There is little doubt that insecurity about all things Islamic has gripped the United States. First it was the fierce war of words over the mosque to be built near the site of the 9/11 attacks. Then it was the startling revelation that nearly one in five Americans believed that President Barack Obama was a Muslim.
And now, in a tale dripping with irony, an Indian on his way to Houston, Texas, to deliver a lecture to the Hindu Congress of America has been arrested for possessing what has been described by authorities as “Jihadi material.”
Vijay Kumar (40), a documentary film-maker, was arrested at George Bush Intercontinental Airport last Friday after officials noticed him behaving oddly in the line for a security check.
According to reports, when Mr. Kumar was taken aside for secondary screening, his baggage was found to contain books and diagrams on espionage, information on U.S. military weaponry, and numerous publications on the subject of Jihad, including the mention of "infidels". When a set of brass knuckles, approximately $8,000, and more cash in other foreign currencies was uncovered in his bags, he was immediately arrested.
The Houston Examiner quoted one law enforcement officer as saying, "He had a ton of books", including publications written in Arabic, adding, "It definitely raised our concerns... Not your everyday passenger would have this sort of stuff and it definitely poses a concern for anyone involved in airport security."
Local media also reported that in Texas, brass-knuckles were prohibited by law so Mr. Kumar was booked on a felony charge of possessing a prohibited weapon in a prohibited place.
Further unconfirmed reports suggested that a machine for testing explosive materials was set off by Mr. Kumar’s bags, prompting a scare that he was carrying a bomb. However that turned out to be a false alarm, with a second and third test of his bags both showing negative results.
After his arrest Mr. Kumar’s bond was initially listed as $50,000. That was reduced to $5,000 after a hearing on Monday at a Harris County District Court.
Texas media quoted Mr. Kumar’s attorney Grant Scheiner confirming that Mr. Kumar had surrendered his passport while considered the bail offer. Mr. Scheiner said, "I think that everybody realized that he is not a threat. He's a peaceful man."
Mr. Scheiner added that Mr. Kumar was in Houston to deliver a lecture to the Hindu Congress of America on an interfaith discussion between Hindus and Muslims about the harms of terrorism.