Movie Review: My Name Is Khan

The crazy, messed up world we live in required the clear sight of a man with Asperger’s syndrome to show us how life should be – could be – if we opened our eyes, minds and hearts to each other.

I watched the movie “My Name Is Khan” last night. I do not exaggerate if I say it is probably one of the most beautiful movies I’ve ever seen. It resonated so closely with thoughts I’ve had for quite some time. It focused the spotlight on a type of people who are out there but are not acknowledged.

“My Name Is Khan” is about an Indian Muslim man with Asperger’s syndrome (an autistic disease) who grew up in India among Muslim-Hindu troubles. His mother taught him that it was not Hindu or Muslim who was bad. It was the man with the stick in his hand who was bad, no matter where that person comes from.

Khan takes this simple idea with him to the U.S. and marries a Hindu woman he falls in love with against the wishes of his brother, his only remaining family member. And then 911 strikes.  The movie portrays the lives of Muslims in the United States post-911 and the prejudices they were exposed to as a result. The movie shows how friendships, relationships and lives were shattered and how people coped in different ways. And the movie has one overwhelming message repeated throughout by the main actor: “My name is Khan and I am not a terrorist.”

My sister was a veiled Muslim woman living in the US when 911 struck. My sister is half-American. She was – as I’m sure she will tell you – as shocked by the 911 attacks as everyone else was. But she lived a very scary time afterwards, where she could not leave her home for days on end as anti-Muslim rhetoric and sentiments pervaded. I am also half American and have struggled with my identity for most of my life. So this movie is very personal to me in many ways.

The message of the movie goes beyond, however, the fact that not all Muslims are terrorists. The beauty of the movie is in its portrayal of the multi-cultural, inter-ethnic world we now live in (practically wherever we live) and how we must learn to look beyond color, race, clothing, appearance, religion, ideology and see the human being in each of us. We must look beyond our differences and see our commonalities. We must look beyond our commonalities and appreciate our differences. 

I appreciate “My Name Is Khan” because it portrays a type of people I know, but who are not given a voice. I appreciate “My Name Is Khan” because it comes after countless movies where Muslims have been portrayed as terrorists, gold-diggers, or crazy genies and sorcerers. I appreciate “My Name Is Khan” because it shows the kind of world we could be – should be – living in.

Book Review: Little Bee

I’ve never written a book review before, nor do I know how one should properly be written. But if there’s ever been a book that deserves my time to be reviewed, it’s Little Bee.

I bought Little Bee at San Diego Airport while I was waiting for my plane on my way home to Cairo. I do this frequently, but I rarely end up actually reading the book and if I do, I rarely make it past the first few pages. Air travel exhausts me and serious reading takes a lot of energy out of me.

I read Little Bee throughout the three flights I took to Cairo when I was not sleeping. And I read the remaining few chapters when I got home. I could hardly put it down.

Little Bee is a story about humanity. It is a fictitious story told by two women who are worlds apart. A dramatic event brings the two women together in the midst of a Nigerian oil war. We then watch as they are separated and their stories unfold only to bring them back together more than two years later.

We meet Little Bee as a 16-year-old Nigerian refugee in the United Kingdom. Through her very personal story we get a very human feel for the life of refugees; both before they arrive in their chosen country of refuge and after.

Sarah O’Rourke is the editor of a fashion magazine in London. Sarah yearns for the days when she felt she could save the world.

Little Bee speaks to us in a language she has taught herself so we can understand. She tells us stories about her village in Nigeria in a way that makes it easier to relate. At once, we learn how different life in her village is from ours in our globalized cities and towns, yet how similar the human spirit is no matter where it resides. This concept is magnified by delving into Sarah’s spirit as she navigates through one life-changing event after another.

Little Bee is a story that shows how love, acceptance of one another, and understanding can not only change lives but save them.

The book is written by Chris Cleave, a columnist for The Guardian. Cleave brilliantly embodies the spirits and personalities of many women in this book. He writes as if he was a woman or has delved into their souls. The women in Little Bee come from many countries and backgrounds. He uses their words, their languages, their motions, and their thought-processes in a way one can only do after years of close observation and understanding.

Little Bee was published in 2008 by Simon & Simon Paperbacks, New York, NY. It was originally published in Great Britain by Sceptre, an imprint of Hodder & Stoughton.