Millennium Post

Because his name is Khan

Before the current controversy broke over an article actor Shah Rukh Khan wrote for a magazine where he talked about being Muslim in the post 9/11 world, Indian news media played up another controversy that had religion at its centre. Home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde had courted controversy with his remarks at the Congress’ Chintan Shivir that the country’s principal opposition party BJP and its parent organisation RSS were promoting what he termed as Hindu terror.

This was not the first time Hindu terror has come up in public discourse. On 25 August 2010, then Union home minister P Chidambaram had warned against a newly-unearthed phenomenon of ‘saffron terror’. ‘There is no let up in the attempts to radicalise young men and women in India. Besides, there is the recently uncovered phenomenon of saffron terrorism that has been implicated in many bomb blasts of the past,’ he said.

Understandably, within the country and outside, especially in Pakistan, the comment came handy for certain groups that wanted to rubbish India’s secular credentials. And herein comes the point. Did we, as a nation, want any of our icons from films or sports, who happen to be Hindu, to come out and say that all Hindus are not terrorists and they certainly do not harbour any ill feelings towards fellow citizens who practice other faiths? Was it asked of Amitabh Bachchan to condemn Hindu terror in public and make his stand clear on the issue? Or Sachin Tendulkar for that matter? Why then is Shah Rukh Khan pushed against the wall every time he speaks on religion or opines that India should engage with Pakistan in the playing fields of cricket and hockey. Or in this instance, when Pakistan’s interior minister Rehman Malik asked the Indian government to make him feel secure in the country, why is the onus on him to come out and say it out loud that he is a Muslim and he feels secure in India.

That is just what Shah Rukh Khan did (felt compelled to do?) on Tuesday evening as the Shiv Sena and others demanded. ‘We are all educated and patriotic people. We do not have to prove that time and again because of divisive politics of a few,’ he said.
Love him or loathe him, Shah Rukh is India’s biggest brand. Recently, Forbes announced him as the highest-earning film celebrity in India. He defeated other celebs like Salman Khan and Amitabh Bachchan to top that list. It’s good gimmick to drag his name in a controversy and get media attention. But doing so seriously dents our secular image and makes us dangerously similar to our neighbouring country that so many of us love to hate.
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