The United States on Friday apologized and denied charges of racial profiling after Indian film superstar Shah Rukh Khan said he was held by authorities after jetting in on a private plane.
India lodged a diplomatic complaint after Khan said he was detained for more than 90 minutes on Thursday evening after he landed at New York’s small White Plains airport on his way to deliver a speech at Yale University.
“We have obviously the utmost respect for Mr Khan and his work, both as an artist and a humanitarian,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters, echoing an apology by the US embassy in New Delhi.
“We offer our apologies for any discomfort or inconvenience he may have suffered as a result of this incident,” he said.
Toner denied allegations that Khan was singled out because of his Muslim name, saying: “Tens of thousands of Muslims travel to and from the United States every day and are not detained or delayed.”
Toner said that Khan was “delayed” on his plane and never taken into custody. He said that the US embassy in New Delhi allowed travelers to identify themselves beforehand in a bid to prevent difficulties after landing stateside.
Khan has said he was also detained for more than two hours in 2009 at Newark airport outside New York. He later starred in the film “My Name is Khan,” about an Indian Muslim’s struggles with racial profiling in the United States.
The 46-year-old, one of the most popular stars of the Hindu-majority nation’s prolific Bollywood industry, made his way to Yale after his latest incident and said he was used to such hassles at US airports.
“Yes, it always happens, it’s nice. Whenever I start feeling arrogant about myself, I always take a trip to America,” he joked with students.
“The immigration guys kick the stars out of stardom,” said Khan, who boasted of some small victories when he was questioned, such as fibbing about his height.
“The next time I’m gonna be more adventurous. What color are you? I’m gonna say white,” said Khan, who has acted in nearly 80 films.
Racial profiling is a politically charged issue in the United States, with intense national attention on the case of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old African American shot by a neighborhood watch guard on February 26 in Florida.
Photo via AFP