Monday, March 27, 2006

Is America still frightened of Muslim Names?

I have heard a lot of experiences of Muslims or Indians having beard being questioned in America as if they are one amongst terrorist. But things are different when you have a first hand experience. A similar incident happened with me in US Embassy in Chennai.

Am working in L&T Infotech for more than 6 months now and got an Onsite opportunity. I had a client interview and got selected. I went Chennai to have a Business Visa. Earlier met my travel coordinator and although they scared me a lot like I will be watched by people and have to answer confidently, still I got an impression that their approach was very casual. According to them it was a cakewalk.

I reached Chennai on 23rd night. Chennai has never been a happy hunting ground for me, but still I hoped that things would fall in place this time. My colleague's Interview was at 10 AM, so I dropped him and then I went to Internet cafe. Came to Embassy at 11:15, I had pre-screening in which I came to know that many fields were blank in the form and were supposed to be filled, also found out that there is a column where I have to write my name in native language. I asked the lady who was posing herself as a lady cop only the cap was missing... ;0) She asked me to write in URDU. So I completed the form and got my doc's checked. I joined the line, which was quite long and was hardly moving. In between I could hear people calling IBM employees to rush to counter 4, I was wandering why the special treatment was giving to them, but couldn’t get the answer.

Finally I entered the VISA office after standing for 3 hours. I do came to know that Indian people act dumb sometimes. I was just hearing questions sitting in queue like "How many children you have?”, "How many people came to your marriage?" and some more. I was just thinking of what all questions I will have to answer, at this time I already knew that my Colleague dint get the VISA cuz officer was not convinced with his answers.

My turn came to take the fingerprints at counter no 13; the lady was just looking at the confidence level of the person. She dint enquire about anything, just asked me to pay the fees and continue with the proceedings. I went to counter no. 1 to pay the fees which was about 50m away. Suddenly I heard my name getting announced by that lady. I went back and politely enquired about the matter, she told there are some extra administrative proceedings to be done and they took my Passport and I was not allowed to take the Intervview. This happened so quickly that I was not getting why that happened. While coming back to Hotel, I was thinking of all kind of possibilities and suddenly it strike to me that my name has "OMER" which is a lil controversial.

I was really disappointed cuz I could do nothing for that. I told my friends and everyone got upset over the issue. My mom got freaked out, saying "Beta Passport wapas denge na..." Well that’s typical Indian Mom... but anyone would get worried. My Project Manager got real upset after hearing that cuz he dint expect that coming. He asked me to meet a lady in Chennai Office and intimate her what all had happened. I met that lady and she did tell that there had been one off cases lately and nothing to worry about, they will send a questionnaire and have to send it back.

After this incident I had thought a lot, why innocent Muslims had to face these embarrassing situations. The person with whom they are so terrorized is succeeding by all these stupid acts. Americans are so insecure and terrified by one person that they fail to understand a simple fact that a person wont use his actual name while doing any illegal activity. But still it’s outside the scope of our Company or our Country to question that. It’s very unfortunate for poor hard working innocent Muslim guys who have nothing to do with all this but have to be at the receiving end. I hope a day will come when a person wont get judged by some stupid guy from a community spreading terror and doing nothing but just harming the credentials of a community.