I was on a transit at Hong Kong airport from a flight that came from Dubai. My final destination was Tokyo, Japan. Coming out of the flight I was a bit confused to find the direction and after looking at the display started proceeding to the Gate for the flight to Narita as mentioned in the boarding pass. Some type of renovations were going on in Hong Kong Airport.
To my surprise, I was greeted and called by a woman gently dressed in her suits from one corner. Another gentleman also joined with her. It was clear that they were immigration officers on special duty. I prepared my mind to face any type of questions. I have faced such questions several times in the past and there is absolutely nothing wrong.
Woman: Where are you from?
Woman: No, I mean from where you are coming now?
I: From Dubai
Woman: Why did you go to Dubai?
I: For a business meeting
Man: Where do you go?
Woman: Do you live in Japan?
Man: Where is your family?
I: They are also in Japan
Man: Do you have Japanese identity card?
I: Yes (took the Alien Registration card and handed over to him)
He checked the card and handed over to me.
Man: Please show your passport
(Took the passport and gave to him. He checked the passport).
Man: What is your name?
I: Jayaprakash. (then I told my full name as written in the passport)
Man: So, you are not a Muslim?
(He asked this question as if he understood something about my religion from the name!)
I: No, not a Muslim
(He handed over the passport with a smile)
Man: Have a nice journey
The interrogators were gentle in their questions and both of them did not forget to bring smile occasionally on their face to ease up the situation. I was also careful to avoid any escalation and keep away from getting annoyed by their interrogation. After all, it is part of their job.
Placing back the passport inside the bag, I walked through the corridor towards the transit gate. While waiting for the flight to Narita, I thought, what would have been their action or reaction if I were a Muslim?
I did not ponder much on that topic as I thought there would be no end to speculations and it would be unfair to imagine and create confusion inside ourselves.
The above incident, happened in 2014, flashed in my mind when I heard a story from one of my friends. An executive from Egypt, who is the General Manager of a U.S based company used to travel three or more times a year to U.S for official purpose. Every time he landed in the U.S, he had to go to a separate room for an interview or interrogation. The ironical side of his experience was that he got the same immigration officer continuously for four times. The officer recognized him well on every trip, but he did not get any concession on interrogation! The Egyptian friend told to my friend that the whole episode was due to his name giving doubtless clue to the officer about his religion.
You believe in coincidences, but similar incidents reinforce your beliefs. I don’t want to jump to conclusions based on my personal experiences but just wanted to share. However we deny the existence, there exists a bias in everybody’s mind. It may be a bias against skin color or nationality or religion. Denying it is a kind of hiding (and that is what the majority of us do), but displaying it is arrogance.