Dear Editor,

Taffin Khan being a member of the Guyana chess team slated to play in the Chess Olympiad in Tromso, Norway, applied to the Netherlands Embassy in Suriname for a Schengen visa. He was told that his name and date of birth were a match for one on an al Qaida terrorist watch list and so he was not issued with a visa. So far I have been silent on this issue, but in the court of public opinion he stands accused of being a possible terrorist, and in that court silence is misconstrued to be a sign of guilt.

Despite my surname, I would like to make it pellucidly clear that I am not, and never have been, a Muslim. My son Taffin David Khan is not and never has been a Muslim, and no member of my family is a Muslim. None of us belongs to any Muslim organization nor do we interact with Muslims on a religious basis. My parents were both Christians who are now deceased and were buried as Christians. My son has a secondary level of education and is unemployed, suggesting that he cannot be used as a resource person by any terrorist organization.

If the social media Facebook is used as a statistical reference, Taffin is the only person in l.1 billion users with the name Taffin Khan, and if his Jewish middle name (David) is added, the chances are that he might be the only person in 6 billion with that name. Now the Dutch claimed that they had a matching name on an al Qaida terrorist watch list. Anyone making this list would have most certainly been a Muslim fundamentalist extremist, and we are supposed to believe that this extremist would have a French first name (Taffin) and a Jewish middle name (David). This begs the question, did the Dutch really have an al Qaida terrorist watch list?

When enquiries were made about the availability of Taffin’s visa after the other team members had received theirs, and he was told about his supposed name match on the list, (at the time an Embassy official, another Guyanese and Taffin were in a room) the response was, “on Saturdays we do not work, Sundays too and Monday in Suriname is a holiday for them,” meaning Taffin and the Muslims in Suriname; she further stated, “we have to do something about these terrorists.” Why should this official feel comfortable referring to my son as “them” and implying that he was a terrorist, in front of another Guyanese? In doing so she connoted that she and the third party had a common understanding with respect to my son, and that he was a Muslim terrorist. The question must now be asked, where did this understanding come from? It should also be noted that Taffin was intercepted by this third party as he was making his way to collect his visa and was told that his visa was not ready yet, hence the individual demonstrating prior knowledge of the fact that my son was not going to be granted a visa. The question must also be asked, how was this knowledge obtained? Taffin was later told, back at the hotel by this individual, that there was a Dutch terrorist by the name of Taffin Khan, after he explained to the other team members that he was the only person on Facebook with the name Taffin Khan. It should be noted that this individual had visited the Netherlands Embassy alone.

So was my son’s name really on an al Qaida terrorist watch list, or were the Netherlands authorities duped into thinking that he was an al Qaida terrorist by someone they felt was a credible source, not knowing they were erring on the side of caution by not granting him a visa?

If the Netherlands authorities had an international terrorist watch list and found an individual who matched one of the names on it, they would have acted in a more decisive manner. They would have detained him on the Embassy grounds since he was on Dutch soil and would have been considered a person of interest to Dutch intelligence or rather the international intelligence community. Instead they stated that they had to do more checks and that the internet was down and he would have to return the coming Tuesday. When he went back on the Tuesday they then claimed that they were awaiting confirmation from Norway on his participation in the Olympiad. Now Norway had a terrorist alert and the Netherlands authorities had an individual whose name supposedly matched the name on an al Qaida terrorist watch list trying to go to Norway, and they still made no effort to detain him. They gave him his passport when he requested it and allowed him to walk out of their Embassy grounds. This lack of decisive action on the part of the Netherlands authorities I am grateful for, but it does not lend credibility to their claim that my son’s name matched one on an al Qaida terrorist watch list.

As I see it, my son was collateral damage in the war on terror and the victim of a diabolical scheme aimed at assassinating his character, preventing him from going to Norway, and permanently damaging his image as a three-times national chess champion, in which the Netherlands authorities were either willing participants or were taken for a ride.

Yours faithfully,
David G Khan

Chess Daily News from Susan Polgar
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