself, it’s recently that we thought and wisely saw that the Social Security Act will cover such circumstances as well.

Doug’s comments on marriage in America

Doug Monroe:

Excellent. Okay. This will be the last question on the social part of it. Although you’re an American citizen who lived here more than half your adult life, I think that the, let’s say, inside the beltway think-tank people up in DC, they agree you’re the kind of guy that doesn’t want to put your opinion on others, and if it’s okay with you, it’s okay with me, but I think there’s fair agreement that marriage is in trouble in this country.

The reason I say it’s trouble is that the statistics show at least up to now that if you do a couple of things in life, you’re going to be more certainly materially successful, and the first is to get married and stay married. The second is to get a good education, and of course, the third is to work and stay at work, but let’s assume just for the purposes of analysis that marriage is in trouble in this country, or we could do better. What are the reasons for that? It has deteriorated in every statistic very noticeably, with some sectors of the population having 80% of out of wedlock births. The only statistic that has started to improve recently, and it’s been in the last five years, is although young people don’t get married near as much, they don’t get married as early. When they do get married, the divorce rate has dropped a little bit, so that’s good, but marriage is in trouble. Let’s say the claim is marriage is in trouble. Why in the United States is that the case?

Why is marriage in trouble in America?

Khizr Khan:

Your question is beyond my pay grade. I am not expert on social issues or for that purpose on any issues, I’m just honored to have this conversation with you. So I would answer your question at a very pedestrian level is that there is a saying in Hindu culture, and the saying is that marriage is so sacred that it should not be left to children. And not having the protection of family around, not having the protection of the culture, meaning that the culture says no, once married, you must stay married. Happy or not happy, who cares? You must remain married. Marriage is a sacred institution and all that.

So if you remove all those boundaries, all those protections, then it becomes preference of my happiness. Am I happy or not, if I’m not happy, then who cares? Everything else is secondary. So as you remove those protections for the marriage, then of course, there would be some impact of that as we move forward in dignity, in equal dignity of women and men, and less emphasis on what is the foundational basic requirement for any relationship to continue. And I will give you my example in one word answer to your entire question, and that is the spirit of forgiveness.

We have been married 45 years, you think we have not had disagreements? Ooh, we have had our share of disagreements. But those disagreements have lasted only the day, not night. Next morning, when I come down, where is coffee, where is breakfast? Here is breakfast, here is coffee. And what happened this morning and look outside and all this, meaning nothing happened. It doesn’t mean that we have not suffered the disagreement, we have suffered and we have expressed our disagreements and all that.

But then I learned this from Ghazala that she’s first to forgive, first to forget the disagreement. What I’m pointing towards is that these characteristics, I am very weak in that. I am not so solid as she is. She’s quick to forgive and quick to ignore my bad, my weakness. So each member of the marriage has to have some basic foundational characters for it to last. Same thing as with the employment.

People that are employed longest, you will talk to them and you will see one thing that is common among all of them, and that is loyalty. Loyalty to the employer, loyalty to the job. They’re faithful, they’re loyal, they’re working hard. They’re putting their share in all of this or anything. The government service, military service, loyalty, loyalty and faith. But when you remove those factors, those protections from any institution, the institution changes.

That is why the marriage in not only in Western world, but in my observation in East as well, in subcontinent as well, it is not as a strong an institution as it used to be because of the social changes that are taking place. So that is a give and take, you have economic change taking place. Societies are calibrating how to place whom, where and how. And so it is that calibration is taking place, and that is why the institution of marriage, institution of elder parents and all of this is recalibrating. And I am certain, I have a great hope and faith in the human spirit and human nature that it will move in a better direction.

Doug Monroe:

That’s a great answer. And one of I’ve been lucky enough to be married 38 years, you rang some bells for me that are the key and so very wonderful answer. Nice pedestrian movement there.

Is the American dream still alive?

Khizr Khan:

Oh, yes. Very much so. Very much so. Current turmoil not withstanding current, difficulty not withstanding. I am not only an immigrant citizen of United States, I am a patriot, not because it sounds good. Not because it sounds good. It is because I know I have read, I have experienced, I have seen, I have observed the character of this nation, of my blessed nation. It will survive. It will be the United States of post Second World War United States of Marshall Plan. The world because of hate and division saw two world wars in the first half of last century. World was destructive because of those two world wars and differences and hate against each other. The humanity realized that in being together with one another, standing together is the solution.

In the first half, the League of Nations was defeated, which had come together after First World War was destructive was dissolved. We decided that was unwise move, so the United Nation was created under the leadership of United States. European Union, NATO was created because we realized the benefit of standing together against those who do not wish us well, and there are many. Tyrants, authoritarians, there are many. Look at the result of that and that is the reason why I am so hopeful that destination, my nation, my country, will prevail, will survive. Look what happened after we decided, the second half of the last century was the longest prosperity and peaceful time that humankind has ever had. That is the proof of staying together, uniting, joining hands with other nations, with other countries. We have realized that America was made for that purpose. There is a divine wisdom in the role of America, in the role and in the creation of this country. Let’s not take it to injustices unfairness, 13, 14, 15 constitutional amendments that is still remains to be implemented with full faith and credit. That work still needs to be done.

America is vital to the world.

Khizr Khan:

I look back and I say, no, we have been at more perilous times, we have survived, we will survive because majority of this nation knows the goodness of this country, the value of this country, the tradition of this country. As I said, there was no other country. And I ask and I urge the indulgence of your audience, your readers, to look back what role America played in the construction of the world after Second World War, the Marshall Plan.

