“Your Name is Common”: Racial Profiling in the US

by Kamalakar Duvvuru / August 22nd, 2009

One
of the draconian consequences of 9/11 is racial profiling. Bollywood
Muslim actor Shah Rukh Khan became the latest victim of what some call
“flying while a Muslim” after he was singled out by US airport
authorities allegedly because of his Muslim surname “Khan”. “I was
really hassled at the American airport because my name is Khan,” he
said. The other recent Indian victim was former president of India. On
April 24, 2009 in a clear violation of protocol, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul
Kalam, a Muslim, was frisked by the staff of American airliner
Continental Airlines.

Shah Rukh Khan was detained at the Newark airport on August 14, 2009
for about two hours, and released only after the Indian consulate
intervened and vouched for him. Later he said that instead of doing a
routine finger scan, the immigration authorities kept telling him that
his name was “common”. He said: “They kept telling me your name is
common…And I was too polite to ask ‘common to what’.”1
Ironically, his new film “My Name is Khan” is on racial profiling, and
revolves around a Muslim character, mistaken for a terrorist, and his
experiences in a post 9/11 America.

What happened to Shah Rukh Khan is not an isolated incident. Since
September 11, 2001 there has been a widely reported increase in racial
profiling at US airports, particularly as it applies to passengers with
darker complexion, “foreign sounding names,” and/or Middle Eastern or
South Asian appearance. They are either forced to disembark or refused
entry to a plane or detained. Their skin color, names, language and
country of origin attract security personnel. Not because they are all
criminals. Their “foreign marks” make them suspects. A 50-page report
of the Amnesty International “Threat and Humiliation: Racial Profiling,
Domestic Security, and Human Rights in the United States,” released on
September 13, 2004, asserts that racial profiling in the US is
pervasive and the law enforcement uses race, religion, country of
origin, or ethnic and religious appearance as a proxy for criminal
suspicion. “Prior to 9/11, racial profiling was frequently referred to
as ‘driving while black,’” the report noted. “Now, the practice can be
more accurately characterized as driving, flying, walking, worshipping,
shopping or staying at home while Black, Brown, Red, Yellow, Muslim or
of Middle-Eastern appearance.”                      More……………..

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