Outrage at Bollywood actor's US airport questioning


June 18, 2010 Updated Aug 16, 2009 at 5:10 AM EDT

Indian newspapers on Sunday railed against the questioning of Bollywood superstar Shahrukh Khan at a New York airport after the actor suggested he had been singled out because he was Muslim.

Khan, who was held up at Newark Liberty International Airport, told an Indian television station by telephone that Khan "is a Muslim name and I think the name is common on their checklist."

"Anger erupts over Shahrukh's insult" read the front page of the Hindi-language Dainik Jagran, while the Mail Today declared "Humiliating religious profiling of iconic star at US airport shocks India."

But US officials said that Khan, India's leading screen heartthrob, was subject only to routine procedures when he landed on Friday.

US Customs and Border Protection agency spokesman Kevin Corsaro told AFP that one reason Khan had been delayed was that his luggage was lost.

Citing privacy concerns, the agency declined to provide specifics but said the incident had lasted little more than an hour.

"The inspection process may include a more in-depth interview and baggage examination," the agency said in a statement.

Khan, who took part in celebrations in Chicago on Saturday marking India's Independence Day, said the way he had been treated left him "angry and humiliated."

Fox Star Studios has recently struck a deal to finance and distribute "My Name is Khan", a movie due out next year starring Khan about an Indian Muslim setting out on a journey across the US.

Airport searches are a sensitive privacy issue in India, where similar outrage erupted last month when former president Abdul Kalam, also a Muslim, was frisked by US airline staff in Delhi before boarding a flight to New York.

Kalam was searched despite protocol rules at Indian airports exempting dignitaries from security checks, and the airline later apologised.

Indian government ministers sprang to Khan's defence at the weekend.

"The way we are frisked -- for example I too was frisked -- we should also do the same to them," Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni said.

"I don't understand how in the name of religion, frisking can be done for anyone like this."

US Ambassador to India Timothy Roemer attempted to calm the furore by issuing a statement describing Khan as a "global icon," who was a welcome guest in the United States.

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