Tolerance Is A Journey

My Name Is Khan posterIt’s not often that you can see a movie that really makes you think, but I recently saw a film that truly transcended the entertainment experience. A movie that is just as good in its own way as Slum Dog Millionaire. It is an Indian film set in both India and America. The name of the movie is My Name Is Khan and it stars a very famous Indian actor, Shahrukh Khan, who ironically was detained at Newark airport the last time he tried to enter the U.S. because of his name.This movie broke all box office records for an Indian film all over the world when it was released this month. It has a limited release in this country but if you are fortunate to have it playing in a theatre near you, you should go see it. The film is about an Indian Muslim with Asberger's syndrome who emigrates to the U.S. and what happens to him and his family before and after 9/11. The film both entertains and gives the viewer a lot upon which to reflect. It is unfortunate that the people who are most likely to see it are the ones least likely to benefit from its message of tolerance.

As a child, I grew up in a relatively observant Jewish household where my parents taught us tolerance toward other religious, ethnic and racial groups. Hate was a word that was not allowed. If we were angry with someone we could “dislike them intensely” but we were taught that hate destroys both the hater and the hated. As a teenager I remember being righteously indignant when I read Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee or learned about the treatment of the Japanese Americans during World War II. I watched civil rights marchers on TV and wished I was My Name Is Khan poster 2among them. However, as I got older I came to the realization that it is easier to be free of prejudice in theory than it is in practice. We are all prejudiced in one way or another; it is how we deal with it that differentiates each of us.

I consider myself to be more fortunate than most people in that regard. I often wonder how my opinions and feelings would differ if I had followed my parents’ wishes and married a nice Jewish boy instead of a Muslim from Pakistan. It is easy to be suspicious and fearful of people when they are faceless “others” instead of family members. Where some people see the face of a terrorist, I see the face of a brother-in-law, sister-in-law, nephew or niece. And once you personalize one group that you were once ignorant and fearful of, it is amazing how that transfers to all of humanity.

Susan Harrison is an attorney by training, home remodeler by accident, and a writer by choice.

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