Defending her husband, the wife of alleged IS sympathiser Arshi Qureshi on Friday dismissed all reports of him being linked to the Islamic State.
“My husband is 1000 % innocent. All the claims regarding IRF are just allegations and my husband has been framed. I believe in the judiciary,” said Qureshi’s wife, refusing to disclose her name or age.
Qureshi, a member of Zakir Naik’s Islamic Research Foundation (IRF), was arrested in a joint operation by the Kerala Police and the Maharashtra ATS for ‘radicalising’ a Palakkad-based woman.
“My husband works at IRF as an an employee. He leaves in the morning and comes back in the evening,” she added.
An IRF spokesperson said that Qureshi is employed at IRF as a Guest Relations Manager, and as part of his role, meets several people who visit IRF. When asked about Zakir Naik and whether she has met him, Qureshi wife said “No, I haven’t met him. I think Zakir Naik is a religious scholar and is against ISIS. The Kerala police and the Mumbai ATS have been very cooperative.”
Later in the day, the IRF issued a statement. “Dr. Zakir Naik and IRF have repeatedly condemned AISIS for being anti-Islamic. It is unthinkable to assume that a staff of IRF will ever encourage anyone to join AISIS. Dr Naik had taken a staff meeting a year back condemning AISIS and had warned people not to get misguided by those who support AISIS. According to Dr Naik, AISIS is Anti Islamic State of Iraq & Syria who wrongly call themselves as ISIS. In its history, IRF has never been involved in forced conversions. It is a research body and publishes literature on Islam. People interested in Islamic literature and information contact IRF from time to time,” the statement read.
According to the police, Qureshi has been named as an accused in an Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) case registered by the Kerala Police last week.
The UAPA case follows a missing person’s complaint registered by the family of Merin alias Mariyam at the Palarivattom police station in Kerala. In the complaint, the family has alleged that Mariyam, a Christian who converted to Islam, was radicalised by her husband Yahiya and Qureshi and forced to join the Islamic State.
When asked about their connection to Kerala, Qureshi’s wife said “Kerala is out of dream” for them. She had no comments to offer regarding Yahiya.
According to an eyewitness, the police took Qureshi into custody from his first-floor apartment in Sector 50 of Navi Mumbai’s Seawoods area.
“The Qureshis were out on Wednesday night and returned home by 10 pm. Later in the night around 1 am, a few men in civilian clothes came to the main gate of the building asking if I have seen the man on their phone. I confirmed to them that it was Qureshi, who had been living here for the past four months with his wife and child. While four of the men went upstairs, two stayed down.”
“The men entered Qureshi’s apartment and stayed in for about an hour, after which they left with Qureshi, who was carrying a white plastic tokri, at 4.10 am,” the witness said.
Meanwhile, the Munbai Police, in the final stages of preparing a report on Naik, will now also take Qureshi’s case into consideration. The report, which was to be submitted this week, has hence been delayed. It will be submitted next week after including the information provided by the Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) regarding the Qureshi case.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had asked the Mumbai police to submit a report on Naik after it came to light that some of the accused in a terror attack in a Dhaka cafe, where 22 people died, were inspired by Naik.
The Special Branch of the Mumbai police was preparing the report that was to be submitted to the government. The report was to primarily state if a case is made out against the preacher.
A senior officer said, “The report was due to be completed by Thursday. However, since the Navi Mumbai case has connections to IRF, we have delayed the report. We want to get details from ATS regarding it, after which we will submit the report.”
A senior IPS officer confirmed, “The report is likely to be submitted to the government by next week.”
The police in their probe have gone through several videos of the preacher that are present online.
“He has been preaching since 1995 and hence there are several videos present online. We have gone through a considerable number of such videos. We have also checked several DVDs of his speeches,” an officer said.
The police said there are three cases in Maharashtra against Naik in connection with a speech that he had given in 2013. While one case was registered in Kurla, two others were registered in Sawantwadi and Vengurla.
Naik had filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court (SC), asking for one agency to be appointed for investigating all the cases spread in different states. The petition is pending before the apex court.