Saturday, April 14, 2012

Shah Rukh Khan Detained in US – Things to Understand

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Detaining Shah Rukh Khan for two hours in US airports have become big news in India. In fact whenever an Indian celebrity is detained for questioning in US a big ruckus breaks out in Indian media. Indian Government on all such occasion will express their anguish by letting US authorities know by summoning an US official and US on its part will issue an apology. Indian government has done its part by getting an US apology and media has done its part by sensationalizing this issue.
So has the media or government thought of this one – if celebrities are detained like this what are the hardships an ordinary man from India or Pakistan or Middle East goes through especially Muslims in US airports and during visa interview? I am sure most of us – “the brown skinned Asians”  (especially young males) who don’t have an US passport and travelled to US after 9/11 will have some story to tell about the discrimination you faced in US airport, especially when you come back after a visit to your home country.
This happened to my friend and this is the extreme I have seen happening to someone whom I know. This friend who studied in my same school for Masters is from Bangladesh and came to US with a green card. But the problem was that his name exactly matches with some name black listed by US immigration as terrorist. So he could never check in online even for local flights as his name was black listed. Any time he flies (even for local flights) he will be detained and questioned for hours before he is allowed to fly. The worst nightmare waits for him when he comes back from Bangladesh. Every time he came back from Bangladesh, he was detained at the port of entry (entry point to USA) and he needs to answer in detail what he did, where all he went in Bangladesh in detail when he was away from US. So many detentions and now my friend is used to it, even though every time this happens he is very frustrated.
What I understood from my Bangladeshi friend is that if you name matches with a terrorist name in US list, you will be detained for detailed questioning and then only allowed to fly. Some fan of Shah Rukh Khan may have named his son SRK and later he may have come up in the terrorist list of US Immigration and that may be the reason SRK is detained over and over again.
I always use to tell these days – America is a country with no discrimination of any kind once your immigration process is over but there is blatant discrimination based on race and religion in airports and embassies. US government may deny it but this is a fact after 9/11. I know lot of Muslim friends from India, Pakistan, Egypt, Iran and other Middle East countries who were denied US visa or visa process getting longer (due to process like background check etc) or questioned for hours together on arrival at Port of Entry – just because they have a Muslim Name.
The Indian media and government should put pressure on US Government to stop this racial profiling happening in embassy and Port of Entry rather than making a hue and cry when some celebrity is detained. Remember when one Shah Rukh Khan is detained for two hours in an US airport, thousands of ordinary people from India, Pakistan and Middle East also are detained just because – they have a name that match a terrorist; they have a “brown skin”; they look like a Muslim; they have a Muslim name; This needs to be changed or otherwise we will continue hearing stories of detention of people in US airports. I hope US authorities will make appropriate changes in their screening system so that no innocent visitor has to go through this ordeal.
If you have any personal experience in US consulate or at the Port of Entry in US where you feel you were discriminated please do share here.

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Blogger Steve said...

Why go to US? I was questioned in India when I was 14 with guys with AKs, because I landed in one airport and took off from another. I didn't really help my cause by saying I stayed in the air force quarters

April 14, 2012 11:17 AM  
Anonymous Kenney said...

Think of someone knocking your door, he looks strong, mighty and with red eyes. You have been robbed by someone looking similar 2 weeks ago. Would you rather make sure that he is clean before letting him in or would you just let him in based on your principles ?

April 14, 2012 12:54 PM  
Blogger Karthikeyan said...

"I always use to tell these days – America is a country with no discrimination of any kind once your immigration process is over but there is blatant discrimination based on race and religion in airports and embassies." - Come on, this is absolutely NOT true. Don't just look at it from 'i am an Indian with a PhD in Engg' perspective. Most of us are qualified enough not to have faced outright discrimination.

Ask African Americans, Latinos or even women (look up Ledbetter law and how republicans are against it)....Travyon Martin case in itself is an example. Without the public outcry, the police wouldn't even have registered a case for his murder.

April 14, 2012 3:49 PM  
Anonymous Sarath said...

@Kenney ..

Your point is appreciated. However, you have to admit its not reasonable to question the same man again and again over multiple visits. In your example, if that same man visits you over many years...and you know that guy hasn't caused any problem so far ...would you still keep questioning him ?
The attitude of treating someone guilty until proven innocent (opposite to that of the judicial system) I admit is safe in a crisis situation ..but it has to be reasonable on a day to day basis, unless they are treating every day as a crisis.

Also, you cannot directly compare an example at the individual level that you quoted to that of immigration if you consider the resources for background check that the USCIS has at it disposal which is not available to you when the 'thief-look-alike' knocks at your door. If they have to question a man every time he passes by an airport inspite of all these resources and previous background checks...then they are just not doing it right or they are overdoing it.

In the case of Sharukh Khan at borders to the point of stupidity! All the official has to do is to google 'sharu...' and he can get everything he wants on sharukh. Its like Brad Pitt being detained at Indian Immigration!

April 14, 2012 4:07 PM  
Blogger kool said... - Read this article, I don't see any fault with the security officers if this report is true.

April 16, 2012 9:54 PM  
Blogger kool said...

I agree with you regarding - if a guy has been cleared after couple of times questioning, they should not do harass him. May be just take some extra time just to ascertain that he is the right guy and then he should be allowed (taking the case of your Bangladeshi GC holder).

April 16, 2012 10:19 PM  

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