Earthquakes, terror-attacks, tsunami’s…these last few years we have seen so much happening in the world. A lot people became afraid to live in their own country and want to leave because that’s how the saying goes: the grass is always greener on the other side. But when people leave a country to start their lives elsewhere, especially after something bad happens; then who will rebuild the country. Together we have to lay the foundation for a better world.
This is just one of the thoughts the movie My Name is Khan (2010) is trying to convey through the eyes of an autistic Muslim.
Shah Rukh Khan plays the role of Rizwan Khan, a Muslim with Asperger’s Syndrome. This disorder is characterized by impairment in social interaction, communication and increasingly repetitive behavior. People with autism often take things very literally. For example: people often tell their friends drop by whenever you have the time. People without the disorder will politely call and then drop by, when people with the disorder will just drop by unannounced. Another characteristic is that they don’t understand people, can be rude or just rudely honest and do not like or are afraid of certain colors or scents. But don’t misread them for being stupid, as they are often very intelligent.
Let’s get back to the story of My Name is Khan. After the riots between Hindus and Muslims in 1983 Rizwan’s mother explains to him how she sees the world. She is convinced that humanity cannot only be judged on origin and religion. She tells him: “There are two kinds of people in this world. Good people who do good deeds and bad people who do evil. That is the only difference between people.” Rizwan also believes that good things happen to good people. After his mother dies he moves from Mumbai to San Francisco where lives with his brother and sister. He falls in love with a single mother named Mandira (Kajol), who is a Hindu. Despite some disagreement with his family, Rizwan and Mandira decide to get married. They work towards a happy future as a family, when tragedy strikes.
While in history books the times periods in world history are often noted as BC (before Christ) and AD (Anno Domini), In 2001 a third notation was added to that, 9/11. The world changed after this date.
On September 11th 2001, two planes hit the Twin Towers in New York. This terror attack is mentioned as the day in history that changed everything. People looked at each other differently and especially at people with other backgrounds and religions. The same happens to Rizwan.
Because of his disorder, he does not understand what is happening around him and can not defend himself nor his family. Mandira and her son face hard times and after an argument, she asks Rizwan to pack his bags and leave. She tells him that he can go and tell his story to the President of Amerca. Rizwan took this statement as his mission in life. Rizwan goes on a journey to tell the President of the USA the following: “My Name is Khan and I am not a terrorist.”
My Name is Khan is Rizvan’s journey to find hope, love, happiness and humanity. During his journey he comes into contact with different people he tries to help.
The film shows that not only Muslims were victims of the attacks, but also other large groups from South-East Asia, such as Hindus and Sikhs had to suffer the consequences. The humiliation and beatings from the Western community made it so bad that in some countries Muslims changed their name or just simply and went back to their own country.
This Indian film is not about terrorism, but its impact on humanity. After 2001, many people have become more cautious in their statements and in their doings. But everyone is human and we must ensure that everyone is treated as a human being.
My Name is Khan says that we are stronger than our fears, greater than our limits, more than just a name.