A Bollywood Drama in America: The Detention of Shah Rukh Khan


WAJAHAT ALI

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Shah Rukh Khan, the immensely popular Bollywood actor and one of the most recognizable names on Earth, was subtly reminded despite being the United States’ “very welcome guest,” he nonetheless possesses a suspicious Muslim name which allows his detention and “routine inspection” at a New Jersey airport

After initially complaining of his “anger” and “humiliation” over the 70-minute detention, Shah Rukh Khan wisely downplayed the incident by labeling his “routine security measure” an “unfortunate procedure.” Similarly, Timony Roemer, the U.S. ambassador to India, went into P.R. damage control by assuring Khan’s nearly 3.5 billion fans worldwide that “Many Americans love his films.”

However, Roemer should also disclose that the United States also displays a healthy dose of racial profiling and an exaggerated security screening procedure for its darker and more “ethnic” citizens with “Muslim” last names.

U.S. officials repeatedly deny these examinations are based on race or religion despite the overwhelming statistics proving otherwise. Kevin Corsaro, a spokesman for the Customs and Border Protection division of the Department of Homeland Security, stated they wanted to verify Khan’s identity and purpose of travel.

Instead of ensuring safety, the heightened post 9-11 TSA measures border on inefficiency, ignorance and a violation of civil liberties. Simply using Google would have resulted in 5 million links for Khan. It would have also revealed Khan was in the U.S. to film his new movie, “My Name is Khan,” which is ironically about a Muslim man with Asperger’s falsely detained after 9-11 due to his  “suspicious behavior.”

In a federal inspection of the TSA, agents were able to slip 5 out of 7 fake bombs in luggage past security. Thankfully, TSA was able to spot and confiscate a dangerous water bottle, but not the fake bomb, which was conveniently in the same luggage. It should comfort many Americans that these heightened security measures protect us from a singing and dancing South Asian celebrity prone to melodramatic acting and plastic bottles of H20 instead of potentially fatal weapons.

Also, one can only imagine the American reaction if Brad Pitt was subjected to a “routine inspection” in India to ascertain his intentions and identity. However, the comparison is hardly apt considering Khan’s star power in India is likened to the combination of Pitt, Tom Hanks and Will Smith multiplied tenfold by ten Oprahs reading a book by Deepak Chopra.

In an era where Obama proactively covets the cooperation of the globalized world and seeks to repair the U.S. image, the detention of Khan highlights underlying frictions regarding racially motivated profiling and detentions. The tourism minister of India, Ambika Sonia, reacted harshly suggesting Khan’s treatment  “hurt every Indian” and that “there have been too many instances like these in the U.S. concerning Indians.” Most recently, former Indian president Abdul Kalam was subjected to a humiliating frisk in New Delhi by the ground staff of American airline Continental Airlines.

Thankfully for Khan he was released after placing a call to the Indian Consulate; however, most have not been that lucky.

Irtiza Hasan, a Muslim American, stated Khan’s treatment was not rare and suggested, “This is something we as American Muslims continue to deal with and work with the various agencies.”

Romola Sanyal, an Indian American, criticized Khan’s elite status that affords him preferential treatment excluding him from the harsher interrogation and humiliation that is routinely meted on South Asians and Muslims. Her friend was detained for nearly 2 hours after her official visit to Pakistan, which was planned and coordinated by her employer, the World Bank.

Even internationally renowned singer and peace activist, Yusuf Islam [born Cat Stevens], had his D.C. flight diverted “on national security grounds” to Maine in 2004 after he appeared on the TSA’s “watch list.” Instead of initiating the subsequent international ruckus, perhaps TSA members should have simply watched Yusuf’s “Behind the Scenes” VH1 special instead.

Furthermore, we should not forget Atif Irfan, a Muslim American and a tax lawyer, who was removed from an Air Train flight on New Year’s Day, along with eight family members and a friend, despite being cleared by the FBI. Apparently, paranoid passengers misunderstood the family’s benign conversation regarding the safest place to sit onboard as suspicious behavior characteristic of potential terrorists. Irfan later told me his wife simply did not want to sit next to the foul smelling lavatories.

Pakistan American, Shazia Kamal, was more hopeful suggesting incidents like Khan’s detention can “serve as a mirror for the things that are happening to American Muslims in the domestic sphere.” Thankfully, excellent and skilled non-profit organizations like the Bay Area’s Muslim Advocates offer free information and video tutorials educating all Americans –regardless of faith or race – about their 4th amendment rights and the limits of TSA questioning.

In an optimistic turn towards judicial sanity, federal Judge Ann Montgomery recently ruled the infamous “flying imams” could proceed with their lawsuit against law enforcement officials who wrongly arrested the religious leaders and escorted them off their U.S. Airways flight.  In 2006, the six imams, all of Middle Eastern descent, were accused of suspicious behavior by a couple due to their Arabic and one imam’s request for a longer seatbelt on account of his obesity.

If indeed Americans love Shah Rukh Khan movies, perhaps they’ll enjoy “My Name is Khan” and learn that not every Arabic name or brown skin should raise the color-coded Terror alert.

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20 thoughts on “A Bollywood Drama in America: The Detention of Shah Rukh Khan

  1. Shahrukh
    Khan is not like Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise.Indians know Tom cruise very well and I am sure that there are many die hard fans of Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt in India.On the other hand,SRK is only popular in the Indian subcontinent and maybe in the middle east as well but every Hindi film star is famous in this part of the world.The airport officials were doing their duty.Why should they care for a Hindi film actor?SRK is complete unknown in USA unlike Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt.Hollywood actors are popular in India as well.In other words,Hollywood stars are known in almost every country in the world.Shahrukh khan is not famous in North America and South America.He is also not famous in many European countries.How can he be a global icon?Very few Europeans know him because of their Indian friends.I don’t understand how can this be such a big issue.

