This past week the film My Name is Khan was released to audiences worldwide and has broken global box office records. The Bollywood film examines a topic that the American media shies away from: the struggles of Muslim Americans after the September 11th attacks.
This highly anticipated film tells the story of Rizwan Khan, a Muslim with Asperger’s syndrome, who moves to San Francisco to live with his brother. There he meets and marries Mandira. Rizwan, Mandira, and her son Sameer live together and both Mandira and Sameer take on the last name Khan. However, after the attacks of 9/11, they face prejudice. Mandira blames their struggles on the new last name “Khan.” In order to stay in Mandira’s life, she tells him he must tell Americans and the President that his name is Khan and that he is not a terrorist. This mission leads him on a journey across the United States, in which he is detained, imprisoned, and tortured because he is seen as a terrorist suspect, even when he tries to inform the FBI about Faisal Rahman, who espouses violent rhetoric at the local mosque.
This film is not only intriguing but incredibly important and timely. It tackles many sensitive topics that include the backlash against Muslims after 9/11, the discrimination that many felt and continue to feel, the problematic use of the term “terrorist” to implicate many for the actions of a few, and why Muslim Americans have sometimes been hesitant to work with governmental agencies like the FBI. This Bollywood movie opens up the possibility for constructive discussion about discrimination and the danger of rhetoric that inspires fear and hatred.
Have you seen My Name is Khan? What is your reaction to the film? Can film lead to social change? Please leave your comments below.