As any visitor to these shores will almost certainly know, there are few institutions which provide a worse advertisement for America and its values than the shouty ladies and gentlemen who staff the local airport security facilities.
Not content with frisking old ladies and creating the kind of queues once seen outside bakeries in Soviet-era Moscow, the TSA (as the stable-door-shutting agency in charge of protecting the skies is called), has now sparked a diplomatic dispute between the US and the world’s largest democracy.
Meera Shankar, the Indian ambassador (pictured here with President Obama), made the mistake of visiting the Deep South last week, to address students of the University of Mississippi’s International Studies programme.
On her way home, she wore a Sari. Big mistake. To the cosmopolitan folk manning the security queue at Jackson airport (whose geographical, political and historical awareness appears to mirror that of Sarah Palin), the traditional Indian outfit apparently looked like Muslim garb. So she was identified as a potential terrorist and singled out for what is known in the trade as “additional screening.” You can read local news accounts of the incident here.
Result: one highly-offended ambassador, who – while officially declining to comment on the affair – has vowed to never again venture back to the KKK’s favourite State. Being groped, in plain view of fellow travellers, was “humiliating,” it seems.
“This stupid incident ruined the whole [visit],” her host Janos Radvanyi, chair of the local university’s international studies department, told reporters. “She said, ‘I will never come back here. We are sending her a letter of apology.”
Ambassador Shankar isn’t the only eminent Indian to fall foul of the regrettable tendency of US airport security staff to presume that all people of Asian appearance are likely terrorists.
Last year, Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan, one of the most famous men on the planet, was given a thorough going-over at Newark airport, leading him to accuse staff of “racial profiling,” telling fans he too felt “angry and humiliated.”