    • BS..What nonsence, everyone know’s Shahrukh Khan.
      If Brad Pitt or any American actor travel to India they will be treated nicely, it is in the nature of the people there to treat the Americans nicely. Shahrukh is a very famous actor, what world are you living in..do your research before you made these coments. It would be a issue especially in America. Just think if you were Mr. Khan. I am so sorry that we Americans treated him that way

      • I am sorry but I have done enough research.How can you expect SRK to be world famous?He is not Michael Jackson.Most of my American friends do not know him.This world is very big my friend.Even my Turkish and Italian friends also do not know him.I have done my research.I am not a foolish person who will post anything without doing research.How can you expect every European or American to know him?He is just an ordinary person in America.He will have to work in Hollywood in order to become famous in America.Therefore,the airport officials were doing their duty.He is actually not a true global icon like Michael Jackson was.

  2. Sharukh khan hat über eine Milliarde Fans. Seine Filme werden weltweit gesehen und seine Fans pilgern zu jedem seiner Auftritte. Der neue globale Superstar ist kein weißer Popstar aus Amerika, sondern ein indischer Moslem: Der Bollywood-Schauspieler Shah Rukh Khan.

    Deutschland im Herbst 2008: Der indische Bollywood-Superstar Shah Rukh Khan, von seinen Anhängern nur als „King Khan“ tituliert, hat sich für drei Musikshows angesagt. Die 10.000 Tickets sind binnen weniger Stunden weg. Fans reisen aus ganz Europa an, um den King live erleben zu können. Vergeblich. Drei Tage vor Tourbeginn werden die Musikrevuen in München, Berlin und Frankfurt grundlos abgesagt. Die Veranstalter streiten um die Schuldfrage; erboste Anhänger wollen ihr Geld zurück. Und King Khan schickt einfach via YouTube eine nichts sagende Entschuldigung.

    • I don’t want to be Mr. Khan.If I want to be famous,I would rather like to be famous as Michael Jackson.He will always be special.SRK’S ego was shattered as he wants to be famous all over the world.He can be world famous but for that he will have to work in Hollywood.He is old now…a middle aged man..his time is gone…I know you are a die hard SRK fan but please..try to be objective in your outlook.Please do not bring emotions in between.I am not saying anything against SRK.He is a good human being but he still has a long way to go become a true global icon.Actually,Hollywood is the no.1 film industry in the world and therefore their stars are world famous.He will have to work in American movies to become globally famous.If he becomes successful in Hollywood,every American and European will become his fan and then nobody will detain him for so long.

      • put emotions aside. sorry but it is ignorant people like you (Arindam Phukan) that dont know the true power of asian countries. And why do you keep harpin on about those TSA doin their jobs. many statistics and investigations have pointed out and proved that these security checks are mostly set out on minorities or any peson those idiots suspect to be muslim terrorists. your the one who is being bias love by writin all these comparison comments about shahrukh and other hollywood actors. srk has been names one of the 50 most powerful men in the world so have respect. srk kas no ego for your information, and is well respected and loved by many, so get ur facts straight. and ou really are an ignorant tw@ if u think that he needs to be known in hollywood to get international recognition. there has been a survey that has been carried out which says that around the world about 2 billion people know who tom cruise is whereas over 3 billion know srk.

  3. HI, SHAH RUKH I AM MOMEN FROM BANGLADESH. I LOVE U SO MUCH THAT I CAN’T SAY U IN A SPEECH. I LIKE UR MOVIES SO MUCH. I SAW UR FILM ABOUT 20 TO 30. IF U PLEASE CONTACT WITH ME. IT WILL BE GREAT PLEASUR FOR ME. I WILL NEVER FORGET IT. ALLAH HAFEJ……..

  4. what the hell? if srk is unknown to usa then why his popularity in usa is more than any other indian actor
    i am not satisfied with mr.arindam phukan what do you know about him?
    if you dont then please be quite?

  5. I do not want to know a person who had been stopped by US airport officials.I know about Barack Obama.He is the world’s most famous as well as the world’s most powerful man at present.SRK is famous only South Asians in America.I have many friends from Europe and America and when I ask them about SRK,they ask me”What is that”..so tell them to keep quite my friend…

    • nobody takes ur comments seriously coz everyone can tell ur a hater. all ur comments are baseless and bias. so i say shut ur trap. srk is the king of bollywood and known all around the world. n who cares if u asked ur friends, who for all we know may only be about 1-5 friends. bet u dont have many friends coz if u talk this kinda shit wid ya friend then mate im sorry to tell ya know ones gonnas want to be your mate. find wot im sayin to be harsh, well tough shit.

  6. I mean SRK is famous among South Asians in the United States of America and maybe among some people from the Middle Eastern countries..but that’s it.The Americans and even Europeans do not care about SRK.They have their own world my friend.Please try to analyze everything in a logical manner.

    • Mr arindam phukan
      i want to know how to do survey most populer actors in the world(country by country) ……
      pls give any survey website ….
      gihan

    • for your informations many europeans do know about him. do ur bloody research. n from the likes of the shit ur talkin about like all the crap about his lengths of recognition it seems you’ve been livin in a deserted island with no technology or people to talk to. by the way i really doubt you have friends at all.

  7. Never heard of him before, not sure what the big fuss is all about. I can’t say I blame TSA agents, their mission is not to roll the red carpet but to keep the nation safe. Plus, outside the Indian/South Asian community in the US, You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who knows anything about Bollywood’s so called “A-lists”, sorry.

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