America was the only nation that said we will rebuild the world. It is that spirit that still lives in us. And with that spirit, we will rebuild, we will rebuild stronger, we will come out this turmoil, this racial injustice and other ailments that prevail in our society today, we will come out of it. These accumulation of frustration about injustice and all is an indication that we have reached a boiling point. We will come out of it successful, we will come out of it stronger, we will come out of it better.

Doug’s comments on discrimination in America

Doug Monroe:

Follow up question, but it’s coming at it from a different angle. And it does relate to today. For example, Maria and I were talking about in the car driving here that the local schools that we went to, my daughter teaches at, my son-in-law, they’re doing a lot of listening now. They’re really trying to, in my opinion, they’re whipping themselves too hard. But in any case, they are doing a great job of listening to those that talk about discrimination, those that need to be listened to that are students and parents and that kind of thing.

So to get to you, in your family, in reading your book, you were very gracious, but I know that you all were discriminated against. You had to have experienced some challenging and sad things and mistreatment. I’d just like for you to comment on that a little bit in any way you would like to. But really, you’re so complimentary of America that I think we don’t deserve it. And so I’d like to know some of the difficult times that you all had and that kind of thing.

Why are you so complimentary toward the U.S.?

Khizr Khan:

Why would I not be complimentary and narrate the facts, what we faced? And we cite in the book, the very first American person I meet is my first boss. And it’s a long story, but it’s in the book. And then we get to Houston and the kids have just arrived and we had rented a $200 apartment and we put the kids, they were tired and put to bed and there’s a knock at the door. And I opened the door and there is a lady standing with two bags in her hand. And she said, “I’m your neighbor, Paulette. I brought some things. I saw that you have small kids and all.” She didn’t ask what country you came from, what religion you have, you look different, what faith, what your name is. It’s pure humanity, kindness in its purest form that we feel towards one another. Same thing.

Ghazala always cites an example of her neighbor. Ghazala was mowing the lawn. She always wears her traditional clothes and the lawn mower, and she was mowing the lawn. Her neighbor came to her and said, “Ghazala why you wear this… These baggy pants and this loose shirt and all?” And the neighbor was wearing a t-shirt and a short, it was summer. And Ghazala said, “How do you feel in your short and in your shirt?” She said, “I feel comfortable.” “Same thing. I feel comfortable in this.

Have you experienced discrimination in America? How bad is the problem?

Khizr Khan:

It has left those imprints of understanding, respect, courtesy to one another. We really, I don’t know it. When you ask the question, I have to think back, what can I cite? There really has not been anything that I can cite. I can say, oh, I’ve been discriminated. I’ve been, I don’t know. I may have to think harder to find something to narrate. There just had not been, I am blessed to have worked. Whatever my share was. I have received that my children blessed to have done whatever they wanted to do. They are doing whatever they wanted to do as a family. Are there prejudices. Yes, there are. I see them. I observe them. I’m a living being, and I see them around me and here and there and all that. But personally, we really have not.

Now, if you want to know that I should have been placed on the front chair, I was placed on the back chair in an event or something. I don’t consider that anything, maybe I deserve to be seated there. That’s why I was placed there. But no, we have not to, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist because sometime people misunderstand. When I speak my personal experience, my family’s experience. People begin to think that I’m saying that it doesn’t exist no. It does exist. And I’ve seen with my own eyes, how much it exists. And it is evident in the press, in the media, at it full volume now, but unfairness prejudices exist. So, and you will ask, well, how do you see it? I see it this way. Have I seen these prejudices only limited to United States? No, I have seen them elsewhere as well. And that is why I cited this governance of prophet Muhammad with Christians.

I have seen these prejudices exist other parts of the world as well. And here, these are more pronounced because of our freedoms, because of it has gotten to a point where the goodness of America cannot stand it anymore. And it has come to a boiling point now and we will deal with it. We will remove it. We will complete the work that we started many years ago when we implemented 13th amendment 16th, 14th, and 15th amendment. But I am fortunate to have not personally or family wise experienced any of prejudices.

Has discrimination in America increased since the 1980’s?

Khizr Khan:

I see certain aspects. I’m aware of these voices in our country, in our society. They have become more visible because of checks and balances that are implemented, meaning that did this illness exist or not? Well, we don’t know whether it exists or not, because there were no tests that were being conducted. Now we know because the tests are being conducted, that these things exist. And the community, the society, the nation has become more conscientious of this. And therefore the reactions are more visible. And so these prejudices existed, and I’m not justifying by saying that I have seen them in other parts of the world as well. And it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be the first one to eradicate all of these prejudices. They’re all must be condemned and must be removed so that we can live more peacefully, in harmony and make better progress.

Do Americans understand how different we are from the rest of the world?

Khizr Khan:

Now I’m speaking country as a whole. No, we don’t because of the vastness of the country, because of the lack of interaction and travel, we don’t, I wish we did. Those who do, would tell you that that has become a must for our future to be more prosperous because the humanity, the world has become so interconnected because of the technology, because of the industry, because of our agriculture, because of how we live nowadays.

Therefore, it is imperative for every American to get to know the world, because that makes us respond better. That makes us deal with our fellow beings better. If we know, if we understand and closing the curtains and closing the doors is not the solution because the things have changed in the last 30 years, last 40, 50 years, we have become much more interconnected.

