By Daniel Burke, CNN Religion Editor
(CNN)The 2016 presidential campaign has not been easy on American Muslims.
Donald Trump, the GOP presidential nominee, has proposed banning immigrants from Muslim-majority countries. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich suggested that Muslims who believe in Shariah should be deported. And former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said Muslims on the federal government’s terrorism watch list — a secretive and some say overly broad list — should be forced to wear electronic bracelets to monitor their whereabouts.
Many American Muslims said they’ve been disappointed by Democrats as well. On Wednesday night, former President Bill Clinton said Muslims who “hate terror and love freedom” should “stay here,” an implication, some said, that Muslims’ citizenship is contingent and temporary.
During one GOP debate late last year, one Muslim said the election is like watching political football — and American Muslims aren’t playing for either team. They’re the football.
So when Khizr Khan, the father of a slain American soldier, took the stage at the Democratic National Convention on Thursday night and shook his copy of the Constitution at Trump, you could almost see the collective fist pump from Muslims across the country.
“I was choking back tears,” said Arsalan Iftikhar, author of the book “Scapegoats: How Islamophobia Helps Our Enemies and Threatens Our Freedoms.”
“At a time when Islamophobia is growing thanks to hateful demagogues like Donald Trump, it was heartening to see the Democratic party give a prime-time slot to the father of a fallen Muslim-American soldier who rhetorically slapped Donald Trump in the face with his pocket-size Constitution.”
Khan, whose son, Army Capt. Humayun Khan, 27, died from a suicide bombing in Baghdad 12 years ago, said Trump’s shifting proposals to ban Muslims from entering the country would have prevented his late son from serving in the military. The Khans, originally from Pakistan, immigrated to the United States in the 1970s from the United Arab Emirates.
“Have you ever been to Arlington Cemetery?” Khan asked Trump. “Go look at the graves of the brave patriots who died defending America — you will see all faiths, genders and ethnicities. You have sacrificed nothing and no one.”
In challenging Trump, Khan was “representing so many American Muslims who endured having sand kicked in our faces for too long,” wrote Shahed Amanullah, a media entrepreneur and former State Department adviser.
“God bless the Khans who said what so many of us want to say,” tweeted Imam Suhaib Webb, a popular Washington, DC cleric with a wide following on social media. “God bless them and their son.”