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Mistaken for a terrorist

Posted By Sunny On 3rd April, 2007 @ 8:56 am In Current affairs, United States | Comments Disabled

Zak Shaikh, a Los Angeles based screenwriter and filmmaker was recently caught “mistakenly” as a terrorist. He sends us an email to alert us to [1] his article in LA Weekly over the experience.

We found out that the man sentenced to death in Pakistan for abducting and helping to kill the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl had a scarily similar profile to me: We shared the same name (Ahmed) and similarly spelled last name (Shaikh). He had attended the London School of Economics, where I was an undergraduate. Even spookier, he had attended Forest School, a rival high school to my own alma mater, Chigwell Boys.

It didn’t seem to matter that this guy had grown a beard, bought an AK-47 and joined the Kashmir Liberation Front, while I had gone to L.A. to purchase a Starbucks loyalty card and write movies. In the eyes of the U.S. authorities, it appeared, we might as well have been the same person.

I don’t think I’ll be returning to Britain anytime soon. L.A. may occasionally be a soulless, empty place. But I’m not risking international travel for a while. In fact, I may join the 80 percent of Americans sans passports and never leave these shores again.

Incompetent? The American government? Aren’t you on the side of freedom, liberty, justice, motherhood and apple pie, boy?

Comments Disabled To "Mistaken for a terrorist"

#1 Comment By AsifB On 3rd April, 2007 @ 12:01 pm

Having read the article what I’d like to know is why would anyone give the screenplay adaption of “Yardie” to an Americanized Public school boy with a goatee?

Plus, I think less than 90 day UK tourists only need machine readable passports, not biometic, so another of the pegs of the article is wrong. (Mind you they do retina scan you, so just passing through probably provides enough material to plant your DNA somewhere…)

#2 Comment By Bert Preast On 3rd April, 2007 @ 12:14 pm

I’m outraged. No, really.

#3 Comment By Chairwoman On 3rd April, 2007 @ 1:19 pm

Sunny - Are you thinking about going back to LA anytime soon?

#4 Comment By Kismet Hardy On 3rd April, 2007 @ 2:28 pm

The musician Nitin Sawhney got a lot of grief at US customs a couple of years back. He was like ‘which part of I’m a British Hindu’ don’t you get?

#5 Comment By contrarymary On 3rd April, 2007 @ 3:38 pm

As did Malik Meer (NME) going to cover SXSW in Austin a couple of years back. Even worse in US immigration terms, he had a couple of Pakistani immigration stamps. Therefore must be al-qaeda. Weirdly I went to America six months after 9/11 and the immmigration at LA was LAX. I was fully expecting a cavity search, but they didn’t say anything, at all. I guess now that climate of fear and paranoia has fully taken over.

#6 Comment By justforfun On 3rd April, 2007 @ 9:28 pm

Sunny - Are you thinking about going back to LA anytime soon?

If you do - can I have your record collection - I’ll look after it till you get back.

Oh for the the days before 9/11 - once years ago in America I was greeted with a “Salaam” by a big black muslim lady when I handed over my nearly expired dark blue passport. I thought that was very friendly. Its now that horrible burgundy thing and now the world has gone down hill fast. Was kept waiting for an hour in Turkey as my name has a distictive Persian name in it. After an hour of sitting around chatting to the the armed men, the customs man came back , but his English was a bit hesitant and he initially said that I was obviously too old to be the WOMAN they were looking for. When I heard that, I laughed. He quickly realised what he had said and laughed as well, then ordered me a cab. I thought that was very friendly. At a small checkpoint between France and Italy they did not like me for some reason, and searched everything , I mean everything ( )*( ) - after a while I thought they would plant something just to get a result, but luckily a coach turned up and I was waved off. I thought that was friendly as well.

Zak Shaikh was taking a risk and being very silly to say he had written an episode of “Scrubs” when he hadn’t. If they had picked up on the embellishment, he could have just been turned back or interrogated even more and after his embellishment they would not believe a word he said. Makes you wonder.


#7 Comment By Sunny On 3rd April, 2007 @ 9:59 pm

boy with a goatee?

Are you goatee-ist? Because I spend ages on crafting my facial hair and take these things seriously you know!

Are you thinking about going back to LA anytime soon?

Yup! Well they always take me aside for “routine” checks but I like going there nonetheless… have great family there.

#8 Comment By G. Tingey On 5th April, 2007 @ 9:25 am

Does Zak have dual British?US citizenship?
If he does, he should have no difficulty tavelling, as long as he ahs both passports valid.

Chigwell? Forest?
I went to Monoux - SO THERE ….
I hope the local boy does well, and good luck to him.

#9 Comment By anon On 5th April, 2007 @ 7:52 pm

Why does he think being British would help? There have been British Muslin terrorists, remember.

Having a British passport might well be positively correlated with being a terrorist.

#10 Comment By Eremos On 12th April, 2007 @ 12:25 am

G. Tingey, I went to Monoux as well! I bet no one else on this forum knows what we are talking about!

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URLs in this post:
[1] his article in LA Weekly: http://www.laweekly.com/news/news/screenwriter-mistaken-for-a-terrorist/16002/