Something that happens in United States impacts the rest of the world, so is other parts of the world. They have also emerged to some extent emerging as partners in the world affairs, therefore America must see and know. And that is part of the mission that I have in my constitutional literacy project is that this constitution and values that are enshrined define us to the rest of the world. They look up to us for these values. We get to know how these values have impacted them. And that can only happen if we know a little more about the rest of the world.

Are nation states necessary?

Khizr Khan:

Yeah, nation estate is it’s not a derogatory term. It’s a nation estate. All the elements of it are, are necessary for a nation to live. The reason is that I will go to very fundamental faith-based answer to your question. In Quran I am taught as a Muslim that I have created human being in various groups for identification purposes. In that word identification is the nation estate that if we cannot be identified as, you know, some have taken it too far, the nation estate and it’s protections and preferences and prevalence and all of that. I don’t mean to point in that direction, but for identity purpose, nation estate is absolutely necessary so that we can, we can have some, some discipline in life, some rules and regulations, meaning international law, international bodies, international commerce, international between states and the governance of that existence and relationship in our life, so it is absolutely necessary. To me the nation estate doesn’t have any derogatory meaning.

Doug Monroe:

Okay. That’s a surprise. As you know, that’s a surprisingly controversial question today, so. And it’s a legitimate how we think about it. Okay. A follow-up that question would be, I’m going to say you would call that the fundamental unit of organization as of today. Not the only one by any means, there are many.

Do nations need borders?

Khizr Khan:

Yes, of course, of course we definitely need borders. And because otherwise, how would you define state? How would you define group of people without borders? It is… Under the current system we used to have no border states. We had continents and the kingdoms and limitless territories and the modern concept of nation estate with borders and with citizenship, with rules and regulations. That is the foundation of democracy, meaning that the people that live within certain border are the citizen of the country and are participant in the governance of that. So border is absolutely necessary under the current, the way the world exists today. And as coming from a subcontinent I have had some interesting experience about borders.

Doug Monroe:

Which I read, and that was fascinating. I wish I could go into that. Okay. Just to give you an idea of some of the people we’ve interviewed in the last year, we’ve gotten different answers here, okay on all sides. And you’re obviously someone who came through the system and have prospered by coming up through the system, so to speak in the United States, in the citizenship system.

Should citizens have rights non-citizens do not?

Khizr Khan:

I am a very strong believer in the governance of the state affairs by the state itself. Meaning somewhere state says that now looking into our resources, our preferences we will grant certain benefits to the citizens. Certain benefits to non-citizens or non-citizens are not entitled to these benefits or anyone that is within our borders is entitled to all of this. That decision has to come from the state itself and its legislative body. If the Congress decides that everyone is entitled to Medicare, free education and all other things that are needed. Because some smaller countries in Europe have done that they’re successfully practicing that, but a vast country like United States with extreme views on both sides could be… So I defer to the decision of the legislative body. I am a strong believer in the wisdom of the legislative process.

Would Muslims replace the U.S. Constitution with Sharia law?

Khizr Khan:

Simple minded approach to all of this has really, to some extent, has made my life easy because I don’t dwell too much into this. I very strongly believe in section one of 14th Amendment, and that is that equal protection of law. There are some fundamental defect of Sharia, in Sharia, as described today. And now I am talking about the awareness that I have extended to several judges’ courts doing pro bono work on the issue of rights of women is that I believe that to be entitled to the citizenship benefits, right to go out and whatever else, I don’t jump to the financial aspects of it or other benefits and all that. That is part of the package that goes up and down.

Those Americans that have paid social security all of lives, all of a sudden, they see there is a drop in that. The state has taken certain portion of it because of the budgetary adjustments and all that. So that’s a separate, totally separate issue, but sharing what I believe is the defect in what is notoriously known Sharia in United States or in Europe as well, that I will limit myself to United States, an American citizen should be heartened. And I would encourage them to read section one of 14th Amendment, and they will be very much hard on that no Sharia is coming, 51% of… Unless they abolish the Constitution. Then of course, then anything can happen. But without abolishing the Constitution, Sharia has no room.

Give us an example. Here is an example. Sharia says… Now, let me define the current Sharia. Sharia is no one set of rules. Each state, Muslim estate has its own rules and regulations. Pakistan family law says women, unless she reserves the right to divorce, cannot divorce. Men can divorce at any moment whenever he wishes or desires. Is the Sharia treating men and women differently? Yes. Can that be brought into United States? No. 14th Amendment, section one says equal protection of law. Both men and women would be treated equally. Throw that out. So if we want to have that conversation or debate for political reasons, political purposes, to malign a community, to malign their faith and all that, of course we can. And we have done that in some, I call them learn it professionals have conducted themselves totally irresponsibly generate hate and difference and division. Judges under stand that concept very quickly.

Is there one “Sharia law” across Muslim majority countries?

Khizr Khan:

There was a case that I was consulted. And I went in and appeared in Boston, one in Arizona, a family matter. But this was a commercial case in Boston. The person was injured in Saudi Arabia, when she went to perform her inspection services. She hit a swimming pool. She jumped and got injured and all that, and was seriously injured. Came back to United States and sued the owner of the hotel chain in United States. They objected that the site of the accident was Saudi Arabia. The location was there. The owners are there. The laws applied there and the women said that the laws will be of the site of the event.

