Four men from Mumbai believed to have joined Iraq jihad, a father appeals for help

Like Ejaz Majeed, parents of other three men have filed missing persons complaints with the Kalyan police.

Written by Praveen Swami | Mumbainew Delhi | Updated: August 4, 2014 6:57 pm
Families of the four have filed missing persons complaints with the police station in Kalyan (above).Source: Prashant Nadkar Families of the four have filed missing persons complaints with the police station in Kalyan. (Source: Express photo by Prashant Nadkar)

From the window of his apartment, Ejaz Badruddin Majeed stares out over the grimy suburban heights of Kalyan, willing himself, it seems, to see past the oceans and the deserts, all the way to Iraq — and to his son.

“(He) had asked me for a motorcycle and I said, no, not just yet. He didn’t say anything, but perhaps that’s why he went away,” says the quiet, greying doctor. Adding, moments later, that perhaps that’s not why his son, Arif Fayyaz Majeed, went away.

He talks about a handwritten letter his son, an engineering student, wrote and left behind at home saying “fighting has been enjoined upon you” and telling his mother that the “angel of death” will ask him why he didn’t migrate to “Allah’s land.” In the letter, the son tells his family, “May we all meet in Paradise.”

Arif is believed to be fighting with Sunni insurgents of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) along with Thane residents Fahad Tanvir Sheikh, Aman Naim Tandel and Shaheen Farooqi Tanki — all young men in their twenties, with no known past involvement in radical Islamist politics.

Like Ejaz Majeed, parents of these three men have filed missing persons complaints with the Kalyan police which have been accessed by The Indian Express. Arif’s father has also handed over a copy of his son’s “farewell letter” to the police.

For weeks now, the media’s focus — and the government’s — has been on Indian workers trapped in Iraq and how to get some of them home. The story of the young Indians who have headed into the carnage though, has passed untold.

Fahad Sheikh, a student of engineering, is, like Arif Majeed, the son of another Kalyan-based doctor Maqbool Ahmad Sheikh. Aman Tandel was also an engineering student in Navi Mumbai and the son of Nayeem Ismail Sheikh who works with a private firm. Shaheen Tanki was working at a call centre.

Iraq’s intelligence services have told their Indian counterparts they believe these men had joined ISIS but have no word on where they might be.

Four other young Thane men living in the United Arab Emirates, sources told The Indian Express, are also suspected to have volunteered to fight with ISIS. Three of these men are believed to have returned to their homes, while a fourth is thought to have been killed in combat.

“I want to meet (External Affairs Minister) Sushma Swaraj or (Home Minister) Rajnath Singh”, Arif’s father Ejaz Majeed told The Indian Express, “and ask them to punish the people who seduced our children to participate in this madness. I want to ask them to warn other parents to watch out for their children being led astray. I want to beg them, also, to please help bring these children back. Please help me meet them.”

The families of the other three missing men did not respond to repeated requests to be interviewed for this story.

Police sources have told The Indian Express that the four Kalyan men flew to Baghdad on May 23 as part of a group of 22 pilgrims intending to visit religious shrines in Iraq. Arif called his family from Baghdad on May 24, apologising for having left without telling them. He claimed he had travelled in the hope of finding a job there. Then, he phoned again on May 25, this time to reassure his family he was well.

Late that evening, other pilgrims on the trip have told investigators, the four Kalyan men hired a taxi to Fallujah, a city west of Baghdad that has emerged as the epicentre of Iraq’s lethal insurgency. Then, the men went silent. Iraqi intelligence officials say Arif Majeed’s cellphone connected to a tower in the Mosul area — and went dead.

Investigators have made little progress in establishing what drove the men or precisely how they made their plans. However, police believe the men paid for their tickets with money saved from their allowances and student fees. “Their radicalisation seems to have taken place online,” a Maharashtra Police official said, “with news of atrocities in the region inflaming their passions.”

Last year, Pakistani al-Qaeda ideologue Asim Umar called on Indians to join the global jihad. The ISIS, too, cited India as key concern for global jihadists. In internet chat rooms where Islamists congregate, messages have been posted calling on Indians to join up, to prepare themselves for what’s being described a coming communal apocalypse.

