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.

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