The lower court then sought advice from various experts. Some said, “Yes, it should go to Saudi Arabia”. My opinion, humble suggestion, was that let’s look at how she will be treated if she went to get this case prosecuted in Saudi Arabia. First, she has to bring male witnesses. Female witnesses will not be heard. Then, certain procedures are not favored in the favor of women. Certain evidence law is not favored, meaning that one woman says, “I saw this person murder this guy. He did it in front of me”. Okay. On the other side, one man says, “I did not see it”. The court will believe the man. Women on the other hand has to bring another witness, meaning two women witnesses are equal to one man witness. And when the judge understood that difference, “So wait a minute, I’m not going to send this case to Saudi Arabia to be decided. It’ll be decided right here”. Meaning that it is the unawareness and that’s, as Muslims, it’s our issue that we have not spoken loudly.

We have not written about this. We have not spoken to enough people so that people are aware that there are safeguards in our own constitution. Either we don’t know our constitution, or we don’t know what Sharia is. So this is all under the umbrella of Sharia happening. Same thing in Arizona, this Egyptian couple that was married for 20 years. The man was a real estate investor and millionaire, divorces his wife of 20 years and gives her $20 because that’s what the marriage agreement said as a dowry.

And she, “Wait a minute”. Her lawyer say, “Not at all, $20 is …” He said, “No, read the marriage agreement”. Marriage had the consideration clause in consideration clause. $20 was given as a gift at the time of signing of that. Therefore, they were presenting that contract of $20 as a prenup agreement to the court. And court was accepting it. Court was saying, “Oh, this is what you decided. This is what you signed. This is what you agreed”, and all that. Up until we got there, and we tried to explain that this is a consideration for the execution of the contract, not a prenup agreement. And so the judge called a recess for 30 minutes and said, “You guys talk. You decide, otherwise I’m going to decide”. And they got the feeling that this is not going to go in our favor. She got $7 million as a settlement, from $20 to $7 million.

We have corrupted these practices. We, Muslims are not doing favor to themselves by not clarifying these abhorrent practices that have existed, not under the name of Sharia, of the name of laws that were left by the colonist. For example, the Zia-ul-Haq takes over in Pakistan. I want to put the Sharia in practice, implemented. All court system will have the Sharia law. So the very first thing is they changed the family law. It used to be the Pakistan Family Law Act of 1826, Islamic Sharia Law of Pakistan of 1978. That’s all changed. The rest underneath. Even today, is exactly the same. So are you going to call that Sharia now? To a person who wishes to exploit that, you’ll say, “Well, yeah. They’re coming. They’re coming”. That is not Sharia Law. If you go with the same concepts to Saudi Arabia, it’s totally different. If you go to Kuwait, it’s totally different. If you go to Egypt, it’s totally different. To Muslim majority countries of Malaysia and Indonesia, totally different, left by the colonist.

I can stand in front of any judge and I can show to the judge, “Your honor, this is not Sharia. Sharia doesn’t say that at all. Sharia means the laws enacted by the local government”. That is Sharia. American legal system, American family law is as Sharia, better Sharia than any other Muslim countries. Section by section, I can prove that. You just change the title of the entire code by calling it Sharia law of family or family Sharia law. It doesn’t make it Sharia. So it’s out of ignorance on both sides. When presented, when shown, then there’s no concern. There’s no fear. People accept the political hooplah.

Doug Monroe:

I haven’t heard it quite explained like that at all. That is fascinating. And I read a whole lot too, so that’s a great explanation.

How do you think about corruption?

Khizr Khan:

You know, in certain parts of the world where I come from, parents always have a jar sitting at the kitchen table with the loose paper notes in it. So their son is going to get some groceries, they will put in his pocket, he said this is for your safe driving. “So wait a minute, why are you putting this money in my pocket?” He said, “Instead of getting a ticket, just pay this to the cop.” And…people do.

Well, corruption is to me something that is a violation of the law, basic concept, the cultural clash, the example of cultural clash… example, I would give you the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of United States. Meaning, in Middle East, for example, in a Muslim country where bribery is forbidden by the teaching of the religion, but receiving gratuity, receiving a thank you money or receiving… for expediting the matter is common practice, and that would be prosecuted in United States. How dare you are paying somebody that… all of that. So cultural differences ought to be adjusted, understood and… But basically to me, corruption is that violation of the basic concept of fairness, that law teaches us the rule of law, the democratic values teach us to treat each other with the… with equal rights and responsibilities, and anyone that interrupts that is committing corruption.

And I was… I’m very much familiar with your frustration about the corruption in United States. But let me share with you how I have seen in certain parts of the world where I have lived, and there are several… It is said to have the loose money in your pocket that when the traffic cop stops, just offer the money quietly and be on your way, and it happens on daily basis. It is not that a religious scholar will not be stopped, it happens too. And that is the easiest way and most practiced, not by everybody, but most practiced way of avoiding delays and hassles and all of this.

How does corruption compare in America to less free countries?

Khizr Khan:

So corruption is much more prevalent. Public corruption is much more prevalent in other parts of the world than United States. There are still ombudsman in each department and government. There are still sections of each government agency, which does nothing but observes and monitors that everyone follows the root of law. Public corruption here and there. Human beings by nature are, are tempted some time and we see their prosecution but there are institutional safeguards that are built in democracy, in our system of government. It is not as prevalent as certain other parts of the world have corruption prevalent.