Internet propaganda on the wars and Iraq and Syria has drawn thousands of young people from distant countries to the conflict. Hundreds of volunteers from Europe, the United States, and Australia have been reported to be participating in the fighting, along with some numbers of Pakistani nationals.

In his letter, Arif Majeed appears to reject his family’s values. “I cried when I saw you all sinning, smoking cigarettes, taking interest, watching TV, illegal sexual intercourse, living luxurious lives, intermingling of sexes, not praying, not growing beards.These things will lead to you burning in the hell-fire,” he says (letter edited throughout for clarity).

Arif Majeed had harsh words, in particular, for his sister, and female cousins, who all watched television, “a professional way to ensure nudity, lewdness, obscenity and disbelief prevail. It is a major sin. In it is music, which is an instrument of Satan.”

“He was a good boy,” says Arif’s father. “He was very religious, never spent time in bad company, never chased after girls, never seemed attracted to violence”

“O’ Mother,” he wrote, “the sun is setting in the backyard of our house, behind the mountain and I have told my friend that we will meet there for our greatest journey. It is a blessed journey for me because I don’t want to live in this sinful country. At the time of my death, the angel of death will ask me why I did not make hijra (migrate) to Allah’s land, which is spacious.”

‘I cried when I saw you all sinning’

Arif Majeed (above) left behind a letter that his father has turned to the police. In the letter, he writes: “At the time of my death, the angel of death will ask me why I did not make hijra to Allah’s land.”
* Arif is among four who, Iraqi investigators believe, broke away from a pilgrims’ group of 22 from Mumbai. He called his family on May 24. Investigators say Arif’s phone went dead near Mosul.
* Another group of four Thane men living in the UAE are also suspected to have joined ISIS, one of them is feared killed in combat.

