Shah Rukh Khan Detained at US airport
By Ram Puniyani
Shah Rukh Khan, one of the best known actors from Bollywood was detained for questioning in Newark airport in US (15th August). The actor who is a global icon of sorts was grilled by the US official as his name is a Muslim one, and the legendary actor felt humiliated with the treatment meted out to him. While the star actor was being questioned in this manner the Jet Airways staff vouched for him and many of his international fans were seeking his autographs, but the US official, drunk on the Imperial arrogance and infected by anti Muslim sentiments refused to recognize Khan. That any Google search on his name would have yielded infinite entries to establish his identity, is an elementary knowledge by now.
Just a few weeks ago, India’s ex-President, the scientist of repute, APJ Abdul Kalam was treated like a commoner by the US based Airlines staff. Irfan Khan was also meted with similar treatment. Other actors, with non Muslim names, have also been given such humiliating treatment by US officials but the logic in these cases is different, Neil Nitin Mukesh for having a skin color fairer then his Hindu name and John Abram for having Afghanistan on his passport. In addition the senior ministers from India George Fernandez and Pranab Mukherjee have also been strip searched in the past.
Most of the channels and many eminent columnists criticized Shahrukh Khan and those voicing their protest on the grounds that it is these security checks which have saved US from another terrorist attack post 9/11 2001. The desirability or other wise of these checks apart, there are two basic questions. One is that can those having diplomatic passports and those listed in India’s list of people exempt from such checks be subjected to these ordeals? Secondly why secondary checks are more for those with Muslim names? These commentators realization of the tasks of US security officials notwithstanding the questions remain the double standards of the security check system.
While the major phenomenon visible here is that of US officials have imbibed the anti Islam and anti Muslim propaganda, post 9/11 2001, the additional factor is the inherent arrogance and superiority complex of this Imperial power since US emerged as the sole super power, after the decline of Soviet block in international political arena. The treatment which US officials are giving to Indian dignitaries and celebrities is in stark contrast to the treatment which Indian administration and people are giving to the US dignitaries. The visit of Hillary Clinton just a month ago demonstrates the reality. The US Secretary of State was not only given a red carpet welcome, Indian media also went gaga about her, starting from describing her smart dresses to the details of her smile at different occasions.
The twin phenomenon of US arrogance as a superpower dictating terms to the whole World and its targeting of Islam and Muslims for political goals have got mixed up here. The global democracy which was trying to come up during the middle of twentieth century has really got a set back during last three decades, and despite the humane instincts of Barack Hussein Obama, American system remains as high handed as before. One appreciates the steps of new American President in closing down Guantonamo bay and the subsequent stoppage of the intense torture and insult of accused of 9/11, especially Muslim youth. Despite that it seems the ground level reality of US has not changed much and Islamophobia is still ruling the policies, mindset and attitude of the US system as a whole.
It is after 9/11 2001, the collapse of WTC, and the accompanying statements of Osama bin Laden, which gave the pretext of launching a propaganda against Islam and Muslims. It was at that time that the word Islamic Terrorism was coined and the distorted version of core words, Jihad and Kafir were strongly popularized in the popular thinking. In a way it manufactured a hatred for Muslims and Islam. While Jihad stands for fighting against injustice, it was presented as killing of non Muslims. While Kafir is a concept totally invalid in current times, it was put across as denigrating non Muslims. The net result was that in the global thinking it came to be regarded that all Muslims are not terrorists, while all terrorists are Muslims. The US officials in general and immigration officials in particular stiffened their attitude towards Muslim immigrants to US. Globally also, particularly in our country the trend began where after every blast here and there scores of Muslim youth were apprehended and tortured, and at most of the times their careers were ruined.
The Pakistani film ‘Khuda Ke Liye’ depicted the life of an average Muslims whom US officials suspect to be a terrorist and the outcome of this can be well predicted. Indian film ‘New York’ also puts forward the cruelty of the attitude of US officials. In Indian context films like ‘Black and White’ and ‘Mumbai Meri Jaan’ depicted this sad reality of our society. Many a good articles and literature has also been produced by scholars, which gives us the real story, but despite all this the propaganda by section of US media and the vested organizations in India against Islam and Muslims continues.
The phenomenon of terrorism is very complex. One core point is to understand the genesis of Al Qaeda type organizations, which were the product of indoctrination in the Madrassas, set up in Pakistan. The syllabus and financial support of these came through CIA; the aim was to instigate indoctrinated Muslim youth to fight against the Russian armies who had occupied Afghanistan. Lately this truth is being said by Pakistani leader’s time and over again. In India the rising communal violence and acts of terrorism because of diverse factors, have been used to present the minorities in a negative light.
We in India can feel hurt, insulted and angry to what is being meted out to Indian celebrities and leaders. It is in a way the attitude of US to humiliate ‘others’, to assert its superiority and hegemony. The commentators criticizing the protest against treatment being meted out to the likes of Shah Rukh Khan and Indian dignitaries have to realize that it is not just to uphold the differential status but to protest against the highhanded attitude of United States. The time has come to revive the global democratic equations where the hegemony of one country is not acceptable and people of all countries and religions are treated with equal respect.