On Friday morning we woke up to Shah Rukh Khan's disturbing tweet on being detained at the Los Angeles airport. This is not the first occasion when Shah Rukh has been harassed at an American airport because …well…his name is Khan. And never mind if he is not a terrorist.
However Kamal cautions, "We don't need to over-react just because this Khan is a Shah Rukh. I don't think Shah Rukh himself minded the detention. I know the gentlemen. He would never say, 'I am Shah Rukh Khan, so I should be treated differently from other Khans'. I think he said, each time he wants to feel normal he visits the US. His fans might feel injured on his behalf. But it can't be helped. The Americans are an injured nation. They're just being careful. It happened to me and I had to miss my flight. There was no great apology or anything. It's rules they're following."
Kamal Haasan doesn't recommend a separate treatment by the US immigration to Shah Rukh. "I'd recommend that they be kind to all Khans. They can't generalize about all Khans. It's as awful as saying all Americans are stupid."
As for Irrfan dropping his Khan surname (he calls himself just "Irrfan") Kamal Haasan is willing to go the opposite way. "I'm ready to change my name from Kamal to Qamal. I'm often mistaken for a Muslim and I don't correct the misconception. My brothers Charu Haasan and Chandra Haasan don't have to face this. Please remember the fabric of our nation is woven with saffron, white and green. We can't pull out any of the colours. We have to co-exist. The crusades are over."
Irrfan Khan has gone through the ordeal on two occasions on American airports.
Kabir Khan had to face the brunt of Islamophobia in the US. "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 de board. 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 had happened."
However when Kabir was questioned again at an American airport he refused to take it lying down. "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."