Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 23 September 2019

What's in a name?

The US government has made itself ridiculous by giving Bollywood mega-star Shah Rukh Khan a hard time at an airport - again.

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.

Updated: April 15, 2012 04:00 AM

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