According to CNN, famous Bollywood movie star Shah Rukh Khan was detained on Friday at Newark Airport immigration on his way into the US after being racially profiled. Khan’s name, apparently, was ‘flagged’ by a computer and the movie star was pulled aside to sit in a private room for over two and a half hours to be questioned by immigration officials. What this little news tidbit tells us is two things. Racial profiling of Muslims is alive and well in the United States and many American officials have no idea about any world famous figure unless they enter into their own narrow idea of reality.
Shah Rukh Khan, known as “King Khan” the world over, is recognized by most of the world (except America, of course). He’s one of Bollywood’s most famous movie stars and, as Bollywood now makes more movies than Hollywood, he’s more famous in many parts of the world than Brad Pitt or Johnny Depp. Yet, according to immigration officials at Newark Airport, Shah Rukh Khan is nothing more than a name on a computer screen to be ‘flagged’ as potentially dangerous.
Interviewed on CNN this morning, Khan himself mentioned that once someone has been fingerprinted, background checked and had a retina scan, as is now required in most US consulates when applying for a visa to the US, surely that should be enough? Why is it therefore that immigration officials in the US are still questioning people’s right to enter the country when they have already been cleared by a US official in a US consulate overseas?
Another question that crossed my mind this morning upon hearing this story was, when Shah Rukh Khan mentioned who he was, why didn’t Newark Airport immigration officials simply do a quick search on the internet where they would immediately have found Khan as one of the world’s most famous people? Don’t they have internet access at immigration in Newark? Or is that just beyond the realm of common sense to a US immigration official?
Shah Rukh Khan was eventually released and allowed into the US after Indian Embassy officials in the United States intervened. The US is now scrambling to apologize to India, a nation where a Bollywood movie star is like a god. Not only did the Newark Immigration officials offend Shah Rukh Khan, but they offended the whole country of India too.
Meanwhile, Shah Rukh Khan is in Chicago on personal business. What’s ironic though is Khan has just finished filming a movie called “My Name is Khan”, the story of a Muslim man who is racially profiled and mistakenly held as a terrorist in the US after 9/11. The incident in Newark on Friday couldn’t have given Khan or the movie more publicity now could it.
SOURCES: CNN – Bollywood Star Detained at Newark airport