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?
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.
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.
Ariel P. Verghese,
The government should take offence only if any of our VIPs on an official visit is deliberately detained. The time immigration officials take for clearing the passengers is not uniform. It depends on our conduct and our answers to their questions.
SRK’s experience is being hyped because he is a superstar. But ordinary people undergo such experiences all the time. SRK is well known to Indians, not necessarily to U.S. immigration officials.
K.P. Sanal Kumar,
I do not understand why we raise a hue and cry whenever a celebrity is treated like an ordinary citizen. I have been to the U.S. thrice (twice after 9/11). I followed the security procedure which was the same for all nationals and I was treated politely by the security staff.
The feeling of humiliation comes because of a misplaced sense of self-importance. Let us understand that when security is involved, no country can afford to slacken its procedures.
I am 80 years old and I visit the U.S. often. I am also questioned and I understand that it is to do with security. Why should Shah Rukh feel bad? Sometimes, U.S. officials even throw articles like pickles in the dustbin. Good that SRK had no such experience. As for his not wanting to set foot on the American soil again, I don’t think the U.S. will mind.
The Newark incident was undoubtedly a matter of humiliation for SRK and a rude shock for lakhs of Indians. The Americans and other westerners are clearly racial. It is quite evident from the unpleasant experience of the reader in a Santa Clara supermarket and the person who was asked to by the Swiss police to show her passport (Letters, Aug. 18). How prejudiced the westerners are! They should learn a lesson or two from us. Look at the way we treat our fellow citizens. Look, for instance, at the case of the Dalit youth who was beaten up on Thursday in Tamil Nadu by caste Hindus for riding a bicycle. Let us feel proud to be Indians.
J. Victor Rajasekaran,