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  1. A
    Amit
    Jul 14, 2014 at 3:32 pm
    Good riddance for India.
    Reply
    1. A
      Aman
      Jul 15, 2014 at 2:33 am
      Much of this is about Arab pride, not religion. Indians and other non-Arabs should not be misled by this Caliphate propaa. This is a god-send for the Kurds, who will have their own nation for the first time in history. Good for them. Syria, Iraq and Turkey will have to cede territory.
      Reply
      1. Y
        Young Political
        Sep 5, 2014 at 10:33 am
        Hey, I hope this article reaches all people. A lot of good information here. Thanks for "helping me" in my research paper!
        Reply
        1. R
          Ravi
          Jul 14, 2014 at 10:19 pm
          All such adult people who are able to make their own decisions, should be allowed one way ticket and never allowed to come back with their further polluted minds and wash ed brain. They should be rather encouraged to leave the country. It will be more peaceful here. Any individual who loves his religion more than his country should be allowed to leave with one way ticket allowance, to any place like Kaba, Karbala, Mecca, Madina, Palestine, stan, Jerum, Rome any place where he can or feels to be more near to his beliefs.
          Reply
          1. G
            Goodriddance
            Jul 18, 2014 at 6:42 am
            And off goes Togadia and the RSS
            Reply
            1. A
              ahett
              Jul 14, 2014 at 12:57 am
              That some of them were engineering students and that they came from middle-cl mainstream Indian families, is disturbing. And yet they find avenues to get radicalized. If the mainstream muslims start getting radicalized, India has a huge problem.
              Reply
              1. B
                Baghwan singh
                Jul 15, 2014 at 10:57 am
                Is it not disturbing to polarize votes on religious grounds?
                Reply
                1. J
                  Jadu
                  Aug 28, 2014 at 12:30 am
                  Harry why do Muslims don't accept Family Planning? Every Family has to donate minimum 1 child for the Jihad. Islam is a religion born out of Frustration.
                  Reply
                  1. R
                    rationalist
                    Jul 14, 2014 at 10:32 pm
                    Good. I hope these Indian terrorists meet their maker in Iraq. If they ever get back to India, they are sure to carry out terror attacks against innocent Indians.
                    Reply
                    1. R
                      rajani kant
                      Nov 28, 2014 at 4:12 pm
                      almost all parents claim that their children are innocent when they are caught by the authorities for terror acts. God knows, who is really innocent.
                      Reply
                      1. M
                        mohan
                        Aug 28, 2014 at 4:02 am
                        It is fashion now for Indians, instead of attacking directly the Islamic extremism, they involve Hindus also to show them as a secularists.
                        Reply
                        1. T
                          Tapan Sahay
                          Jul 14, 2014 at 9:48 pm
                          Why do you bring in religions like Hinduism and Christianity where such Jihad concept do not exist? I pity your cowardness that you can't be direct to /Muslims/ Islam where such Jihadi partition is sanctioned by their religious authorities and large muslim community do not oppose it
                          Reply
                          1. H
                            harry
                            Jul 14, 2014 at 2:59 pm
                            It is a bigger problem for the Muslims as many employers will be reluctant to offer them jobs. And Muslims get radicalized very easily than anyone else in this planet. Every community will have some sorry tales to tell, but it is rare for others to get radicalized in the name of religion. This is what you would expect when people are obsessed with religion.
                            Reply
                            1. H
                              harry
                              Aug 24, 2014 at 8:32 pm
                              Last night Zakir Naik said on his TV that humanity is fine but Islam is bigger than humanity. Now is it any surprise that Muslim youths are motivated to go to Iraq.
                              Reply
                              1. H
                                harry
                                Aug 24, 2014 at 8:36 pm
                                Muslim Parents are responsible for this mess. Thousands of Muslim parents in the west tell their children that western culture is bad and the western people are vulgar, and these countries are not theirs. But cheating and lying to get extra benefits does not violate their moral codes. The children gets puzzled because they do not know where they belong. Children are also told that Christmas is not their festival though the children will spend their entire lives in the Christian west.
                                Reply
                                1. H
                                  harry
                                  Jul 14, 2014 at 3:03 pm
                                  Pick up ten Hindu friends at om, and ask each of them what is the first verse of the Gita. Most likely none will be able to answer. Repeat the same experiment with ten Muslim friends and ask them what is the first verse of the Quran. And please get back to this forum with your results UK, there are many Hindu children, adults and university educated, who will have trouble to name their holy books. But Muslim children from 12 onward, all do the day to dawn fasting in Ramadan. See the difference.
                                  Reply
                                  1. H
                                    harry
                                    Aug 24, 2014 at 8:41 pm
                                    Years ago, I had read an article by a Bangladeshi man (Muhammad Asghar) who suggested that if just one year Bangladeshis do not perform their Hajj, they can save enough money to build a hospital in every district in Bangladesh. But no, they will never do that. They spend a fortune in coming to India in their thousands for medical treatments.. Vellore hospital has the maximum patients from Bangladesh. You can imagine every shop near the Vellore hospital has their signboards written in Bengali along with the local language.
                                    Reply
                                    1. S
                                      shipra
                                      Jul 14, 2014 at 12:58 am
                                      Internet brain washing is like a virus. It silently attacks human minds. External advise by mullahs helps this. Why do not these mullahs go for fighting?
                                      Reply
                                      1. S
                                        Shirish Patwa
                                        Jul 14, 2014 at 2:45 am
                                        How Engineering students can be led astray,is beyond my comprehension.How and why Government of India should help trace these jehadists,who on there own free will,have gone to fight the cause of terrorist unit ,far away from India?They have not gone there to work and earn their livelihood,like Keralite Nurses.Any religion do not preach violence to its followers and still entire World is in turmoil in the name of religion,or the sub-sect of a religion.By their action they have proved that they too are terrorists and should treated as such.You just cannot reform them as we see in Bollywood cinemas.Rotten mangoes need to be thrown out from the basket if we intend to enjoy good mangoes.
                                        Reply
                                        1. S
                                          slayer
                                          Jul 14, 2014 at 11:23 am
                                          I am not sure what is next for these kids. Part of me is just hoping they die there , because i sure as heck dont want them to ever step foot inside India again. I feel bad for their parents though.Its high time the govt gets involved with the muslim community leadership to tackle this jehaadi propaa. Muslim leaders should be forced to issue fatwas saying that any and all acts of violence by muslims is against god.
                                          Reply
                                          1. T
                                            trishanku
                                            Aug 28, 2014 at 4:30 am
                                            Our Muslim brothers and sisters should deeply introspect , lest this contagion spreads.
                                            Reply
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