Published in LEADERSHIP (August 22, 2009)
By Al-Amin Ciroma
The famous Filmfare Best Actor, 2008, Sharukh Khan was said to have been detained by security agents at the Newark International Airport, New Jersey for hours. The Bollywood actor said he was humiliated after being detained for questioning at the immigration department of the airport, but later downplayed the incident as an "unfortunate procedure."
Reports indicate that Khan, 43, was questioned for more than an hour and detained, according to him because, his picture showed up on a security alert list. "It was absolutely uncalled for, having just finished work there a couple of weeks ago," he said. Adding that, "They said I have a common name which caused the delay... they checked my bags... I felt angry and humiliated."
In a statement, the officials at the airport said they were only concerned about the actor's luggage, which was reported missing. According to them, the questioning was part of routine process. The statement further indicated that the examination took only 66 minutes - which they said would've taken less time had Khan's luggage not been lost, a statement, which the actor denied, saying that he was singled out for questioning by the US immigration officials due to his Muslim name -- sparking outrage among his millions of Indian fans, as well as senior politicians and the Indian press.
"America needs to understand one thing... that there are about 190-195 smaller countries and that make up the rest of the world. It's not an isolated, parallel universe existence for this country. There is a whole world which makes all the good and bad that is happening," said the actor, who is one of the biggest names in Bollywood.
"So if we are scared of violence and terrorism, all of us are responsible for it. It's not that the world is and America is not," he said. Khan further disclosed that he understood US security concerns after the 9/11 attacks.
Meanwhile, the Indian civil aviation minister vowed to take the matter up with the US government, while Indian newspapers slammed the discrimination allegedly inflicted on one of the country's most loved actors.
US officials have said that Sharukh Khan, was subject only to routine procedures at the airport and was questioned for little more than an hour. But the actor Khan, just came back from the United States where he finished shooting his film, My Name is Khan, a movie due out next year that features the contentious subject of racial profiling.
The US embassy in New Delhi attempted to end the controversy describing Khan as a "global icon," who was a welcome guest in the United States.
It will be recalled that series of classic racial profiling have hit Bollywood icons, and this is seen as a clear abuse of civil liberties and lack of due diligence from the bureaucratic side of the US government. "It's not the iconic Sharukh Khan who should be intimidated, its the lazy, ignorant, unionized employee who should feel threatened and it is time to kick to the curb the incompetent, in a recession full of qualified people who can do the job of a US border official far better," says the film maker.
Reports also show that famous among those humiliated were Kamal Haasan, an Indian actor, who was detained in April 2002 for hours at the airport, after commencing the film Pantchathathiram's shoot in Toronto, on his way to Los Angeles. Reports also show that Aamir Khan had a similar experience a month before Haasan at a Chicago airport.
"Each year thousands more tourists and famous filmmakers join the silent ranks of those terrorised by the racial profiling practiced by the Western immigration and police. What chance does an average tourist have in the US when even the Ex-President of India, Dr. Kalam was hassled there," added Mr. Nair, the famous Indian Filmmaker, stressing the fact that this is not an isolated incident.