Religious leaders have helped counter ISIS propaganda, say ATS officials

  • Manish K Pathak, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Jun 23, 2016 01:24 IST

To counter the rising influence of Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS), the state’s anti-terrorism squad (ATS) has roped in religious leaders to counsel young men who may have been taken in by or vulnerable to the terrorist organisation’s propaganda.

“Religious leaders have helped us make them realise the truth — that are being taken for a ride in the name of religion. Even after this, we keep a close eye on them and other youngsters in the area to make sure they don’t go astray”, said an ATS official, who did not wish to be named.

Read more: ISIS effect: Missing people are now a priority for ATS

Officials said ISIS recruits come from varied backgrounds, and that the organisation uses money to lure those from poor families and religion to draw in those who are well-off.

“The Muslim community does not support ISIS, so we decided to rope in religious leaders to combat radicalisation. This has helped us,” the official added.

According to the official, a local religious leader had opposed the views of Ayaz Sultan, an alleged member of the ISIS Malwani module, who is currently believed to be in Syria.

When Ayaz was trying to recruit others for ISIS, he used to frequent mosques. During one such visit, the religious leader overheard him and told him not to use the language he was using, and that his interpretation of the religion was wrong.

According to an official, ATS and the state police have conducted seminars with the help of community leaders to warn youngsters about the dangers of ISIS. They have been successful to a large extent in containing radicalisation.

Commissioner of police DD Padsalgikar had said at a press conference at Saki Naka police station a few weeks ago, “We are getting 100% support from community leaders in the fight against ISIS.”

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