Thursday, August 20, 2009

Shah Rukh's "Humiliation"

It is unfortunate that actor Shah Rukh Khan was detained and questioned for two hours at the Newark airport because his name ‘Khan’ was part of a common checklist prepared after the 9/11 attacks. But one wonders what is wrong in submitting to security checks. Even our former President Abdul Kalam was subjected to security check in our own country, even though he is exempt from such scrutiny. He never complained. Is not erring on the side of caution better than omission by oversight?

Shah Rukh Khan may be a Bollywood superstar. But the men and women sitting behind the immigration desk in U.S. airports are unlikely to watch Indian movies. They would not, therefore, know SRK from Adam.

There have been many instances of even American citizens with Muslim names being mistaken for someone with an identical name on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s “No fly” list and barred from boarding their flights. However much we bemoan the occurrence of such incidents, it is a fact that passengers with Muslim names are forced to pay a price for what a few jihadists did on September 11, 2001.

The SRK episode is no doubt unfortunate but the way Minister Ambika Soni reacted to it is worse. Our celebrities (including politicians) should learn some important lessons from Mr. Kalam.

Winston Churchill called Mahatma Gandhi “a half-naked fakir.” But Gandhiji did not say he did not feel like stepping on British soil again. Mr. Kalam was frisked by the ground staff of Continental Airlines on our own soil. But he did not say he did not feel like going to the U.S. He, in fact, did not even speak about the episode. SRK should understand the circumstances in which security personnel work. If one is innocent, he has no reason to get worked up.

Monday, August 17, 2009

India on ‘watch list’

This refers to the report that the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom has placed India on its “watch list” for 2009 because of its “failure” to take effective measures to ensure the rights of religious minorities in many States. India does not need lessons on secularism and religious tolerance. It is the land of the Upanishads and the Vedas which preach universal brotherhood and peace. The U.S. should introspect on its role in Iraq. The pot should not call the kettle black.

The USCIRF report deserves the highest condemnation. India is one of the peaceful and harmonious places to live in, compared to many countries. The gun culture and moral deterioration, which has spread among even schoolchildren in the U.S., are nothing but the offshoot of American policies. While there can be no two opinions on the need to ensure religious harmony, India’s integrity in achieving the objective cannot be questioned, least of all by the U.S.

Aren’t phrases such as ‘Islamophobia’ and ‘Islamic terror’ the contributions of the Bush regime? How does the U.S. justify its acts of state terrorism such as the carpet bombing of civilian areas in Afghanistan and Iraq, the torture cells of Abu Ghraib, wrongful detentions in the Guantanamo Bay, and interference in the affairs of other countries in the name of exporting democracy? Curiously, the USCIRF which has included countries such as Cuba, Venezuela, Egypt and Turkey in the “watch list” has nothing to say about Israel.

In a population of over one billion, unwanted incidents do happen thanks to some misguided elements. But do they warrant putting India on a “watch list?” Surprisingly, Pakistan — in parts of which the minorities have been asked to pay religious tax — doesn’t seem to figure in the list. It is, in fact, the U.S., where every Muslim is looked upon as a potential terrorist, which should top the “watch list.”