So we are fortunate that those safeguards need to be strengthened, so that it is eliminated. Will we be able to eliminate? No, it’s human nature, but we can minimize it. And the safeguards in the government agencies and public institutions, and public places. Existence of the ombudsman in various agencies is a concept that is worth making more prevalent. And the one important distinction that speaks volume of each country’s strength, system of government’s strength, how much your press is free to report. And that is why the authoritarians, the autocrats, the dictators do not like free press because it reports, it exposes their corruption. So the stronger free press, the stronger the judiciary, less corruption you will find in those countries.

And if you, with a cursory review of all the authoritarians throughout the world, country by country by country, and the democratic countries, if you compare, you will see that the media, the press is much more free in the democratic countries. And they expose the corruption of the authoritarian of the government leaders of the politicians. More frequently, vigorously than those that are in more corrupt countries.

Please give us your perspective on colonialism.

Khizr Khan:

I’m honored that you asked the question. You phrased this question with dignifying me beyond my deserving. But I leave it to America to read their Declaration of Independence, one more time. During these perilous times, read one more time. It spells every injustice that was inflicted upon this country and by the colonist in the colonized world, even up until now. Be it Africa, be it Asia, be it America. Read it.

And that was my falling in love with the United States Constitution when I was second year student in law school, I took a course which did not have the hard bound book. These were the loose materials. I picked them up one afternoon, finishing from college, went to the shop and picked up the materials and brought them home, brought them to the dormitory where I was living, got in the bus and then came to my dormitory.

And I placed the materials on the table in my dorm and was taking my shoes off, my glance from this corner of my eye, I saw the title of the page, which said Declaration of Independence. I thought declaration, that word is curious. And then I looked at the year, 1776, I thought 19, no 17. And then that was enough curiosity. I started to read, I read the entire Declaration of Independence, all of the 1,432 words. Yes, I have counted them by now and half understanding the English at that time, I reread it thereafter.

I was in awe how early America had realized, because as people in subcontinent did not gain their independence up until 1947. 1947, another 200 of years of exploitation by the colonists. So I have no sympathy and no respect of the exploitations. My American Declaration of Independence speaks volume of the unfairness of the injustices count by count all 18 grievances listed in our Declaration of Independence, speak volume of the unfairness the world has been treated, some of the vices that exist.

I don’t mean to forgive the local authorities or politicians that have not been able to repair those vices or deal with those vices. But those have been rooted by, caused by the colonist. I will never, I have tried to find forgiveness. I have tried to find cautious in my heart, but when I see the impact of those injustices in the colonized world, I just, and I see how the colonist prospered by the loot from the colonies.

It revives that spirit of, why didn’t we throw them out as America did in 1776? We could have lived freely longer than what we have. The colonists, pro colonists say, “Well, we build roads. Well, we build hospitals, academic institutions.” And all of this, but you took, you stole the spirit of the people. It is that example, the poem that comes to mind, I will translate it to where the poet says that, after the bird spent so long, so much time in the cage, that when the door of cage was open, the bird has forgotten how to fly. It is that robbery, that loot, that took place by the colonist. And if anybody wants to see the words of the unfairness justice read the Declaration of Independence, and you will see that how fortunate we were to have gained our independence.

Can America be proud as a country that fought colonialism?

Khizr Khan:

Once you read the American Declaration of Independence you begin to appreciate the country, that we have the system of government that we have. Oh, is this the perfect system? No, not at all. But since our independence we have made it better, we are improving it, we will make it better. But it is the best in the world, I have compared it. I have had the opportunity to read the constitutions of the world almost approximately close to 100 now, where I compare to the salient features of the constitutions of other countries and all. I don’t find any constitution, and it’s a challenge to your readers, it’s a challenge to your audience, find me a constitution of the world that embodies those humanities that are enshrined in our institution. A perfect document, no. But among the existing documents, the best.

What were the sources of the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution?

Khizr Khan:

Well, it really is a question for learned philosophers to answer. I can only say what my understanding is that there are some questions that were being discussed, were prevalent in Europe, in Western thought. The period of Enlightenment comes to mind, the issues that were being discussed at that time. There are line of philosophers that people have written about.

All of that put together comes to United States. Our forefathers were very much aware of it. These are learned people, lots of them lawyers, are aware of the post colonized world, what would it require? They have seen the various stages of implementation of enlightenment in Europe, in books, and other sources. They brought that and that’s where the wisdom of our forefathers lies that they were able to debate and put together.

One thing that has really been instructional for me has been the reading of the Federalist Papers and Anti-Federalist Papers. That’s where the history of the Constitutional values and Constitutional norms lies. That it wasn’t that forefathers got up and hammered Article One, Article Two, Article Three. Not at all. It was debate, it was writings, and it was considering the views that are offered in the Anti-Federalist Papers. So it is both.

Here is the history of the framing of the Constitution and these written documents. They very well refer to the various Western philosophers that have explained the ideals and the ideas of the government, of the separation of power, of checks and balances, and how it benefits the human dignity, how it benefits the human beings, why it is necessary. Especially for American experience, because this is a unique system of government that forefathers were enacting, were designing and the concerns were addressed.

But one thing, that even though it was a rowdy group and tribe that existed within the Congress, within the earlier part of the framing of the Constitution, noisy debates and all that. But those were differences of opinion, and considered, and expressed, and listened to. Then, finally, it came together. It is not just one source that I can point to.

Should America assimilate immigrants into citizenship?

Doug Monroe:

I would say that based on reading your book, that you are okay with some degree of assimilation for immigrants, some degree is that fair?

Khizr Khan:

Yes.

