August 20, 2009

"MY NAME IS KHAN… AND I AM NOT A TERRORIST"

SRK's interrogation is not the issue. The issue is that Americans need to learn humility.

The week’s big story was Shahrukh Khan's interrogation in the USA. True, as people would say, why give so much importance to SRK being detained in the airport for two hours, when there are so many more important socio-economic issues bogging the country – from poverty to illiteracy! But truth also is that while socio-economic issues should be picked up constantly – and we at The Sunday Indian do attempt the same most religiously – yet, there are the SRKs who will make news from time to time because they too impact the country in many ways. And this time around, SRK’s detention has brought to light the plight of thousands of others who go through a similar kind of a treatment on a most regular basis. Personally speaking, I haven’t ever been subjected to a detailed profiling; but yes, the kind of questions and the way I have been asked were good enough for me to decide years back that I would not go to the USA unless it is a matter of utter emergency. And thankfully, there has been no such thing as ‘utter emergency’ that has been able to take me to USA for years now.

My dislike for Americanism, of course, has a lot to do with their greed driven material culture as well. But that apart, I have always preferred Europe to America, even in the pre 9/11 days, and felt that while Europeans have always been at the top of civilized behaviour, Americans – despite their pretence of being the global leaders – have always lagged far behind in terms of civilized behaviour. The proof lies in the high rates of homicides, rapes, drug abuse and racial abuse Americans suffer when compared to Europeans. Countries in Europe face security challenges similar to America and undertake equally similar strict checks at their airports. European authorities also, at times, take you aside for profiling – especially in the UK. But when they do the same, at every moment during the time one is being questioned, one feels that this indeed is the need of the hour. The world definitely requires to see the end of terrorism; and if some people who look like us or have a similar skin colour have been at the forefront of such destruction, then we surely need these checks for safeguarding our own future. The way the staff at European airports are trained to handle such profiling and questioning is amazing. Not only are they very very polite and courteous, but they would also never make you feel like a suspected terrorist.

The feeling one gets in America is quite the opposite. The staff lacks basic courtesy and they behave with you as if they own the world. That you are a suspect is made obvious to you in numerous ways. And that is precisely the reason why Indians, from Abdul Kalam to Irrfan Khan to now SRK, have had to face awkwardness from something to do with America and not Europe or any other country/continent. It is these qualities of highhandedness and arrogance that make Americans trip to make such a mistake with an SRK. Because even if he needs to be checked as per their normal procedure, it would take any official only about fifteen minutes to realise who SRK is – in whichever part of the world one is, and especially in USA where one doesn’t have to look too far to spot an Indian colleague – to let him go. Detention for a period of two hours, by any standards, is extreme humiliation for any citizen; and definitely for someone who is so easily identifiable.

Having said all that, it is also worthwhile mentioning that the entire security detailing that Americans have been undertaking has in reality been a very advantageous exercise – they surely have prevented another 9/11 from occurring. It is just that Americans need to change the dirty legacy that Bush has left behind and learn more humility. America needs to have that humility transferred into the personalities of its citizens. Barack Obama is doing well to undo a lot of Bush’s legacy personally. But it hasn’t yet gotten translated into the personalities of his office bearers; and that is why it’s not just about SRK, but even the Harvard professor who is handcuffed in the most humiliating manner by the American police under the same pretext – they didn’t know who he was! The problem is that in their highhandedness, Americans don’t care to know who is who because if you are a black, brown or Muslim, then you are to be treated badly even if your own President is a black man today.

On another tangent though, as I say this, I feel that before we talk about Americans, we need to take a look at ourselves too. The manner in which we have historically treated the majority of Dalits and Muslims in India in terms of their access to mainstream education, employment etc. is most shameful. And even today, despite such a huge electoral defeat, we have a party like BJP refusing to change its stance vis-a-vis the Muslims and sending such wrong and further alienating signals to the masses by expelling a Jaswant Singh for having said a few good things about Jinnah.

Coming back to the Americans, I would conclude by saying that until they are able to make their people more cultured about human dealings, many like me would rather stay away from America than take the stress of an unnecessary discomfort or humiliation at their airports, and that too at the very start of a leisure or business trip. What they are doing is right, but the way they are doing needs to undergo a vast improving change. For that, I guess Barack will have to drink many more beers with his people – similar to what he did with the Harvard professor and the police officer who handcuffed him – to drill down some humility and respect for human beings. They must realise that every Khan is not a terrorist – something that SRK’s character says in his forthcoming film – “My name Khan... And I am not a terrorist!”


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12 comments:

MOHAMMED FARHAN KHAN said...

well written Arindham sir, I really like this post as you have lightened the issue which today's world should have to think.

Sridhar said...

