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Ashfaque Majeed, one of the 21 Kerala youths believed to have left the country to join the Islamic State (IS), has told his mother that he has not joined the organisation and has gone to Afghanistan, along with other Kerala-based youths, to follow ‘Salafi’ Islam, according to sources.
In a phone conversation which lasted for a little over five minutes, Ashfaque reportedly told his mother, Ayesha, last week that they were all safe and were following “true Islam”. He said a local contact was helping him to open a medical store, and he would not return to India.
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The details of the phone conversation were communicated by his family to the National Investigation Agency (NIA), sources said.
“The call was received by his mother on her cellphone. Ashfaque told his mother not to believe news reports claiming that he has joined the IS… He told her that he was staying in a remote village in Afghanistan where the mobile network is weak and that he had travelled to a town just to speak to her. He also informed her that he and the others had fled India as they were unable to follow ‘true Islam’ back home. He claimed he had not joined any terrorist outfit but has become a Salafi and was about to start a medical store along with his cousin Dr Ijaz (who also left India with his wife and child),” said an official.
Days after leaving India earlier this year, Ashfaque had send a WhatsApp voice message to a relative, claiming that he had reached Afghanistan and had told his family not to approach the police. In his message, Ashfaque had told them to leave the “land of disbelief” and join him in the “land of Islam” to fight the “holy war”. Ashfaque’s father, Abdul Majeed, who runs a motel in Central Mumbai confirmed that they had received the call. “He is as good as dead for us. I have asked my wife never to receive calls from that number. Since the time he left, we have been harassed by multiple agencies and the media, who keep questioning us about his whereabouts,” he said.
In his statement to the NIA, Abdul Majeed said Arshi Qureshi, guest manager with Zakir Naik’s Islamic Research Foundation had funded Ashfaque and others for their visit to Sri Lanka. “Ashfaque’s father claimed that while leaving for Sri lanka in February this year, Ashfaque told him that Quershi was funding the tour. In all, 22 people were supposed to attend a course on ‘Learning Quran’ in Jakarta, which was funded by Qureshi, who allegedly received funds from IRF. Qureshi had also paid money for their passports,” said an official. “Qureshi is being questioned. So far, he hasn’t revealed much and has denied having met Ashfaque or the other alleged IS recruits,” said the official.
In August this year, Abdul Majeed had lodged a complaint with the Mumbai Police claiming that his son, Ashfaque, had left the country to join the IS. In his complaint, he had named Quershi, Al-Birr Foundation volunteer Rizwan Khan, Kerala-based Imam Mohammed Haneef and another alleged IS recruit Abdullah Rashid.