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.