The “Khan” effect

Judging by what happened yesterday, I would say US Airport Officials want us to believe that regardless of background or qualifications, anyone with the last name of “Khan” could possibly be a potential terrorist wanting to blow up all of America.

While news channels in different countries portrayed the event – the detention of Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan – as either “humiliating” (as per the Indian media) or “a dramatic over-reaction” (as per the pro-American news channels), what this really shows is how fundamentally flawed the American so-called counter-terrorism intelligence really is.

I mean firstly, not only did they manage to attack and invade a sovereign country under the pretext of non-existent Weapons of Mass Destruction (does anyone even remember that anymore?) and defend that claim for over a year, but when the truth finally did come out in 2004 – that, in fact, there really was no WMD and that the intelligence was seriously flawed – they conceded that damage was already done. And that they now had stay in order to “stabilize” a country they originally invaded on stupid intelligence.

And coming back to the present, now because Mr. Khan is a global celebrity with good political connections, he was just ‘taken aside’ for questioning and released with the full support of the Indian Embassy 2hours later.
But I shudder to think what would have become of the more common Khan – one who is not so well connected to people in high places.
Would he have been held for days, maybe weeks for the “secondary questioning”?
Or maybe even sent to Guantanamo Bay, just like the countless other innocents languishing for years there, held without any charge?

Regardless of whatever “its-all-for-security” reasons anyone gives, if a computer turns up someone’s name just because of their cultural or religious affiliation without any other basis, it shows how pathetic the whole system really is. I mean seriously, do they program those things to turn red and sound alarm bells just because someone’s NAME sounds funny?

For that, they might as well put up a sign that says,
”People named Khan, Muhammed, or Abdullah not allowed without additional verification”.

And if that’s how they are going to keep their citizens safe anymore, they really shouldn’t call themselves “The Land of The Free” anymore.

Update, 24Aug:
After extensive reading, I find out that there *is* such a thing as a "No-Fly List" in the United States and Canada, detailing names - and nothing more - of passengers who are, quite simply, not allowed to fly. Over time, this list is rumored to have grown to over a million names (although this claim is officially denied) and poses significant hinderance to the common person who unfortunately happens to shares their name with someone on the list.
In such cases, the person is expected to prove that "I am not him/her" using a variety of identification methods, and apparently almost always leads to delays/missed flights for such people.

How the internet can ruin your day

It just occurred to me that there’s a flip side to having practically unlimited high-speed internet access both at home and in the workplace.
And today, it just ruined my day.

It started out quite normal – a regular day doing what I normally do, and since it wasn’t very hectic this Thursday morning, I logged on to an online forum where I sometimes participate.
There were a few discussion threads and one of them seemed interesting enough to get into, and a few points exchanged back and forth. Good, constructive criticism. And then all of a sudden, a guy jumps in, accuses me of lying and everything, and before I know it, its a full-fledged war out there.

I had a few heated exchanges with him and finally decided to call it quits…when I realized how badly this really shook me up.
I didn’t enjoy my lunch today, and I really couldn’t concentrate on my work either.  He completely ruined my day, and pretty much most of my evening as well.

I came back from work still thinking about this, and it took me a couple of cake rusks and a load of funny pictures from Oddee to calm me down.
And as I still thought of new ways to get back at him, I realized:
Why am I even doing this?

For some faceless guy on the internet I don’t even know (he goes by the name of Dovey_Descends by the way) and of whom the only image I have is his profile pic?
Why should I care what he thinks?
Why did I let him ruin an otherwise perfect day?

I guess the answer lies in how much we love our online personas. And I for once learnt my lesson: nothing online is important enough to ruin your real life.
Dovey, if you’re reading this, you’re just a pathetic loser who gains from online wackamola. Go get a life!

And now if you’ll excuse me, soup’s on!

The Germanic Language

There’s a famous joke that says that at the time of the American independence, there was much debate over which of the two – German or English – should be the official language. And that even though it was English that finally won, German did manage to make itself quite well established regardless.

I don’t doubt that for a moment. Here’s a list of normal English words I’ve come across that seem to have been directed infused from German:

I guess everyone knows that the children’s playschool is actually a German word. ‘Kinder’ is German for children (singular: Kind) and ‘Garten’ is, well, a garden.

Thinly sliced cabbage in cold cream is not an American invention either. I’m thinking this was derived from ‘Kohl’ (pronounced almost exactly like ‘cole’) which is German for Cabbage.

No, those backpacks aren’t American either. This comes from the German ‘Rückpack’ (with a “ü”) where ‘Rück’ means back.

Apothecary table:
This medieval table having the many compartments for storing medicinal items was made popular in Friends, but I’m not too sure how many people noticed the language it came from.
’Apotheke’ is German for a pharmacy.

And I’m sure there’s lots more where that came from, and I just wanna let you know, I’m still not done with German yet.

The Arab connection

I guess I’ve mentioned a few times that I’ve been asked if I’m Arab.
Notwithstanding that time on the plane, and that other kid who mistook me for an “arabic person”, the past couple of months I’ve also been asked if I speak Arabic, more times than I’ve been asked if I speak German.

That, and the fact that at the barber saloon I go to, the guy speaks no English, no German and little Arabic, I think it would be more useful than fun to answer “Yes”, the next time someone asks.

With this view in mind, I’d like to announce that effective immediately I now start to learn, a self-taught course on Arabic.
Of course, this is not a new language for me, but having spent most of my school years dreading language classes, I guess it is still going to be a while before I can look someone in the eye and say,
”Na’am, atakallam al-Arabi”

Now, why am I saying all this here?
Because I know that two weeks down the line when I decide to give up because it is getting too way hard to learn TWO languages simultaneously (yes, my German course is still on!) I want to look back at this entry and tell myself that I’m not gonna wimp away from something I promised in Public.

And hope that’s motivation enough.
I wish me luck.