Doug Monroe:

So my question is, are you okay with some degree of that and should all Americans possibly take the same oath even if they were born here?

Khizr Khan:

Yes, absolutely. I think it is heartening to… I have looked into, I have inquired from many Americans that have read the oath, that humble citizen, like myself take and what their expression would be if they have to take the oath. And most of them have said that they have never taken oath of citizenship. And I’m trying to see if I can find it. It is somewhere in my collection of citizenship, but yes, I would very much like, as I encourage Americans to read the constitution of United States that… And the declaration of independence, I would very much urge that reading, the oath of citizenship would serve all of us better.

Doug Monroe:

Born again, citizens.

Khizr Khan:

Yeah, yeah.

 Is freedom a universal value?

Khizr Khan:

Yes. I personally feel, and I feel very strongly about that. This is a universal human dignity, I call it, that… And history proves that we have lived centuries of slavery and colonization. It’s another form of slavery and indignities that have come out of it. And, the world thrived and the world prospered when liberty, when freedom, was granted to people. Initial chaos, some of nations are still going through the initial chaos after the liberty, after the freedom, but it’s a basic human right and human dignity as defined by our forefathers in our Declaration of Independence. They were right on spot when they talk about the liberty of human beings and of human spirit.

What are the basic differences between Sunni and Shia Muslims?

Khizr Khan:

For me, there is no difference, personally speaking. Now, that doesn’t answer the question. That doesn’t answer how it exists today in the world. The definition comes from two words. The tradition of Prophet is called Sunna, so those who follow the tradition of Prophet strictly are called Sunnis. They are Sunnis. Shia are from the family of the Prophet. Initially, there were no Sunni, no Shias. After the passing of the Prophet, peace be upon him, a group of leaders said that the leadership the faith shall remain in the family of the Prophet. Others said, “No, the most recognized and popular or accepted person would be the faith leader,” so there’s a conflict now.

The people that followed, they insist that Islam’s leadership should remain in the family of the Prophet, go to the Ali, who was married to Prophet’s daughter, Fatima. That lineage is the custodian of the status of the Prophet and all the dignities that come with it. On the other hand, the Sunni followed the lineage that is the Caliphs and then thereafter. Then philosophically, it is that the Sunnis believe we can stand before God and we are heard. Shias believe that we have to have, for organizational and for faith, organizational purpose, a living imam.

That is what gives the imam in Iran or among Shias that power and authority, that we have to have… It is like status of Pope, that to reach God, you have to have that channel. Even though you pray, you’re straightforward, and there is really little difference of the dogma in the practice, but for Shias, you have to have an imam, a leader that leads the part of faith. And so the role of imam in Shia Islam is very powerful, because they connect directly, that this is the shadow that we must follow.

That lineage has continued, and it is that difference, that even today in political theory, both Shias and Sunnis continue to butt heads or there’s political conflicts in the world based on minor differences, which are highlighted because of the politics and because of the geopolitics of it. Iran is the center of the Shia Islam, and of course, the Saudis and other Muslims are part of the Sunni Islam.

Are Sunni or Shia Muslims more or less democratic?

Doug Monroe:

So it would lead me to believe that part of what you’re saying is, and this is not a precise analogy at all. It’s probably way off, but maybe Sunnis are more democratic, almost like Protestants, and that Shia are less democratic, arguably, and this is the olden days in the west, but like Catholics is there a theme there or is it really today? Are they really the same? The, the counter to that of course is Saudi Arabia is Sunni, but that’s not a democratic country. So that’s why it’s confusing to us a little bit.

Khizr Khan:

No, but there is no per se the Western democracy is something recent on a stage. And Iqbal criticizing the modern democracy, says this is a point of subcontinent philosophical point Iqbal. He says that democratic is a system of government where you count people, you don’t weigh them, meaning you don’t weigh their point of view. You just count whoever has the majority rules, that’s the criticism of Iqbal of the democracy-

Doug Monroe:

By the way, valid criticism.

Khizr Khan:

And that is so true.

Doug Monroe:

It’s so true.

Khizr Khan:

So it doesn’t fit in the Muslim definition of a government, a system of government and all. That’s why there had been conflicts of opinion and conflict of governance, some followed democracy and democratic norms, and some consider it against the spirit of Islam. And so that issue has not been resolved and it continues.

Does the Muslim world need to develop a stronger foundation for freedom?

Khizr Khan:

Oh, yes. Oh, yes. There is so much needed, so very much needed and it will not come from within Muslim world. I assure you. Intellectually or politically, it will not come from within Muslim world. And Professor Bruce Lawrence’s Quran in English gives you an answer that why redefining of certain basic fundamental concepts is so very important for Muslim world to see the light. Without that, it’s not going to happen and it will, the locks are so tight, the chains are so powerful, the minds and the eyes and the thoughts of the people that will, that could make the difference. It’s very difficult. And there are lots of scholars right now that are talking about, to look, redefine certain basic concepts, redefine not the fundamental, but to read it fairly, read the basic concepts of faith fairly, as I mentioned in because of the politics and all of it, that brings me back to Declaration of Independence.

As a Muslim, I look at it from another angle. There had not been any scholar, an author that was so powerful, that was so direct to point to the unfairness, indignities of the human being as Declaration of Independence does. Some of my Muslim friends may get annoyed when I say this, but so be it because centuries and centuries and centuries of dictatorships, kings, and queens and princes and all this, no one has the courage to say, “Enough is enough.” We are declaring our independence up until the Declaration of Independence of United States.

