Biased Frisking Of Shahrukh

August 20, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS) India Correspondent

shah-rukh khan actor NEW DELHI: Just as Bollywood icon Shahrukh Khan was probably not prepared for being detained by American immigration officials at Newark Liberty in International Airport in New Jersey for questioning, United States apparently did not expect the reaction that it would trigger from India. Different views have been expressed on what actually led to Shahrukh being detained (August 15). Linking his case with his religious identity- a Muslim- Shahrukh said that he was held up because his last name (Khan) came up on a computer alert list. Incidentally, the actor was in United States to participate in India’s Independent Day celebrations and also to promote his new film: “My Name is Khan,” which highlights racial discrimination of Muslims after September 11, 2001 attacks in United States.

Shahrukh may have been detained for a still longer time had perhaps the Indian embassy in United States not intervened. Not every Khan or any person bearing a Muslim name is lucky enough to have his country’s embassy intervene in such cases. Nevertheless, the US immigration officials denied that Shahrukh was formally detained because of his last name having cropped up on their computer alert system. His security check “took a little longer because his bag was lost by the airline,” according to US Customs and Border Protection spokesperson Elmer Camacho. Irrespective of whether Shahrukh’s bag was actually lost or not, Camacho’s statement certainly indicates United States’ acknowledgement that the actor was detained for longer than routine security checks require. It defeats the view expressed by certain people that Shahrukh was only subject to routine security frisking and the actor unnecessarily made a lot of noise about the issue. This is further confirmed by US embassy in India stating that it would look into the case. “We are clarifying. We are trying to ascertain facts about the incident,” US embassy official said.

Soon after the incident, Shahrukh expressed that he would avoid going to United States, as he did not want to be a part of America’s paranoia of religion. “This has happened with me before and that’s why it concerns me all the more. As it is I shy away from coming to the US because I don’t want to participate in their paranoia about religion and everything that the US has developed into over the years. I don’t want to say that it happened because I am a Muslim as it may lead to something else, but I think it had something to do with that only. We can only avoid this by not coming to the US,” he said. Describing the incident as “uncalled for,” Shahrukh said: “I did feel bad. I felt angry. I am glad my family wasn’t there. God knows what they would have done to them.”

Reacting to Shahrukh’s words, US envoy Timothy J. Roemer said: “We are trying to ascertain facts of the case – to understand what took place. Shahrukh Khan, the actor and global icon, is very welcome guest in the United States. Many Americans love his films.” The incident would probably not have invited reaction at the diplomatic level from both India and United States, were it a routine process to which all visiting US are subject to. 

Undeniably, if an ordinary Indian possessing the same name had been detained for even longer hours than the actor, the incident would not have probably hit headlines nor would it have raised concern diplomatically, politically and among the Indian people. This also is perhaps a minor indicator of the apparent religious and racial bias, which people bearing common Muslim names are subject to in United States. While United States may still take some time to come to terms with the negative image that prevalence of this bias has earned for the superpower, it cannot be missed that Washington is gradually but definitely becoming aware of this hard reality. This probably compelled United States to issue statements at various levels on what led to the incident and that it would be looked into.

In addition to the incident having invited strong comments from several Indian politicians, Shahrukh’s fans reacted strongly by staging a demonstration in Allahabad (Uttar Pradesh). Shouting slogans against the US administration, they also burnt effigy of US President Barack Obama. They termed Shahrukh’s detention as an “insult to one billion Indians,” (August 16). A similar demonstration was staged in the capital city also.

”We will take the issue with the United States government strongly. Such incidents involving Indians due to their religion or nationality should not happen. We will not accept it,” Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel said. Earlier, Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni said that India should also adopt the same attitude towards Americans. “Like they frisk, we should also be frisking them,” she said.

While United States has yet to accept that biased frisking of Shahrukh- decided by his religious and racial identity- has added to the negative image about the superpower’s democratic claims, Indians have reacted strongly against it, indicating that the incident is democratically unacceptable to them. Biased frisking of Shahrukh was totally undemocratic from the Indian perspective.

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Once Bitter Rivals, Mulayam & Kalyan Patch Up

January 29, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS India Correspondent

babri-masjid

NEW DELHI:  Kalyan Singh, once the Hindutva mascot of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), was the Uttar Pradesh (UP) chief minister when the Babari Masjid was demolished in 1992. He has now joined hands with Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party (SP), the very party that had earlier strongly criticized Kalyan for demolition of the mosque. Taking a U-turn on his earlier stand against Kalyan, Yadav said the former was not responsible for the mosque’s demolition. “He (Kalyan) did not do that. The mosque was demolished by Shiv Sena and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS),” Yadav said within a few days of Kalyan quitting BJP to move closer to SP. Acknowledging that mosque’s demolition was Kalyan’s “moral” responsibility as he was the then UP chief minister, Yadav said: “Kalyan now represents the downtrodden and working-class and he has always been a supporter of their issues. We cannot call him extremist now.” On their being bitter political rivals earlier, Yadav said: “We were never enemies but opposed each other, as we have always been in opposite parties” (January 25).

