Dear Mr. Khan:
It has come to my attention (via the BBC, with thanks to Interested) that you had to fork over eighty dollars for a fingerprint check when applying for a U.S. visa, since you share the name of some jihad terrorists.
I wish to apologize to you on behalf of the American government and people for the humiliation and outrage to which you were subjected. Please send me your address and I will personally send you the eighty bucks. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Imagine! Rogue American visa officials trying to keep jihad terrorists out of the country — and in the process actually daring to inconvenience you! Imagine — putting national security above your feelings! It’s insensitive! It’s an insult!
In fact, I plan, after sending you the eighty dollars, to advocate the adoption of a policy by U.S. officials requiring that anyone named Muhammad who applies for a visa be immediately admitted into the country, with no restrictions and no questions asked.
No, don’t thank me. It’s the least I can do to try to make up for the grave insult to which you were subjected.
P.S. Here is a bit of that BBC report, “Muslim ‘must pay for visa checks'”:
A Muslim student had to pay extra for security checks when applying for a visa to visit the United States, because his name was Mohammed.
Mohammed Umar Haleem Khan, 22, was told by US Embassy officials that “a lot of bad people” shared his name.
The Manchester Metropolitan University student had to pay an extra $80 (Â£45) to have his fingerprints checked against a US terror suspect database….
He said: “She asked me all the usual questions like what was my purpose for visiting and what was the nature of my job and then she said there was a problem with my name.
“She said there were a lot of bad people in the world with that name, meaning terrorists.
“Then she told me I would have to have some additional security checks, which meant all my fingers were fingerprinted and she told me these would be compared to a database in Washington. I had to pay an extra 80 dollars.
“I was totally speechless. I didn’t know what to say to her.
“Now I am worried I may not get a visa and travel to the States because of my name.
“I’m sure that if some white candidate came along there would have been no problem.”
Mr Khan added that he had never visited Afghanistan or any other trouble hotspots and could think of no reason why his name would cause a problem.
A spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain Inayat Bunglawala said: “This is a worrying incident and seems to fit a recent pattern whereby the USA appears to be treating all Muslims as potential terrorists just because of their religion.
“Although Muslim parents name their children from a wide variety of names – just like other parents – many of them, especially those from the Indian subcontinent, will often give their male children the name of Muhammad as a kind of respectful prefix in honour of the Prophet, even though the actual name by which these children are known will be something else.
“US Embassy officials ought really to have had the training to cope with basic elements of Muslim culture which would help prevent these kinds of unfortunate situations.”