The only state prior to then, I come from state of Virginia, a proud Virginian as well. It was the state of Virginia, which enacted the Religious Freedom Act in Virginia. No other nation in the world. It’s a challenge to your audience. Find me any state which enacted and implemented. I’m not talking about article in a book or drafting and writing a book on a concept of freedom of religion and all that. Show me where it was enacted, made into law. I am a proud Virginian because it’s the first state on the planet earth that enacted, made it law. In practice, if we have failed, that is a different topic, but you don’t find such dignities anywhere in the world, in any literature, in any system of government, but in United States. First Amendment, the forerunner was, of course, the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom and then comes the First Amendment. Show me any Constitution of the world that, and I’m not talking about just on piece of paper, I’m talking about the jurisprudence.

I’ll take you to the library that is full of cases that have handled under First Amendment, one way or the other, whichever way it is, but it has been debated. It has been discussed. It has been implemented. It has been, and it continues even today, forcefully. So, it is such moment that will, that needs to take place. And that in a faith, among people of faith that takes centuries. First Amendment or The Declaration of Independence or U.S. Constitution didn’t happen. It took hundreds of years of people going through of suffering of realizing what is our destiny, where we are headed, thoughtful people, putting their heads together, writing, discussing, suffering. I must pay tribute to those who penned, put their names and their counties and their states on The Declaration of Independence full well, knowing what they were doing, what the consequences would be. It’s that kind of courage is needed to get Muslims out of the slumber that they have fallen. It has not taken. It should have come. Declaration of Independence should have come in the Muslim world, hundreds of year before Declaration of Independence of America.

You don’t see it anywhere. A Statute for Religious Freedom should have come somewhere in one of the Muslim countries, somewhere long before it was enacted in the state of Virginia. So it’s long coming, but there are hopes because I do read some scholars that are working on these matters, trying to enlighten. These are Muslim scholars, and these are current, my contemporaries, meaning that they’re still working, they’re alive, they’re writing, but they’re in such a minority that it will take a really long time before this redefining of the basic concept of the faith are brought to light.

Does Islam have a theological basis for freedom?

Doug Monroe:

I want to ask you a direct question that comes out of what you said, but just given my simple knowledge of this, and I’m sure you know. I’m just stating it, but these debates about freedom became central in Catholicism well before the Protestant revolution and I would also say that, although you can grab all kinds of credit for the West for that, had America not been here and it’s basically like the body and you’ve got a splinter, had that not been there, the world could have past and it may never have been realized for whatever reason. I think it would be very easy for the West still to be having not had this basic insight you’re talking about and so that we would not be as advanced as you seem to be saying we are in some ways.

Doug Monroe:

So it’s just a fickle finger of history to some extent. All right, but here’s my question. You’re telling me, you’ve been telling me in this whole interview that you believe that Islam has it in it, it has the principles there, is that yes or no?

Khizr Khan:

Yes, Islam has in it. And I will cite anecdotal story that is said, but that answers your question.

Doug Monroe:

Yeah.

Khizr Khan:

There is a scholar of Islam that is traveling to study Islam and learn so that he could increase his understanding of Islam. He’s a Muslim and a scholar. He travels to Saudi Arabia and learns and sees and observes, then he goes to Egypt, the center of Islam, and then he comes to United States and he sees, and he observes and he reads and he learns and all that. And then finally, he says, I’m a Muslim. I traveled to learn about Islam to Saudi Arabia, I did not find it there. Then I went to Egypt to learn about it, I did not see it there. Then I came to United States and I found most Islam being practiced in United States.

Doug Monroe:

Very interesting. Okay.

Khizr Khan:

So it is all about uplifting the human dignity.

Doug Monroe:

Yeah. Yeah. It’s…

Khizr Khan:

You cannot open a place of worship in Pakistan other than mosque.

Doug Monroe:

I think it’s there. I’ve read the Quran-

Khizr Khan:

You cannot open a place of worship in Saudi Arabia if you are not a Muslim. Muslims of their choosing, meaning Shias cannot open a place of worship.

Doug Monroe:

Yeah.

Khizr Khan:

Can a Shia or Sunni or Wahabi or any sector Muslim open a place of worship in the United States, in my country? Yes. And they have.

Why freedom a western obsession?

Doug Monroe:

Very interesting. Okay.

Khizr Khan:

So it is all about uplifting the human dignity.

Doug Monroe:

Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I mean, it’s-

Khizr Khan:

You cannot open a place of worship in Pakistan other than Mosque.

Doug Monroe:

I think it’s there. I mean, I’ve read the Quran.

Khizr Khan:

You cannot open a place-

Doug Monroe:

Yeah.

Khizr Khan:

… of worship in Saudi Arabia if you are not a Muslim. Muslims of their choosing, meaning Shia’s cannot open a place of worship.

Doug Monroe:

Yeah.

Khizr Khan:

Can a Shia or Sunni or Wahhabi or any sector Muslim open a place of worship in the United States, in my country? Yes, and they have.

Doug Monroe:

I got to keep my mouth shut.

Khizr Khan:

No, no, no, no, no.

Doug Monroe:

Okay. All right. Well one observation is that, you hear about freedom, an Exodus and all that, and the Jews coming out of Egypt is why freedom is important in the Bible. That’s true, but, here’s the big but. From what I’ve seen in the early Church, right after in the first two or three centuries, this was the problem Christians had, they were in a pagan world where there were many gods and all of a sudden they were taking a monotheism to the rest of the world. And so the pagans, I don’t like that term, but that’s what we call them, were saying, okay, if there’s only one good God, why is there so much evil in the world. When we had many gods-

Khizr Khan:

Sure.

