The talk of India over the weekend was the detention of one the country’s most famous actors by customs officials at Newark Airport in the U.S.
Shah Rukh Khan’s name came up on a computer alert list and he was then questioned at length. Khan, a Muslim, was in the U.S. to promote a film, “My Name is Khan,” that explores the racial profiling of Indian Muslims living in the U.S. after 9/11.
Following the incident — which was widely reported in the Indian media — several of Khan’s supporters gathered in India to protest, and some burned an American flag. View a video of protests in New Delhi courtesy of YouTube user midday:
Worldfocus asked Nitin Govil — an assistant professor at the University of California, San Diego and the co-author of “Global Hollywood” — for his thoughts on how the incident has been perceived in India:
For much of his career, Shah Rukh has rather carefully avoided putting his Muslim identity at the forefront. This is why his forthcoming film “My Name is Khan” is so interesting given the context of his stardom in India.
Responses in India have varied from protests to the burnings of U.S. flags, condemnations by high-ranking Indian politicians, celebrities, cricketers and other public figures, to a kind of “what else can one expect in America” kind of attitude that confirms what most around the world think about the U.S. policy on travel and detention.
Given that all Indians have a deep familiarity with bureaucracy in their everyday lives, there has been a general sense that a short questioning period for Khan might have been alright, but that U.S. authorities clearly took things too far. Although Khan has called for folks back home not to, in his words, “take things too far,” at the same time, many think that he has quite smartly used the incident as a way to promote the new film as well as the issues it addresses.
NDTV, a leading English-language news channel in India, covered the incident — calling it “a huge, huge embarrassment” — and spoke with Khan:
Comments on an Indian social networking site, iTimes, reflected the smattering of opinion in India:
Gayatri Goswami writes:
This is no joke people. Shah Rukh Khan is the biggest movie star in India, a country of 1.3 billion people, thereby making him the biggest movie star in the world. I’m struggling to find a comparable here in the US. No offense to Will Smith or Matt Damon or Pitt, Cruise, Clooney, Angelina or whomever else you can think of, but they all pale in comparison.The detention was shameful and U.S should apologize, they better
Dilnaz Seth writes:
i think U.S should apologize, but why r we making so much of noise abt it, because it is SRK, there are so many innocent muslims with surname Khan who go through this everyday, what about them, do we care for all or just the celebs
Kaushik Sanyal writes:
Hey guys, I think India should learn that, “VIP treatments” which are part of everyday life in India, does not happen in other parts of the world. Even, ex-president of USA Al Gore has to go through security checks in US airports ! I don’t know why SRK is making such a big issue out of it or so called patriotic Indians are raising such a noise ! Everyday in our lives, we see or meet people who takes advantage of their VIP status in India and resent that – why should it be different in this case. I am no USA lover but I recognize the fact that a small time Immigration official can insist to follow the rule book. I hope it also happens in India.
Rragijav Achar writes:
I feel appreciating the US for talking this step. They have given the highest level of interest to their countrymen, unlike India. Wake up India, the US doing the right stuff so only they could stop the terror in their country. Imagine India how many times this happened with us and what actions we have taken against it. They have full rights to do so, as they consider their countrymen as their biggest asset. Count how many times the underworld dons escaped from the hands of Indian government and image what would have US done if the same thing had happened. Think out of the box. Wake up India wake up… it’s time for tight security… I would appreciate if India takes similar actions against each and every person enters and exits India.