Mumbai, After Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan was detained at Newark airport for a security check, many others like Zayed Khan and Irrfan Khan have come out with the ordeals they faced in the US because of their last names. This is what they have to say:
Zayed Khan: Of course, we Khans go through this kind of humiliation all the time. I’ve gone through it, Salman has gone through it. I’m glad people are talking about it because of Shah Rukh. There have been times when I’ve been with 17 people in a team on tour or for a shooting in the US. Out of these only one gets detained at the airport. Guess who invariably gets detained? And some Caucasian bully, who does these checkings by the book and thinks all Khans are terrorists, will tell you it’s a random check. Tell me, how can there be random checks on five US airports one after another and in all of them only yours truly gets detained for additional checking? I think there’s a big difference between being secure and being ignorant.
Iqbal Khan (TV actor): Such attacks on Khans is nothing new. These things happen at American airports. It’s time for all Muslims to let everyone know Islam means believing in God and in peace. It’s happened to me. Once I was to go to the US for a show, I was the only one who didn’t get a visa. And I was the only Muslim. However recently I applied again and I got a 10-year multiple entry visa.
Shabina Khan (dress designer): I really don’t know what happened with Shah Rukh in the US. But I definitely get into issues at the airport thanks to my surname. It’s annoying. It’s scary.
Kabir Khan (director): I was accompanying my wife in the US along with the Morani Brothers. It was a flight from LA to Washington just 15 days after 9/11. So the fear and paranoia were not totally unjustified. We were waiting for the flight to take off talking to each other in Hindi when some passengers complained that we were talking in a ‘strange’ language. Within no time two burly FBI agents came on board and took me and my co-passengers to the front of the plane. When they got to know my name, they questioned me for more than two hours, googled my name for terrorist links and then finally allowed me to fly.
They asked me if I had been to Pakistan. I told them no. If I had told them that I had been to Afghanistan, they’d have freaked out. Two other passengers on board refused to fly with us. So they were asked to deboard. So you see post 9/11 persecution comes with its inbuilt safety measures. But I honestly think a part of the global fear is justified. We can’t blame people for being paranoid after what has happened.
Irrfan Khan: More than the physical torture, it’s the wounds of humiliation that never heal after you undergo such a horrific experience. It happened to me on two occasions. I was detained in New York and Los Angeles airport for secondary interrogation. I was outraged. I was told to quietly come into a room for questioning and identification verification. I wasn’t allowed to talk. When I tried to ask why I was being treated this way, I was told to keep quiet. I wasn’t allowed to use my phone. They said, ‘No, you just sit down.’ All because my name was Irrfan Khan. You can’t argue or rationalise.
On a second occasion this time in New York, when I was detained I blew my top. I told this big Black American guy, ‘Please clear the confusion about my identity once and for all. Or don’t provide me with a visa. I don’t want to come back to the US.’ The guy wanted to know if it was a threat. I was taken aback. Mira Nair had to intervene. She advised me to never counter-question them. This is the free spirit of America. This 90-minute detention changed me completely. Can you imagine what a 90-day detention can do to an innocent man thrown into jail?
Dilip Kumar: After hearing these atrocious accounts who wants to travel to such a stupid place when our beautiful India offers Kashmir’s jannat and Kerala’s luminous glory? God forbid, if we have to go to such a country.
Eijaaz Khan (TV actor): I’ve gone through similar experiences a couple of times in the US. While all my friends breezed through immigration I was questioned and had to give the address I was staying at, and for how long. My whereabouts were even checked by them later. This was after 9/11. I guess this kind of treatment is to be expected by us Khans. We’ve to take it in our stride.