Doug Monroe:

… we had many gods they were just evil gods. And so the early Church fathers had to deal with this notion. And so as a theodicy of freedom, that was the only way they could even start addressing it. And by the time Muhammad came along, that was in the sixth century I believe, that issue had long passed, had been dealt with and they would… Muhammad, you know, it was a revelation, but he also had his own cultural issues.

Khizr Khan:

Sure.

Doug Monroe:

Sure different issues.

Khizr Khan:

Sure.

Doug Monroe:

Simple.

How would you classify yourself from a political point of view?

Khizr Khan:

Well, I’m an American. I’m a patriate American, and I’m a Virginian, a proud Virginian. These labels confine you… these labels… To answer your question, because you asked the question of a label, I am financial conservative, social liberal, to answer your question. Financially conservative, meaning that I want myself to live within my means and to expand that my state and my country to live within its means, that takes us into the deficits and budgets and all of this. It’s not wise, it’s not prudent for our leadership to not be concerned about our deficits. It’s integral part of our prosperity, our health, our strong nation and social justice.

It’s the well-being of the citizen that all of our expenditures should reflect. Meaning that our tax system, its distribution in the copy that I have written, the book that I’ve written, I have included because I ask that question to lots of students, senior and junior and lots of citizens. “Do you know the distribution of your budget?” Most Americans are not aware of it, how it is distributed. And then I ask them, “Do you know you get that every year in the mail?” And most people are startled when I ask them that. “When do you?”… Well when you get that tax booklet, look at last page of it, there is a big pie. It says so much money on this section, this section, all of your money is designed and defined how it is being spent.

Take a look at it, how much we are spending to take care of the deficit. That will discourage you. You will tell your politician, “I don’t want to borrow any more money, I don’t want to see so much going, so little going to my healthcare and my social security and so much going to take care of the deficit.” It is lack of education. It is lack of awareness. So to re-answer your question, I am fiscal conservative. I am social liberal.

Would you prefer a balanced federal budget?

Doug Monroe:

So I would say you would be in some sort of amazing world. You would prefer a balanced budget, but that’s kind of what I’m hearing.

Khizr Khan:

Yes, yes. It is absolutely necessary. Balanced budget is you’ll say, well, who has done it recently? Yeah, it was done a few years ago. It was done. The budget was balanced and we survived and we moved forward and it could still be done if we are disciplined, if we are so.

Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the Middle East?

Khizr Khan:

I am pessimistic. The reason is that the current leadership in the Middle East has not realized the bad circumstances and situation that they have put their people because of self-interest and nobody is willing to give. America’s unwise leadership has played a role in destabilizing Middle East. War on Iraq. I had been opponent of the war in Iraq. My son went, fought for American values, for America and died in Iraq. But I had been before him going and him serving, I had been against the invasion of Iraq. It was unwise. It did not serve the country’s interest. It rather harmed us. There had been other ways to protect American interests. So America has its own role to play in the destabilization of Middle East. So I do not see in near future any better condition in Middle East.

Are you optimistic or pessimistic about America?

Khizr Khan:

I am very optimistic.

Doug Monroe:

Over the next 20 years let’s say, not this election or anything like that. How do you feel about America?

Khizr Khan:

Sorry to interrupt your question, but I’m in such a hurry to answer you this particular question, because it requires urgent to commands of this hope and to all of your audience and those who are interested in the history of United States of America, we have been in the worse situation before we have come out stronger. As I said earlier, at the end of second world war, the first half of the last century, the world was destroyed it laid destructed. International institution were destroyed and abandoned.

And then America took the leadership and said, “We will build.” It was the only nation in the world that said, “”We will build Japan, we will build South Korea, we will build Germany, we will build Europe,'” and America did. And the second half of the last century, the most prosperity never ever before any nation of the world has experienced the prosperity stability, democratic institutions, prevailed prospered. And here we are today. And I have felt, I have seen, I have experienced the American spirit. America will prevail.

We face very serious challenges to our existence, to our democracy, to our institutions. But I know the American experience, I know the American spirit which will prevail. American constitution, American democracy, American values live in the hearts of Americans. I have experienced that. We have received a letter that I want to quickly mention a letter that came from West coast written to us saying, “I am a paralyzed person. I wanted to go and see the Statue of Liberty, but because of my paralysis, I could not travel.” She said, “Mr. and Mrs. Khan, when you brought the constitution out of your pocket at the convention, my lifelong dream was fulfilled that there are others that love this Constitution as much as I do.” It is such Americans, their spirit, their love of this Constitution, this system of government, this beacon of hope for the rest of the world will prevail.

Doug Monroe:

Thank you very much. It’s been such a pleasure.

Khizr Khan:

Thank you.

Doug Monroe:

I don’t even… wow. Top that one guys.

The American and PC Public Square’s Mission

Khizr Khan:

Freedom of speech is a great privilege, and it’s also a great responsibility. We must respect each other’s right to speak freely, especially when we strongly disagree. Bullies tend to shout down their opponents. Those who love our Constitution, listen to other views carefully, consider them seriously, and then add their voices to the debate. Differences of opinion are essential to a healthy society. No one has all the right answers. No one has all the wrong ones. We cannot learn from one another, unless we know how to listen respectfully to what other person has to say.

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