Becareful if Your Name Is Khan, Islamophobic USA would be watching you

Becareful if Your Name Is Khan, Islamophobic USA would be watching you

NEW DELHI, Aug 17 — Bollywood’s reigning male star Shah Rukh Khan’s most recent movie is called My Name Is Khan.

It details the travails of a moderate Muslim whose life has been affected by the changes in the mindset of freewheeling Americans since they suffered the terrorist strikes of Sept11, 2001.

Three days ago, as he flew into Newark airport en route to Chicago for an Indian Independence Day celebration, Khan got a taste of that experience more real than perhaps even his considerable acting skills could have conjured up.

Alerted apparently by the ‘Khan’ in his name, which suggests his Muslim-Pathan roots, a US immigration official pulled him aside for “secondary questioning” and kept him under virtual detention for nearly two hours.

This took place even as dozens of people at the airport — many of them his fans — offered to vouch for his identity.

Allowed one phone call finally, as is the established procedure for such cases, Khan called his friend, Rajiv Shukla, a Congress party MP.

Things quickly fell into place; the Indian consul-general in New York contacted the airport authorities and the tousle-haired star was free — albeit, shaken and deeply stirred.

“I would never want to come back to the US unless it was absolutely necessary,” he said after he was let go.

The incident has touched a raw nerve in India, coming weeks after it was revealed that former Indian head of state A.P.J. Abdul Kalam was given a humiliating frisking at Delhi International Airport by inflexible airline staff just before he boarded the first-class cabin for a Continental Airlines flight to Newark.

At least one Indian Cabinet minister has called for retaliatory steps against American travellers, and the Indian government said late two days ago that it has taken up the matter with the US Embassy in New Delhi, which is checking what exactly happened.

A spokesman for the US Bureau of Customs and Border Protection was quoted by Associated Press as saying that the Indian star was not detained.

“His documents and papers were…in correct order, but it took a little longer because his bag was lost by the airline,” said Elmer Camacho.

Aside from the outrage over the profiling of Khan, one reason for the furore is that India, which has the world’s second-largest Muslim population, is proud of its syncretic culture and secular orientations.

Post-independence India has removed names such as Canning and Curzon on New Delhi’s boulevards, but retains those named after Mughal Muslim rulers such as Akbar and Aurangzeb.

It also stoutly rejects the so-called ‘Two Nation’ theory which was the ideological basis for the foundation of the Pakistani state — that Indians and Muslim communities constitute ‘two nations’ that cannot co-exist under the same roof. Successive Indian governments have gone to great lengths to show that Muslims have equal opportunities in this predominantly Hindu nation.

Kalam, regarded as the father of the Indian missile programme in his days as a defence scientist, was elected when a Hindu nationalist government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party was in power in New Delhi.

Khan, whose wife is Hindu, is a practising Muslim who has become an iconic figure as much for his stardom as his moderate ways.

Still, for all the noise that the Khan episode raised, India’s majority Hindus also have to face the fact that communal profiling is not unknown even in their own country. Last month, Bollywood actor Emraan Hashmi complained to the Maharashtra State Minorities Commission that he was denied the opportunity to buy an apartment in Mumbai’s posh Pali Hill area because the building society’s management committee probably did not want a Muslim in their midst.

Khan had called his colleague’s experience a “one-off thing”.

“I have never been treated differently (in India) because of my religion,” said the 44 year-old star.

Meanwhile, the Khan fracas has become newly installed US Ambassador Timothy Roemer’s first diplomatic crisis in this country.

“Shah Rukh Khan, the actor and global icon, is a very welcome guest in the United States,” he said in a statement. “Many Americans welcome his films.” — The Straits Times

India outraged over Khan’s US airport ordeal , Malaysia Insider

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