March 12, 2017 1:18:39 am
ONE OF the Kerala-based youths who allegedly left the country to join the Islamic State told one of his friends that Arshi Qureshi, an associate of controversial televangelist Dr Zakir Naik, had no connection with them joining the terror organisation, the NIA in its chargesheet filed last month has said. The chargesheet names Qureshi for ‘providing support’ to the IS by ‘furthering its activities’ among the missing youths.
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Bestin Vincent, who converted to Islam and changed his name to Yahiya, was contacted by his friend through social media messenger Telegram in July 2016. “Did he (a relative) complained to police about one brother in Mumbai? Read in news that he got arrested. His name is Arshi. He don’t have any connection with us regarding IS. Read in news that Arshi tried to call him towards IS, which is a clear lie… in fact I’m the one who tried to convince Arshi about IS, but he was not convinced (sic),” reads the message sent by Bestin to the friend, his statement, a part of the NIA chargesheet, says.
Qureshi, a guest relations manager with Naik’s Islamic Research Foundation (IRF), has been booked under sections of the UAPA for alleged indoctrination of Ashfak Majeed and others, including Yahiya, to join the IS. Other witnesses named in the chargesheet, including family members of the missing youth, have said in their statements that they had heard the youth speak to Qureshi over the phone and that some of the missing youth had gone to meet him at the IRF office in Dongri.
Apart from Qureshi, the NIA has named Abdul Rashid Abdulla as a wanted accused. Two other accused — Maulana Haneef and Rizwan Khan — have not been chargesheeted currently and have been granted bail.
Yahiya, who left India along with his wife Mariyam, elder brother Bexon and Bexon’s wife Fatima, has also defended his decision to join the IS. In the same message to his friend, Yahiya, believed to be in Afghanistan, says that they are experiencing bombings around them every day. “You know what, 24/7 US war planes and jets are flying right above us and bombing each and every place they see. 2 days back they bombed six missiles, near our home….they have war planes and missiles and whole world for support and we just have few automatic guns and rockets, still they fear us so much,” the chargesheet quotes the message as saying.
The statements of close family members and relatives also reveal the changes they saw in the youths once they began to be influenced by extremist ideology. One of the witnesses states that while Ashfaq was earlier a fan of cricket and regularly watched Indian Premier League, he would later stop others from watching TV or listening to music. Statements reveal that family members and acquaintances of most of the 23 persons who went missing noticed the extremist behaviour and made efforts to change their minds.
For instance, at Peace Education Foundation, where wanted accused Abdulla was employed, one of its senior members had in a speech warned of an intelligence report he had received about staff members indulging in extremist ideology and explained how IS is a Khavarij (one who has left Islam). According to the chargesheet, the group which had travelled to Sri Lanka for religious study in 2016 had also been warned by the organisers at the centre there against the IS.
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