Originally published in The Pyambar.com on 5 March 2013.
Recently, concerns raised by Bollywood superstar Shahrukh Khan in an article for an American magazine are a true eye opener. It is a protest against two major fallacies of our times that need to be understood patiently and in totality. It is the voice of “king” himself, who is loved by millions across the globe, but feels insecure due to his religious orientation in a country that proudly claims to be secular.
The two major issues (one global and one regional) that jut out of Shahrukh Khan’s article are well known, but do not get the attention they deserve. The first one is the post 9/11 discrimination against Muslims across the world, which has become the hall mark of policies of most of the countries and mainly revolves around Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda, Taliban, War on terror and similar themes. The second issue is the plight of Muslims in India and their victimization by extremist elements of Indian society, predominantly Hindu organizations like Shiv Sina, RSS, and others.
Interestingly Shahrukh Khan, being a Muslim as well as an Indian, stands at the intersection of these two issues. Let us analyze them.
Firstly, there is no doubt that 9/11 in 2001 was a day when the world changed forever, unfortunately not for good. The brutal acts of terrorism on twin towers were a great human tragedy, but the tragedies that followed dwarfed the cruelty of 9/11 itself. One tragedy gave birth to hundreds of tragedies. The drone attacks, suicide bombers, carpet bombings, Guantanamo bay, hundreds of dead American soldiers and millions of civilian causalities were the products of a war that cost billions of dollars.
Ironically, a war that started to end terrorism itself became a source of hatred, bloodshed, intolerance, terror, and ended up in labeling 1/5th of the world as terrorists. This rhetoric didn’t confine itself to radical and extremist Muslims alone. Ultra-liberal Muslims like Shahrukh Khan, living in a secular state, and the largest democracy of the world also became a victim of this global outcry.
Secondly, the concerns expressed by Shahrukh Khan over discrimination in his own beloved country owing to his religion, unfortunately defy the so called secular, liberal and shining image of India. This raises many questions on the type of secularism prevailing in India. Recent Indian history is full of embarrassing disclosures of atrocities against Muslims. The incident of Babri mosque in Dec 1992, the infamous Gujrat massacre of 2002, and Samjhota express bombings of 2007 are testimony to the presence of extremist elements in Indian society that keep on surfacing from time to time against the Muslim population.
The recent disclosure of Hindu Terrorism linkage by the Indian Home Minister, Home Secretary and External Affairs Minister in relation to main stream political parties like Bharatiya Janata Paty (BJP) reveals that the problem of Hindu extremism is greatly deep rooted. Thus, when a superstar like Shahrukh Khan complains about the discrimination on the basis of religion, for many, it is an old revelation by a newer victim.
So where does the solution (if any) for Shahrukh Khan’s problem resides? One thing is for sure; the problem is so complex and wide spread that it cannot not be resolved by a single movie venture like “My name is Khan” or similar efforts. Hence, it is not only about an Indian Muslim like Shahrukh Khan and a country like India alone. It is the problem of more than billions of Muslims spread across the globe.
The global discrimination against Muslims includes issues like wearing of scarf in France, blasphemous cartoon making in Denmark, anti Islamic movies in America, atrocities against the Rohingya Muslims in Burma, and above all, the issue of Indian occupied Kashmir that has become a nuclear flash point in recent times.
The victimization against Muslim needs to be addressed and solved through peace and talk. From this personal dilemma emerges a grand opportunity and with the help of his Muslim co-stars like Amir Khan, Salman Khan, and Saif Ali Khan, Shahrukh can joins hands to raise a strong voice against religious discrimination against Muslims in India and abroad.
As the saying goes “charity begins at home,” starting from his home country, Shahrukh Khan can become the voice of a billion Muslims. After all, who knows better about communicating a message effectively than Shahrukh Khan? Like all great endeavors, it is time to convert personal suffering into a global message. It is about going from being a local film Icon to a Global ambassador of Islam and peace.