Aug 23, 2009

Turban Trouble

Last year, The Vancouver Sun published an article about a research study regarding the unintentional prejudice shown by white Caucasian subjects on targets dressed in Islamic outfits in a computer game. The essence of the article is that, due to strong negative stereotyping by the media, people have created prejudice and hatred on Muslims and tend to associate the latter to terrorists.

Researchers from University of New South Wales in Australia conducted a study involving 59 students in which the students were asked to shoot the armed targets – men or women – on the monitor. The targets were manipulated graphically to be with or without a turban or a hijab, and also holding guns or other inoculate objects such as a coffee mug or a bottle of drink. They pre-conditioned the students to be in happy, neutral or angry moods.

It was found that the students showed a ‘shooter bias’ for the targets wearing a turban or a hijab. The students shot the targets appearing to be Muslims even if they were carrying a coffee mug or coke. This confirmed that Muslim appearance is indeed associated with a negative stereotype. This being the case among Australian students who haven’t faced the Islamic terrorism in their territory at all, the authors expect that such a ‘turban effect’ would be much stronger in countries such as the USA and Britain. Nevertheless, the strong prejudice against the Muslims can be felt which the authors claim is due to the media coverage.

Interestingly, the angry people shot more at everybody whereas the happy people shot selectively more at Muslim-appearing targets. Also, men were shot at more than women targets. These results also suggest that men are generally viewed as more threatening/dangerous. A leader of Muslim community in Montreal is quoted saying that “these studies confirm our biggest fear that there is discrimination and prejudice in our society”.

Now, on the Shah Rukh incident, I see no issue at all. Those who cry foul at the US officials are the same who ask angry questions at Indian government whenever there is a terror attack in India. If US also had acted 'semi-secular' like India, for the sake of votes, or in order 'not to hurt the sentiments of minorities', then there would have been several more attacks similar to 9/11. When a terrorist keeps SRK as one of his names, it does get entered into major databases. What if that terrorist tries to enter with the name of SRK? Just for the namesake, is he expected to be given a red carpet welcome?

SRK's face has been changing quite a bit in the past 2 years or so, due to the combination of various factors such as aging, 6-pack tries, IPL fiasco, Asperger, and god knows what else. How hard would it be for a terrorist from Pakistan (many of them are good-looking, mind it) to undergo prosthetic surgery resembling SRK and try to use it as a cover? And, why the heck are the airport officials supposed to know who SRK is? Salman Khan killed a few roadside dwellers while driving drunk and there has been no action against him. In US, OJ case not withstanding, all are equal when it comes to law enforcement. It is so funny and ironic that people like Karan Johar and Farah Khan who often visit US strongly condemned this incident. They should know better. All in the name of hype, blunt support, blind solidairity, stupid friendship, and attention-seeking.

(Pic adapted from