16 August 2009
Shah Rukh Khan -- US Immigration Hassles...
This post sort of fits in with an earlier post I did on the racial conflicts happening in Australia that garnered considerable media coverage in India. If for no other reason than it highlights that problems of racial profiling and racial conflict are not unique to any one country in the world. And, it does not matter whether you are just an ordinary person going about your normal affairs or a world wide star going about your normal affairs.
This is the case for Shah Rukh Khan or Shahrukh Khan, an Indian, a Bollywood legend and owner of the Kolkata Knight Riders Cricket Team, and I would have reckoned pretty much known the world over, at least wherever there are films. This I figured would have included the US.
It seems that Khan came in for some special attention by US immigration authorities as he was passing through Newark airport in New Jersey. Khan was on his way to Chicago for a parade to mark Indian Independence Day. Khan has gone on the record to say he felt angry and humiliated. I am guessing that there would be plenty of Indians and other citizens of the world saying, "welcome to the real world in America".
This sort of detention and harassment of certain travelers is not exclusive to Indians. It gets just about everybody. A number of years ago I was traveling with a group of students to the US from Indonesia. The males in the group were all detained and taken off to side rooms for "special" interviews and then interrogated about their intentions and reasons for travel. These interviews lasted for a couple of hours as I recall. I, on the other hand, just fronted up at the immigration counter, flipped out the passport, smiled a little, and off-loaded my fingerprints and was done.
Eventually, Khan was allowed to make a call to the Indian Consulate and they were able to clear up the matter. I am not so sure that an Indian with a lesser public profile might have been able to get the same sort of assurances from their consulate.
Funnily enough, in that perversely sad way, Khan had just finished shooting a film, "My Name is Khan," about racial profiling of Muslim men. I am sure this experience will lend an air of greater reality to the film when it is finally released. Some might even argue that this story is a bit of a beat-up designed to help promote the movie. Perhaps the incident can even become a movie in its own right with Khan playing the lead role, and lots of suitably attired and dancing customs officials bopping (dancing for others but I am not a dancer myself, but just a simple bopper) away in the usual Bollywood fashion.
The incident is certain to get the cyber world buzzing and Indians are sure to be flooding sites with comments about it. And, why not?
Priyanka Chopra, a colleague of Khan's was quick to tweet her feelings on the matter: "Shocking, disturbing n downright disgraceful. It's such behavior that fuels hatred and racism. SRK's a world figure for God's sake. Get Real!!" She has a point on the hatred and racism, but probably not so on the shocking, disturbing, and disgraceful front. Life for certain travelers to the US are pretty much that which Khan has endured.
The Indian Information Minister, Ambika Soni, has upped the ante by suggesting that this is a regular occurrence for Indians; being detained after being racially or religiously profiled. Specifically, Soni said that there had been no definitive statement that Khan had been detained on religious grounds, but "there have been too many instances like these in the US concerning Indians." Fuel on the fire for sure.
With a bit of luck this incident might serve as a bit of an eye-opener all round. However, I doubt that it will. When the US turned away Yusuf Islam, the former Cat Stevens, that caused an outcry and some serious questions to be asked about profiling and terrorist lists, but the reality is seemingly that things have not changed; business as usual.