From Al Gore to Edward Kennedy being frisked for security check in their own countries who is SRK??? I agree racial profiling is there especially anybody with a Muslim name or similar sounding name remember Kamala Hasan, but I feel the Indian media and SRK over did it. Why do Indian celebs nd VIP's always expect to be treated like Demi Gods everywhere. I guees a reality check is needed and stop making an issue of SRK. The fact is their security checks have ensured not a single 9/11 has taken place afterwards and with the kind of security checks in India we fear many more 26/11's. Insted of America bashing if Indians can learn some of their positive things it would be better for us individuals and the country as a whole. Cheers!!!

Hobo ........ ........ ........ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hobo ........ ........ ........ said...

The question :
There must be other passengers on that day before & after SRK. Then why he only started answering media queries because media has called him numerous times on his cell ???
Common man you are a big star no doubt And media will call you dont you think so.
But but - when he landed in India he address press.
The question is why he should not address media queries but the question is about "Timing of events" because many think it is his publicity stunt about upcoming movie though the release of the movie is far far away.
Do you remember few months earlier his problem with a cricket legend.
The point is may be it is not a publicity but I want to say : Why he is in controversies now-a-days.
Why ? Why ? Why ?
Who made me to think about the word publicity stunt ???
He only.
Publicity is excellent And stardom requires the same but when he says I am SRK And I do not require publicity then baat kuch hajam nahi hoti.
Hajmola please.
: )

MOHAMMED FARHAN KHAN said...

Hobo u really need hajmola ...for all u hv written on this issue...but alas!!! Hajmola will also not show the effect...
if the same type of treatment give to u ..wat will u do, definitly u will get irritated ..but then nobody will hear u. that is the diff b/t u and SRK.

Sridhar - U know wat, I m really feeling ashamed with your comment...if the same humiliating treatment given to many, it doesnt make it right. So wat if Al gore and edward kennedy didn't make hallobaloo, it was thier mistake or for u it was their generousity. everybody has thier own way of taking experiemces.
So Srk taken it in other sense.
hope u understand...

tarun said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Krishnan said...

Mr Arindham, the article was indeed well written and I enjoyed reading it. But my humble opinion is we go to a relatives' house, we do not like the way he treats us. What we do? We simply avoid going their again. In the same way, if we have problems with the american way of security checks, we should simply avoid going their. Instead we should blame them or accuse them of racial discrimination et all.

We should not forget how we treated the sardars in north india after the assasination of late indira gandhi and of course the ill treatment of tamilians after the death of late rajiv gandhi. When the same thing could happen to Indians in India. How can we expect justice or good treatment from a foreign nation.

sujata said...

How true! My opinion about America matches with you. Even I will never prefer visiting america unless there is an emergency as some of my relatives are there.

Technology Journal said...

Racism raises its ugly head all the time, in the garb of anti terrorism, innocent citizens are humiliated every now and then,

Malls use the same frisk technique to humiliate mall rats.

Rajesh "P" Rao said...

Well Mr A C please don't blame american authorities they are doing their job....American govt have given full authority to their police and allied depts so that now more 911 happens...
If an ordinary arabic speaking arab guy or a business man from middle east visits US he is just a visiter there, he won't be interrogated like they did to Mr SRK...
Americans know SRK is a Pathan with Khan as surname and it is they the pathans who are fighting the americans in Afghanistan and they have gained the notorioty as terrorists who can give their life for a handful of arab terrorists who are leading them...
I am not saying shahrukh is a terrorist but his ancestry has taken him for a ride... but think about it a terrorist who is convicted in india is being treated as guest!!! don't they have right to investigate or interrogate him...perhaps this is the biggest joke on Billion plus Indians......

Pradip Atluri said...

I know this is completely off target, but I would like to know how you landed with the movie The Last Lear and how was your experience of making an English movie in India. I am a graduate from Toronto film school.. and writing an English script.. but I don't see a lot of takers.

Your inputs will be valuable.

atluri.pradip@gmail.com

Arora said...

Sir, I agree that the kind of questions and the way of asking questions by the US authorities might lack humilty. I have faced such a situation, when I appeared for my student visa to US , in 2003 in Mumbai. The visa officer publically shouted at me after rejecting my visa. I accept this with a pinch of salt, that my father was a scientist in ISRO and the 1998 nuclear tests by India, did not help my cause!

Yes, many a times the American heavyhandedness is not what is called for but so too does the treatment of a terrorist as a guest(kasab), and release them with full dignity, honour and farewell(IC-814). We as individuals and we as a nation need to be strong. We as a nation are in a state of discord, a nation of 1 billion people, with 1 billion incoherent voices. We need to have one voice!

India has often been puppeted, consider the fact that Relations with Russia in the past and Iran currently. I believe its the time is to be decisive, to call a spade a spade.
Raise our voices to what is unjust and uncalled for.(refer to NDM-1 blamed on India) or better learn from our neighbours, what is Diplomacy!!

To stand up on our feel like Israel and develop our own technology(consider the fact that India has the world's 30% thorium, we need not beg for uranium, theoratically thorium is enough) and yes say no to corruption (Kalmadi and co., economic crimes should invite death penalty ). Jaago Re!!

Nishant Arora
Founder SkipOneMeal.org
http://twitter.com/skiponemeal

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