STEVE INSKEEP, host:
And let's follow up now on an alleged plot to blow up facilities at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport. That case is a source of dismay in Guyana. Three out of four of the members of the Muslim cell named with the conspiracy are from Guyana. And the alleged plot has raised questions about the role that Islamic extremism is playing on the eastern shoulder of South America.
NPR's Julie McCarthy reports from the capital, Georgetown.
JULIE McCARTHY: One man in particular stands out in the indictment. Accused Abdul Kadir was a municipal mayor in the 1990s and he just ended a five-year term in 2006 as a parliamentarian in Guyana's national assembly.
Representative RALPH RAMKARRAN (Speaker of the Parliament, Guyana): He was a very warm and friendly person. He was very always smiling
McCARTHY: Speaker of the parliament Ralph Ramkarran says Kadir fought for the rights of the people he represented.
Rep. RAMKARRAN: Militant and strong in terms of his politics, and that is not unusual in Guyana. But no one was of the view that he was militant in his Islam to the extent that he would want to do anything like this.
McCARTHY: No one sounds more baffled at the notion that Kadir may have a hidden side to his character than his family. Wife Isha Abdul Kadir is enraged by the allegations that her husband, a civil engineer by profession, helped hatch a terror plot against the United States, the country members of her family now call home.
Ms. ISHA ABDUL KADIR (Wife of Abdul Kadir): So we see United States as like a big brother and we respect the people of United States.
McCARTHY: She says the couple converted to Islam in the early 1970s, attracted to its message of peace and comprehensive approach to life. But their lives have been far from trouble-free. In this neglected mining town of Linden, her husband has been without work since December. Isha says the idea there was time to plot an elaborate attack on the U.S. is absurd.
Ms. KADIR: That idea of being a part of bombing or whatever it is, we are not a part of that because every day we have to hustle to survive. Survival is our problem in Guyana. We have to hustle to survive. To think - even think about getting into such activity, it's not compatible, it's not working - it wouldn't work together. It can't.
McCARTHY: Isha suspects her family's association with Iran has brought the law down on her husband's head. She says her husband was headed for a spiritual conference in Iran when police took him off the plane in Trinidad late last week. She hardly concurs with her son Karim, who says being a Muslim is now considered a crime in the world.
Mr. KARIM KADIR (Son): So in this situation we have Muslim brothers come to us with actually tears in their eyes and say, man, what your father is going through is sad because we have been strip-searched at airports, we have been tormented, we have been treated like criminals, just because they're Muslims.
McCARTHY: In the United States, you're saying?
Mr. KADIR: As soon as you leave these shores.
McCARTHY: Over half of Guyana is Christian. About a quarter is Hindu, from a considerable Indian population. Some 10 percent of Guyanese are Muslim. But in this fusion of religions and ethnicities, there is nothing remotely resembling militant Islam.
While residents from all religions professed Abdul Kadir to be innocent, Jim Pollard is not giving the community activist and father of nine a pass. The diner owner worries about the negative impact the alleged JFK plot will have on ordinary Guyanese, such as herself, who anticipate a tougher time when they apply for U.S. visas.
Ms. KADIR: Because of this, I mean it's very unfair. Other persons (unintelligible)...
McCARTHY: Specifically, Kadir is described by prosecutors as an associate of a militant Muslim group in Trinidad whose violence includes an abortive coup in 1990. He is alleged to have approached group for help. Speaker of the Parliament Ralph Ramkarran says the specificity of the indictment lends it weight.
Rep. RAMKARRAN: We have to presume that Mr. Kadir and the others are innocent until they are proven guilty, but at the same time, one cannot help but noting that the allegations are very detailed, very serious, and very specific.
McCARTHY: Lawyers for Kadir say he will fight extradition to the U.S. The government of Guyana, meanwhile, has pledged to cooperate fully with United States in investigating the plot on JFK that has embroiled three of its citizens.
Julie McCarthy, NPR News, Georgetown, Guyana.