Reprinted from the Associated Press, Aug. 16. 2009. (Shah Rukh Khan is one of my favorite Bollywood actors. So, I felt compelled to reprint this story on my blog)
By NIRMALA GEORGE (AP)
NEW DELHI — Angry fans burned a U.S. flag in protest Sunday, a Cabinet minister suggested searching visiting Americans and an actress tweeted her outrage after Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan said he was detained for questioning at a U.S. airport.
Though U.S. immigration officials denied he was formally held, fellow Indian film stars and political leaders condemned what they called “humiliating” treatment given to Khan, a Muslim who is well-loved in a largely Hindu country. One Cabinet minister suggested a “tit-for-tat” policy toward Americans traveling to India.
Angry fans in the northern city of Allahabad shouted anti-U.S. slogans and burned an American flag. Khan said he was detained Friday by U.S. immigration officials at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey because his name came up on a computer alert list. The actor is in the U.S. to promote a new film, “My Name is Khan,” which is about racial profiling of Muslims after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The story was front-page news in India, where the ability to avoid being frisked at airports is seen as a status symbol. Politicians, sports celebrities and film stars often claim VIP status to avoid security checks.
“My name is Khan? Too bad. SRK (Shah Rukh Khan) feels the heat of American paranoia,” said The Times of India, quoting Khan as saying he felt “angry and humiliated.” Khan later downplayed the incident. “I think it’s a procedure that needs to be followed, but an unfortunate procedure,” he told reporters Saturday in suburban Chicago.
U.S. customs officials told The Associated Press that Khan was questioned as part of a routine process that took 66 minutes. Spokesman Elmer Camacho said Khan was not detained, “but it took a little longer because his bag was lost by the airline.” “Shocking, disturbing n downright disgraceful. It’s such behavior that fuels hatred and racism. SRK’s a world figure for God’s sake. Get real!” actress Priyanka Chopra said on her Twitter feed.
The federal information minister, Ambika Soni, angrily suggested that India adopt a similar policy toward Americans traveling to India. In the Indian capital, New Delhi, a small group of photo-waving fans shouted slogans in support of Khan. The U.S. ambassador, Timothy J. Roemer, on Saturday said the U.S. Embassy was trying to “ascertain the facts of the case — to understand what took place.”
Khan, 44, has acted in more than 70 films, and has consistently topped popularity rankings in India for the past several years.
Associated Press writers Michael Tarm in Rosemont, Illinois, and Bruce Shipkowski in Trenton, N.J., contributed to this report.