Family members of 26-year-old Kashmiri Adil Fayaz, who according to security agencies has joined the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), say they are devastated on hearing the news about their son joining the Sunni extremists’ group. They say he was a bright student who never showed any leaning towards any Islamist group.
“We spoke to him just three days ago via Skype. We frequently talked to him and he never mentioned anything about joining any Islamic organisation. He did not even discuss the situation in Syria or Gaza with us whenever he contacted us. For us he is in Turkey and working with a non-governmental organisation,” Adil’s father Fayaz Ahmad Vaid told The Indian Express.
Adil graduated in Business Administration and then completed his Masters in Commerce from Kashmir University. In 2010, after the family got a bank loan of 20 lakh, he went to Australia’s Queensland University, from where he did his Masters in Business Administration.
His father did not reveal the name of the NGO that employed Adil a year ago. “Last year, after completing his degree, my son came to Kashmir. Initially he was looking for a job in Australia but couldn’t get one. He had applied for a job in countries like Qatar, Dubai and Turkey. He told us that he got a good job in Turkey,’’ said Vaid, flanked by his relatives.
Adil’s family members say they came to know about his recruitment into ISIS through newspaper reports. “How can my son join ISIS even if he is not missing for months or years? He is in regular touch with us,” said Vaid.
The family lives in the upscale Jawahar Nagar locality in Srinagar and owns a supermarket chain. “Adil was born after six years of our marriage when I prayed at every shrine across the Valley. I wish he lives and comes back. This news has devastated our family. I wish and pray this is all false,” said Adil’s mother.
Adil’s maternal uncle Mohammad Aslam said his nephew would pray five times a day since childhood but was never strict towards religion. “We were planning to get him married. He had promised that he will come to Kashmir in September and will get married, I don’t think he will be able to come now unless his name gets cleared by the Indian Embassy and other agencies,” he said.
Adil’s name, intelligence sources told The Indian Express, was first brought to the attention of Indian authorities in March, when a delegation of the Australian Secret Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) raised it in discussions with the Intelligence Bureau. ASIO officers told their Indian counterparts that Adil was among over 600 Australian citizens, mainly of West Asian origin, who were serving with jihadists in Syria.
His case is the third involving Indian citizens serving with jihadists in Syria and Iraq. Last month, The Indian Express revealed that four youths from Kalyan, near Mumbai, had travelled to Iraq to fight with jihadists there. Earlier, Haja Fakkurudeen Usman Ali, a Singapore-based Tamil Nadu resident, was reported to be fighting in Syria,
The sources said, however, that it was unclear if Adil is serving in Syria in a combat role. In Australia, he is believed to have volunteered to join the International Aid for the Syrian People, a shadowy charity operating in areas controlled by ISIS. Adil’s radicalisation, ASIO told the IB, appeared to have taken place when he was campus-recruited by Islamist student activists of the Street Dawah Australia (SDA).
The young activists, clad in white skullcaps and Arabian-themed long white robes, have become a familiar spectacle on Sydney’s streets and universities, preaching the virtues of Islam to passing pedestrians. The organisation promotes “GORAP — God’s existence, Oneness, Revelation, And Prophethood”.
The organisation, however, also has a less benign side: three of its preachers, Ahmad Moussali, Sheikh Mustafa al-Majzoub and Yusuf Ali, as well as Ali’s wife Amira Karroum, have been killed in combat fighting with the ISIS.
Lebanese-origin Moussali, according to ASIO, was among SDA’s star preachers, who boasted of making more than 30 converts to Islam, before heading off to Egypt and then Syria, where he was killed in February. Ali, a white convert to Islam born as Tyler Casey in the US, was also active as a preacher until he left for Syria with his wife.
Adil’s cause is also causing concern in Srinagar, where some fear it may inspire others to walk down the same path. The black flag of the IS has been hoisted in several recent anti-Israel protests in Srinagar, causing concern among intelligence services that some young Islamists might be drawn to the organisation’s training camps in west Asia.
However, Kashmir Inspector-General of Police Abdul Gani Mir told The Indian Express, “There is no evidence to suggest any resident of the region has so far joined the ISIS.”