Lucknow: An acclaimed Indian film director questioned for five hours by New York police said that he was inspired by the experience to make a film on the hostility toward Muslims after the Sept 11 attacks on the United States on Wednesday.
"I make films on subjects which I feel strongly about," Manish Jha, a Hindu, told a news conference in the northern city of Lucknow. He is shooting a film Anwar, which is about how an incident goes on to brand a whole community as ''terrorists'' as said by Jha.
'The story idea of Anwar originated from my personal experience when, post 9/11, I was held by New York police who mistook me as a Muslim only because I had long hair," Jha said.
"Two days after the 9/11 attacks, I was walking on the road and I was stopped by cops. They asked me who I was. I hadn't shaved, and had long hair, they kept touching my hair and said I looked like a Muslim," he added.
He was detained for five hours on the street and subjected to tough questioning. He was not taken into custody. "I was interrogated for five hours and felt very humiliated. That's when I thought I should make a film on this theme," Jha said.
Human rights groups say that the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks made it much easier for law enforcement agencies around the world to apprehend those suspected of being terrorists, and led to the labeling of the Muslim community as being prone to violence.
"This is really criminal to brand the whole community as terrorist only because someone from that community has committed some crime," Jha said. "This trend is not only confined to NY police. It happens in India too," he added.
India has one of the largest numbers of Muslims in the world. Its 140 million-plus Muslim population makes the community the largest minority in India, a Hindu-majority nation of more than 1 billion people.
Shooting of Anwar is expected to end by October and the film is expected to be released by year-end.
Jha won international acclaim for his first film which he made at age 23, titled Mathrubhoomi: A Nation Without Women. The 2003 movie touched upon the high rates of female infanticide in India, narrating the story of a village where there are no women left to marry, and one has to be bought and shared by several brothers.