Did Dr Zakir Naik know about the indoctrination and radicalisation of youth who went on to join the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS)? That will be key question the Mumbai crime branch will try to answer through its investigation after the agency got custody of Arshi Qureshi, the guest relationship officer of Naik’s Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) and Rizwan Khan on Monday.
Qureshi and Khan — who had earlier been arrested by the Kerala police for the radicalisation of young people from Kerala — were handed over to the Mumbai crime branch on Monday afternoon. The two were produced before a magistrate’s court, which remanded them in police custody till September 1.
Qureshi had been working with the IRF for a considerable period of time and had also been in direct contact with Naik. “It is unlikely that Naik was oblivious to these activities. However, we will be able to ascertain this after questioning Qureshi,” said a police officer.
Police suspect that Qureshi, an employee of Naik’s foundation, was involved in brainwashing the young people, while Khan’s primary role was to draw up documents and conduct weddings.
As many as 21 young people from Kerala have gone missing and are feared to have joined terror outfit ISIS. In this case, a complaint was filed by 60-year-old Abdul Majeed Kadar Khan at the Nagpada police station after his son Ashfaque left for ISIS-controlled territory, along with his wife and daughter.
Khan said Ashfaq joined ISIS after he was radicalised by Qureshi, Rizwan, Mohammad Haneef and Abdul Rashid.
While Rashid is believed to have joined ISIS, the crime branch had arrested Haneef, a maulavi, from Kerala in connection with the case.
The crime branch is working with the Kerala police as both cases have common links. In the Kerala case, the 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 ISIS, after he went missing from Kochi with his wife Merin Jacob, alias Mariyam. The complaint was registered by Merin’s brother Ebin Jacob.
The IRF and Zakir Naik in the past have denied any involvement in the cases. They have also denied the allegations levelled against them.