Indian actor Shah Rukh Khan waves as he greets fans gathered outside his residence during the festival of Eid al-Fitr in Mumbai last month. (Photo by Milind Shelte/India Today Group/Getty Images)
News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. Aug. 19, 2016: While many – myself included – frown, chastise, deride and scoff at the stereotyping and bigotry being spewed by Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump towards Muslims and immigrants, the harsh reality is that stereotyping by U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement agents is happening daily at our borders.
Take the case of top Indian actor Shah Rukh Khan, aka SRK, who has been stopped and detained by U.S. immigration authorities on more than three occasions already.
Why? No explanation given – except that in all the post-911 anti-Muslim mania, Khan fits the profile!
His surname is Muslim, he is Muslim and he looks Middle Eastern of course – all the stereotypes and labels of a potential terrorist right?
Yet, Khan is a giant in India with film roles crafted for him and release schedules cleared to avoid clashes with his theatrical outings. He is also reportedly the world’s second richest actor, with an estimated fortune of $600 million, behind only the US’ Jerry Seinfeld.
But that does not stop the US immigration from hassling him! On Thursday, August 11, 2016, Khan was again stopped and detained by US immigration authorities – this time at the Los Angeles Airport in California. He was later released and it is not clear why or for how long he was questioned.
The actor, whose recent titles include “Fan,” “Happy New Year, and “Jab Tak Hai Jaan,” would only say on Twitter: “I fully respect & understand security, with the way the world is, but to be detained by US immigration every damned time really, really sucks.”
He later received an apology via Twitter from the U.S. Ambassador to India that said: “Sorry for the trouble at LAX @Iamsrk. We are working to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Your work inspires millions, including in the US.”
Khan was previously taken aside for questioning in 2009 at Newark airport in New Jersey and was only released two hours later after intervention by the Indian Embassy. In 2012 he was detained for 90 minutes at White Plains, New York after flying in on a private jet.
So if Khan, stepping off a private jet is treated with such suspicion and scrutiny, can you imagine what the regular Muslim immigrant, including one wearing a hijab, or a Sikh with his turban and arriving at the US border is subjected to?
The harsh reality is that Trump is simply saying out loud what a lot of Americans, including US security agents, are feeling – out of ignorance about the diversity of the world as well as Muslims, immigrants and blacks. But of course they are too afraid to say it out of political correctness.
SRK’s third time detention by U.S. immigration agents proves it and his case is simply just a drop in the bucket of what happens at the US border daily – including to legal immigrants and naturalized US citizens alike! Until we change the culture of ignorance and understand the United States is not the world, the Trumpism we hear about and frown upon will continue to be played out daily.