Discrimination and revenge
Much has been said about Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan being stopped at the Newark airport in the US and detained for an hour for questioning – while the actor – who was a presenter at the Golden Globes and has just finished shooting for (a film ironically called) My Name is Khan which deals with perceptions of Muslims post-9/11.
But while the actor has said this isn’t the first time this has happened to him, he at least managed to get out after the Indian consulate and a Congress MP intervened. Sepia Mutiny pointed out what happens to those of us who aren’t famous:
But what happens to people who aren’t famous? Let’s say they’re Muslim, Brown, Pakistani and working for the US government? Then it seems you can be detained and not even the government agency you’re working for can get you out:
Rahman Bunairee is a Pakistani journalist who works as a contract reporter for VOA’s Deewa Radio and for a privately-owned Pakistani television station. The 33-year-old planned to join VOA [Voice of America] in Washington for one year, and arrived at Dulles Airport on Sunday with a visa issued by the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad. It is not clear why he was detained and why he is still being held in U.S. custody… The journalist, whose home was destroyed by the Taliban last month, was taken into custody on Sunday. [link]
Post-9/11 cases such as these have been reported so regularly that there impact has been lost. I have personally been quite fortunate to not have had to deal with questioning at any point during my travels (but I’ve already been dealt a bad hand because of my Pakistani passport, which ensures denials of visas for no reason (thanks Lebanon!)) But the racial profiling isn’t likely to change soon: and honestly, I feel it may get worse in the years to come courtesy the extreme right-wing elements that have begun to proliferate in the EU.
That said, I often feel countries also exact their revenge on hapless Westerners. I love Syria but having witnessed the runaround they make American and British citizens do at the land borders may be an entertaining sight for some of us (who are welcomed in with Marhabas and Ahlan wa Sahlans and get to pay lesser entrance fees at the Ummayad Mosque by being Muslim) but doesn’t help the cause of tourism any. Same goes for Pakistan – I have heard terrible stories of people trying to get visas who are either made to run around or find their visas delayed for some reason or the other. Of course, there’s another side to the story, and both Syria and Pakistan are incredibly hospitable countries but you’ll find horror stories on both sides – and they’ll both need to clean up the mess.