An employee of the Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) was arrested by a team of Kerala police and the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) in Mumbai on Thursday for allegedly radicalising and recruiting youth to the Islamic State (IS).
Arshi Qureshi, a public relation manager at IRF, was arrested from Nerul in Navi Mumbai under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and produced before a local court before being placed in transit remand. He will be taken to Kerala and produced before a court in Kochi.
The arrest is not good news for Dr Zakir Naik, the controversial Islamic preacher who founded the IRF and is also being investigated for links to extremist elements. He came into the spotlight recently when two of the six terrorists who attacked a Dhaka café in Bangladesh, claimed they were incited by his sermons. Naik is currently abroad.
The 45-year-old Arshi became a suspect after Palarivottam police station in Kochi registered a complaint against Yahya alias Bestin Vincent, a Christian from Palakkad who converted to Islam and is believed to have joined IS. He went missing from Kochi along with his wife Merin Jacob alias Mariyam. The complaint was registered by Merin’s brother Ebin Jacob.
Jacob alleged that his sister had been influenced to convert to Islam by Yahya and Ashi. Hailing from a Christian family, Mariyam née Merin had met her husband while working in Mumbai in 2015. Though she initially resisted Islam, she was taken to several classes, following which, she had been converted, police sources said.
Ebin said that at one point his sister wished to come back to Kerala, where her family is, but was eventually forced into joining the IS. His brother-in-law also tried to convert him, Ebin added.
His parents alleged that Yahya and Mariyam were radicalised though Dr Naik, who they had met while in Mumbai.
According to police sources, Arshi was the public relation manager responsible when Dr Naik had held a massive public conference in 2009.