Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan held at Newark Airport; claims racial profiling due to Muslim name

Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan held at Newark Airport; claims racial profiling due to Muslim name

Updated Saturday, August 15th 2009, 6:25 PM


Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan

This never happened to Schwarzenegger.

Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan, who plays a Muslim mistaken for a terrorist in his latest film, says he was racially profiled at Newark Airport and detained for two hours on Friday.

The 43-year-old “Tom Cruise of India” – cited last year by Newsweek as one of the world’s 50 most influential men – was released only after Indian diplomats intervened.

“I was really being hassled, perhaps because of my name being Khan,” the international box office sensation charged Saturday in a text message to reporters.

“These guys wouldn’t let me through.”

Khan, who has appeared in more than 70 films, said he was waiting for his luggage Friday when his name popped up on a computer alert list. Security then pulled him aside.

“Absolutely uncalled for, I think,” Khan said. “I felt angry and humiliated.”

Khan said he endured two hours of interrogation before he was allowed to call the Indian embassy in Washington. An official there vouched for the star, who was then released.

“I was really taken aback,” Khan told an Indian television station. “I did not want to say anything just in case they took everything wrong, because I am a little worried about Americans because they do have this issue when your name is Muslim.”

Officials at U.S. Customs and Border Protection did not answer multiple inquiries Saturday about the case.

The actor insisted he had all the proper paperwork when he was brought to a detention room at the New Jersey airport. But, he said, Khan “is a Muslim name, and I think the name is common on their checklist.”

New Dehli-based U.S. Ambassador Timothy Roemer said officials were trying to “ascertain the facts of the case.”

“Shah Rukh Khan, the actor and global icon, is a very welcome guest in the United States,” Roemer said Saturday. “Many Americans love his films.”

But there were no Bollywood buffs in Newark as Khan came through the airport on his way to Chicago for a celebration of India’s independence day.

“I told them I am a movie star,” Khan said – although the line fell on deaf ears.

He recently signed a deal with Fox Star Studios to finance and distribute his new movie, “My Name is Khan” – the story of a Muslim man mistaken for a terrorist in post-9/11 America.

The incident caused outrage in his homeland, where the Khan-troversy dominated television news.

Last month, Continental Airlines apologized to former Indian President Abdul Kalam for frisking him at New Delhi‘s airport.

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