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 the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center happens, and the peaceful family finds themselves torn apart by the prejudice directed at them for being Muslim. Rizwan decides that the only way to save his relationship is to go on a journey to tell the whole country that he is not a terrorist.
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.
- Adult Fear: This film.has bucketloads of it.
- 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 he hates the color yellow.
- Bully Brutality: Some students eventually torture Sameer with a soccer ball just because his stepfather is a Muslim. They end up accidentally killing Sameer.
- Chekhov's Skill: As a kid, Rizwan figured out a way to get rid of flood water, which 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, and Mama Jenny's son dies in the disaster.
- Dirty Coward: Sam's bullies/killers are particularly nasty ones. After accidentally killing him, they flee and threaten Reece into keeping silent.
- Disability Superpower: Khan is extremely intelligent and fares exceptionally well with logic problems, which means he can fix almost anything.
- Easily Forgiven: Rizwan still wants to be with Mandira, despite her unfairly blaming him for her son's death, and walking out on him.
- 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.
- "Friends" Rent Control: Assuming Bayville is in the Bay Area (it seems to be) there is no way you could afford a house as nice as Mandira and Rizwan's cutting hair (even at an upscale salon, and even in the less-insane Bay Area housing market of the late '90s).
- 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 she 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?"
- 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."
- Karma Houdini: Mandira unfairly blames Rizwan for Sam's death and walks out on him. They get back together, but she never has to be remorseful or apologetic for her unfair treatment towards him.
- Keeping Secrets Sucks: Sam's best friend, Reece, is threatened by Sam's killers if he ever tells anyone about the murder. Eventually, however, the guilt becomes too much for him to bear.
- Kids Are Cruel: The bullies torture and kill Sameer when they find out his father is Muslim. This was indeed 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, Rizwan gets called a terrorist due to anti-Muslim prejudice. Played for Drama, especially 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: The police mostly just hound Rizwan for being Muslim, as do the national defense department.
- Politically Incorrect Hero: Rizwan's brother Zakir splits ways with his brother when he marries a Hindu woman. He comes over when they come to console his wife when she is attacked for wearing a hijab.
- 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 goes on his journey and ends up in the equivalent of Guantanamo Bay because Mandira yells at 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.
- "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.