Wednesday, August 19, 2009

'King' Khan is detained at Newark: Flag burning ensues.

It was just a few weeks ago that Continental Airlines caused a controversy by forcing former Indian President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam to undergo routine airport security screening - an 'affront' to his status as a dignitary.

Well, now the Americans have 'done it again,' by daring to detain Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan at Newark Liberty International for an unthinkable 66 minutes.

Outrage ensued - with 'King' Khan's fans burning U.S. flags and protesting at what they decried as 'ill treatment' of their beloved star. Indian politicians angrily demanded an investigation.

But an investigation into what, exactly?

The rest of us regularly get detained at airports. What makes Shah Rukh Khan so different? Or is it just another example of this curious mindset which argues that certain people (be they former presidents or Bollywood legends) apparently don't need to abide by the same rules as the rest of us.

I mean, let's set the record straight here. Shah Rukh Khan is an actor. Yes, he might have starred in over 70 Bollywood hits, but he sure as hell doesn't have diplomatic immunity! For people to expect Americans to treat him 'differently' than the rest of us is offensive and fanciful!

Shah Rukh 'King' Khan: Not really a king.

(I don't care how famous Khan is over in India, but I'm willing to bet that most of the people working at Newark Liberty have never heard of him - hence why his protestations of 'Don't you know who I am?' would have gone unheeded!)

Khan at least had the good graces to deal with the situation diplomatically - telling his fans: "Let's put this behind us, think positively and move ahead." But he did add cattily that this experience means: "I certainly wouldn't like to travel with my family to the U.S."

But let's put this into perspective, please, Khan!

He was detained and questioned at Liberty International for 66 minutes - not even the length of one of his movies! Instead of complaining, he should be grateful he wasn't strip-searched or presented with a big man in a latex glove!

Now, I've been detained at Liberty International on two occasions - probably due to my somewhat checkered Immigration history. I will admit that it's annoying and inconvenient and I have some very valid reservations about the conduct of certain Immigration Officers.

But being detained? It's just part of life following the attacks of September 11th, 2001. Shah Rukh Khan should know: He was in America to promote a movie about post 9/11 racial-profiling in the United States.

So just as I argued regarding former-President Kalam, I don't see why there are a few angry people who feel that so-called Indian 'dignitaries' should receive special treatment at the border. The rest of us 'normal' people are forced to submit to the indignities of the security screening process and immigration. What makes people like Khan so different?

On American soil, Khan's really not much more of a superstar than I am - which is why I'm actually pleased to see him being detained at immigrations.

The fact that he was put through the same meat-grinder as the rest of us makes me feel like the Border Control staff at Newark are actually more egalitarian and more meticulous than I'd previously given them credit for. It makes me feel safer.

And if Shah Rukh Khan feels so 'traumatised' by his detainment? Perhaps it was just the injection of humility the Bollywood legend needed.


Ann Cook said...

I do feel bad he got detained, but after 9-11 homeland security can not take any risks. Has everyone forgotten that we are still at war? Unfortunately, there will be inconveniences, even for celebrities and diplomats. I am sure everyone would rather have an inconvenience than have a plane blown up.

Susanne said...

We are Americans, but we were detained when we flew into O'hare earlier this year. Of course we'd been in Syria and the US has something against this part of the "Axis of Evil." :-)

I'm glad that nut was detained despite his celebrity status. I hate when celebs think they are better than everyone else.