On his part, suggesting a negotiated settlement on the disputed Ayodhya-issue, Kalyan said: “All concerned parties, including prominent Muslim clerics, saints and sadhus, intellectuals, historians and archaeologists, should sit together and find out an amicable solution to the dispute keeping in mind that the sentiments of no group or community are hurt.”

Ayodhya-issue is not responsible for Kalyan’s decision to resign from BJP. Announcing his decision to resign from all party posts in BJP, Kalyan said: “I am feeling suffocated in the party and it is impossible and humiliating to continue” (January 20). Clarifying that he had never asked for party ticket for his son or his supporters, Kalyan said that the BJP had ignored him while preparing candidates’ list from UP for Lok Sabha elections. “No one consulted me while preparing a poll candidates’ list for 80 constituencies. I just wanted Bulandshahr seat but they offered me ticket from Etah, which I have returned to party president Rajnath Singh,” he said.

Kalyan is angry with the BJP for nominating Ashok Pradhan from Bulandshahr. He holds Pradhan as responsible for sabotaging his son Rajveer Singh’s chances in assembly elections two years ago from Diboi seat in Aligarh. The preceding day, Yadav had said that Kalyan’s son was welcome to fight on a ticket from SP. When asked to comment on this, Kalyan said: “I would like to thank him for that. We will see.” Rajveer was inducted into SP and appointed its national general secretary, the following day.

Yadav is hopeful that alliance with Kalyan will swing the Dalit-vote in their favor and create a dent in the support enjoyed by Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which at present heads the UP government under Chief Minister Mayawati.

The U-turn in Yadav’s attitude towards Kalyan has angered quite a few Muslim leaders within SP. Azam Khan, known as an important Muslim leader of SP, has strongly opposed Yadav’s decision to join hands with Kalyan. “This is just not acceptable to me. Kalyan Singh is a hardcore RSS man who was directly responsible for the demolition of the Babari Masjid. How can I brush shoulders with a man like him? What has led Mulayam Singhji to go for such an alignment?”

Saleem Sherwani, who has been elected to Lok Sabha five times, voiced his opposition to the “Kalyan deal” by expressing his decision to contest the Budaun seat as an independent candidate in the forthcoming parliamentary elections. Sherwani is disillusioned with Yadav at his decision to hand over Budaun seat to his nephew Dharmendra Yadav. Though his nephew won the last election from Mainpuri, he earned a bad name there for ignoring the constituency and only allegedly furthering his personal interests. SP chief apparently decided to hand Budaun to his nephew as the constituency has 316,000 Yadav votes and around 290,000 Muslim votes. Sherwani’s confidence on winning the seat as an independent rests on his being favored by both the sections.

Muslim leaders within BSP have criticized Yadav’s tie-up with Kalyan to win the Muslim-vote. “We have always been calling bluff the Mulayam Singh Yadav’s claims of secularism. By joining hands with Kalyan Singh, he has shown his true colors,” BSP national general secretary and senior member of UP cabinet Nasimuddin Siddiqui said while addressing a party meeting in Allahabad (January 24). “Muslims must not forget that Kalyan Singh was the very person during whose chief ministership Babari mosque was demolished. Besides, although he has resigned from the BJP he has never ever expressed regret over the incident of December 6, 1992,” Siddiqui said.

Congress has no problems with the SP forging an alliance with Kalyan. “Though it’s a historical fact that the Babari Masjid was demolished in his (Kalyan Singh) time, now if the Samajwadi Party gives ticket to him or his son (Rajvir Singh), it is between them. We don’t have any problem with the alliance,” senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh said.

With the SP-Kalyan deal, according to BJP, the Congress can no longer call itself “secular” and cannot absolve itself from joining hands with those who were involved in the Ayodhya movement. One of the accused in the Babari Masjid demolition-case, Brij Bhushan Sharan, a former BJP member was already given a Lok Sabha ticket by the SP.

Irrespective of whatever political calculations may be responsible for the SP-Kalyan deal, Muslim leaders of UP have strongly criticized it. Describing it as an ill advised move, Zafaryaab Jilani, legal advisor to the All India Muslim Personal Law Board and also convener of the Babari Masjid Action Committee, said: “Let us see what explanation the SP chief will offer to the Muslims during Lok Sabha elections.” The SP will pay heavily by losing Muslim votes in Lok Sabha polls is the opinion voiced by most Muslim leaders in UP.

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