Born in India, Rizwan is diagnosed from an early age as having Asperger Syndrome. His mother patiently takes care of him, teaches him right and wrong and finds a mentor willing to help him. Unfortunately, her attention spurs the jealousy of Rizwan's brother Zakir, who leaves India for the United States at 18, to create his own business. After their mother's death, Zakir helps Rizwan move to America, acquire the nationality and find a job. This is how Rizwan meets and falls in love with Mandira, a Punjabi hairdresser with a teen son named Sameer. After a ridiculously cute courtship, Rizwan and Mandira decide to get married - against their families' wishes, since he's Muslim and she's Hindu. Sameer and Rizwan become best friends, Mandira's dream of opening her own hair dressing salon comes true and they're all set to live happily ever after.
Then September 11 happens.
Then it gets worse.
Nothing to do with that other movie with this movie's title as a line of dialogue.
This film contains examples of:
- Accidental Murder:Sam's death at the hands of the bullies.
- Beige Prose: Rizwan's letter to Mandira.
- Beta Couple: Rizwan's brother, Zakir, and his wife.
- Bilingual Bonus: The African-American church that Rizwan ends in is called Church of Rock.
- Brown Note: Part of what led to Rizwan being diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome was the discovery that the color yellow is this for him.
- The Bully: Leads to the death of Sameer.
- Bully Brutality: The bullies torture Sameer with a soccer ball and accidentally kill him.
- Chekhov's Skill: As a kid Rizwan figured out a way to get rid of flood water. Guess who happens to come in handy when a nice lady who befriended him is stuck in a flood...
- Closer to Earth: Mandira is this for Rizwan until her son is killed and she understandably flips out.
- The Comically Serious: Rizwan is too literal-minded and so serious that he becomes funny.
- Death of a Child:Sameer dies at the hands of bullies. Mama Jenny's son dies in the disaster.
- Dirty Coward: Sam's killers are particularly nasty examples of this.
- Disability Superpower: Khan is extremely intelligent and fares exceptionally well with logic problems, which means he can fix almost anything.
- Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The Presidents are clearly meant to be George W. Bush and later Barack Obama, but everyone—including news reports on election night—refers to them as "the President" or something similar, never actually using their names.
- Good Parents: Rizwan and Zakir's mother is a kindhearted woman. She did an awesome job as Rizwan's mother despite not knowing his disorder and teaches Rizwan not to hate Hindus.
- The Great Politics Mess-Up: At the beginning one of the police men detaining Khan jokes "Do you know where Osama is?"
- Idiot Savant: Rizwan.
- Innocent Inaccurate: Rizwan's letters to Mandira, when he is being detained for terrorism. An example would be the point where we see that the temperature in his cell is changed from extreme cold to extreme heat as a form of torture. Rizwan's letter, paraphrased: "This place is strange. Sometimes it's too cold, sometimes it's too hot. Maybe they're having problems with the air conditioning."
- Keeping Secrets Sucks: Sam's best friend, Reece, who is threatened by Sam's killers if he ever tells anyone about it. Eventually, however, the guilt becomes too much for him to bear.
- Kids Are Cruel: Especially to Sameer when they find out his father is Muslim. This did happen: this is in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, when anti-Muslim sentiment got to a particularly nasty level, with several murders taking place.
- Literal-Minded: Due to his Asperger Syndrome, Rizwan takes jokes and hyperboles at face value.
- Mistaken for Terrorist: Throughout the course of the film. Really gets Played for Drama when he gets sent to the equivalent of Guantanamo Bay
- Mr. Fixit: Rizwan has the ability to fix almost anything. He uses that talent to earn some money.
- Police are Useless: As is the national defense department.
- The Promise: Mandira tells Rizwan she'll marry him if he can find a place she hasn't seen in San Francisco.
- Rhetorical Request Blunder: Rizwan ends up in the equivalent of Guantanamo Bay because Mandira tells him to tell the president he's not a terrorist. Her intent was to separate from him, not to be misinterpreted as being a terrorist.
- Sibling Rivalry: Zakir is jealous of the attention Rizwan gets.
- Spell My Name with an "S": Khan is pronounced KAH-N with a guttural K.
- Straight Man: Played with as Rizwan takes almost everything so literally that he becomes deadpan.
- Then Let Me Be Evil: Some Muslims led by Dr. Fehman inside a mosque decide to become aggressive after the mistreatment as terrorists they have received, but Rizwan tries to dissuade them. Rizwan denounces Dr. Fehman to the FBI.
- The War on Terror
- "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Subverted somewhat with Zakir, who leaves for the United States as soon as he turns 18 in part to escape his family. Not completely as he sponsors Rizwan to come to the US.