India boasts the largest film industry in the world, and Shahrukh Khan is one of Bollywood’s biggest stars. The Muslim actor was recently detained at a US airport–for the second time in three years.
The incident caused a stir in India and once again raised questions of ethnic profiling, but Khan seemed to take it in stride. Later when addressing students at Yale University, he quipped:
“Yes it always happens, it’s nice. Whenever I start feeling arrogant about myself, I always take a trip to America.”
“The immigration guys kick the stars out of stardom,” said Khan, who boasted of some small victories when he was questioned under detention, such as fibbing about his height.
“The next time I’m gonna be more adventurous. What colour are you? I’m gonna say white,” Khan said.
Editorial, The National
Shah Rukh Khan has more Facebook fans than Tom Cruise (2.58 million to 1.79 million) and has acted in more films (78) than most Hollywood A listers do in a lifetime. And yet, he still can’t get through immigration in New York without trouble.
During a weekend visit to the US to be honoured at Yale University, Khan was detained for two hours at the small regional airport in White Plains, NY. Were this the king of Bollywood’s first run-in with American border policy it might have been a mere inconvenience. Coming after a similar detention in 2009, it looks like a trend.
US officials, clearly embarrassed, defended their screening of Khan by rejecting allegations of profiling. As State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Friday, Khan was less “detained” than he was “simply delayed”. But anyone with a Muslim-sounding name who has travelled to the US since September 11 2001 will find this explanation unsatisfying.
Two US administrations in a row, one Republican and one Democratic, have subordinated everything else, often including common sense, to an obsession with security.
Nor has this been done intelligently: Islamophobia has been in practice – though not, at least, in theory – a frequent element of this policy. Combined with American ignorance of the rest of the world, that leads to incidents like this one, ludicrous if they weren’t so damaging.
The Daily Show, following the prior incident in 2009: