His Name Is Khan, And He Is Not A Terrorist
In an interview in yesterday's Guardian, Sir Christopher Meyer gets it.
Who is Sir Christopher? Former British Ambassador to the USA, that's who. Also former press Secretary to John Major, former head of the Press Complaints Commission, and presently TV presenter in a new series on Sky Atlantic.
What does he get? That people like Shah Rukh Khan are a damned sight more important as role models in the Muslim world than Osama bin Laden.
(Los Angeles's) power derives largely from Hollywood, and Meyer admits to having always been sceptical about soft power. "People have given me so many examples of soft power which I always thought, 'What a load of balls', you know?'" But in Mumbai he met the king of Bollywood, Indian filmstar Shah Rukh Khan, "who taught me the lesson that there really is a thing called soft power, and it is influential". A Muslim married to a Hindu, Khan is the poster boy for a version of Islam that accommodates artistic creativity and religious tolerance, and in Meyer's view challenges Islamic fundamentalism more effectively than any amount of western military might. "Clearly, the values he adopts, the things he says, the movies he makes, the family life that he has, are monstrously influential. And that is soft power."