Biden to honour Khizr Khan, who lashed out at Trump's 'Muslim ban'

US president to award nation's highest civilian honour to 17 people, including gymnast Simone Biles and football star Megan Rapinoe

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President Joe Biden will present the top civilian honour to Khizr Khan, the Pakistani-American father of a veteran killed in action who criticised Donald Trump over his proposed “Muslim ban”.

He is one of 17 people Mr Biden announced would receive the Medal of Freedom, presented to Americans who have made exemplary contributions to the “prosperity, values, or security of the United States” or other significant endeavours, the White House announced.

Mr Khan's son, US Army Capt Humayun Khan, was killed in Iraq in 2004 while defending his squad from a car bomb attack.

The elder Khan famously appeared at the Democratic National Convention in 2016 alongside his wife, Ghazala Khan, blasting Mr Trump — a candidate for the presidency at the time — over his proposal to limit immigration from Muslim-majority countries.

“Go look at the graves of brave patriots who died defending the United States of America,” Mr Khan said to Mr Trump.

“You will see all faiths, genders and ethnicities. You have sacrificed nothing and no one.”

When asked about his own sacrifices, Mr Trump later said he works “very, very hard” and “created thousands and thousands of jobs”.

In its citation, the White House said Mr Khan is a founder of the Constitution Literacy and National Unity Centre and is “a prominent advocate for the rule of law and religious freedom”.

He also served on the US Commission on International Religious Freedom under Mr Biden.

Created by president John F Kennedy in 1963, the Medal of Freedom is the civilian equivalent of the military's Medal of Honour.

Among the other recipients announced on Friday are actor Denzel Washington, gymnast Simone Biles and the late John McCain, the Arizona Republican with whom Mr Biden served in the US Senate.

“They have overcome significant obstacles to achieve impressive accomplishments in the arts and sciences, dedicated their lives to advocating for the most vulnerable among us and acted with bravery to drive change in their communities — and across the world — while blazing trails for generations to come,” the White House said of the honourees.

The awards will be presented at the White House on July 7, 2022.

Mr Biden himself is a medal recipient. Former president Barack Obama honoured Mr Biden's public service as a long-time US senator and vice president a week before they left office.

From left, Simone Biles, Denzel Washington, Gabby Giffords, Megan Rapinoe, Khizr Khan, Steve Jobs, John McCain and Richard Trumka. AFP

Biles is the most decorated US gymnast in history, winning 32 Olympic and World Championship medals.

McCain, who died of brain cancer in 2018, spent more than five years in captivity in Vietnam while serving in the US Navy.

Washington is a double Oscar-winning actor, director and producer. He is a long-time spokesman for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

Other recipients will include former congresswoman Gabby Giffords of Arizona, who was shot in the head in January 2011 during a constituent event in Tucson and has since become a strong advocate for gun control.

Steve Jobs, the co-founder, chief executive and chair of Apple and the son of a Syrian immigrant will receive the honour posthumously. He died in 2011.

Megan Rapinoe, an Olympic gold medallist, two-time Women's World Cup football champion and advocate for gender pay equality and racial justice, is another athlete that will be honoured.

Diane Nash, a founding member of the Student Nonviolent Co-ordinating Committee, will be honoured for her civil rights campaigns alongside Martin Luther King, Jr and John Lewis.

Updated: July 01, 2022, 7:52 PM
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