These lines seem from a fiction thriller. Sadly, they aren’t fiction.
“I do not want to live in this sinful country; the sun is setting on our backyard. It is time to take that greatest journey and migrate to the land of Allah.”
“The time has come and may we all meet in paradise. I cannot live in this country; I am moved to tears watching all of you live a luxurious life style, watching TV, listening to music…”
These are lines from the letters written by Arif Fayaz and Fahad Shaikh. Till yesterday, they were among the lakhs of ordinary residents of Kalyan in Maharashtra. Today, they have left Kalyan to seek what they believe is their true kalyan.
Fayaz and Shaikh are now global jihadis. They’ve left their homes for Iraq. Reason? They’ve decided that they must join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria or the ISIS.
Naturally, Arif Fayaz’s and Fahad Shaikh’s families are a shocked and broken lot today. The boys were engineering students, in their early twenties. Also, these are no ramshackle families, but reasonably middle class households of doctors. Both boys’ disappearance was known only after one of the parents discovered a chilling note, which told their families about their sudden inspiration and departure for a cause that has only one end — death.
The distraught parents have filed complaints about their missing boys with the Kalyan police. They have also written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh, seeking their help. Till yesterday, their boys were bright students, and the parents hoped they would complete their studies and acquire decent jobs.
That was yesterday.
The parents still cannot believe what has hit them. They are shell-shocked, unable to even understand what brought about this change in their kids. Far from being the archetypal Islamic fanatics, Fayaz and Shaikh weren’t even religious, leave alone fanatical, the parents have stated in their complaint.
The tragic cases of Arif Fayaz and Fahad Shaikh bring to the fore the growing threat of religious indoctrination of Muslims in India. The Internet and its reach has only made the task easier. The ISIS is the latest and according to global terrorism experts and watchers, the deadliest among worldwide Islamic terrorist outfits. It has been waging a war against the Iraqi government with a declared intent of overthrowing it to establish a full-fledged Islamic Caliphate on the lines of the 7th century Islamic rule of the religion’s founder Prophet Mohammad. The ISIS has, in fact taken the towns of Tikrit and Mosul from Iraqi government forces and its self-styled Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has already declared the areas under ISIS control to be the Islamic world’s new Caliphate.
Of particular concern to intelligence agencies is the growing radicalization of Muslim youths, which includes the Indian subcontinent. In recent years, the Wahhabi sect of Islam has gained increasing traction in the Muslim world. Wahhabism propagates intolerant Islamic zealotry, which enjoins all Muslims to wage unrelenting war upon all non-Muslims in the world. It also exhorts Muslims to totally reject all forms of modern civilization and embrace the strict puritanical Islamic living.
More worrying is the fact that an increasing number of young Muslims, including those in India, have begun believing this to be the only way to “clean up” the world. Kalyan’s Arif Fayaz came under the Wahhabi spell sometime back. He would object to the way his parents brought up his sister. “She watches lewd content on television and listens to music. On television, they show people smoking and dancing, and you watch that all day instead of praying. All this will lead you to burn in hell. I have to go and cleanse up the world,” he wrote in the letter to his parents.
The young wannabe jihadis men reportedly saved money over the past year and then left for Iraq on their own expense. The Intelligence Bureau has confirmed that Fayaz and Shaikh are fighting near Fallujah which is close to the Iraqi capital Baghdad. How good they are as fighters, is an entirely different question, but for the ISIS only numbers matter. For the latest Islamic Caliph, Muslims coming from various nations to join in his jihad, irrespective of their utility in the battlefield, is an Islamic boost of sorts, as having Muslims from different parts of the world strengthens the ISIS.
For the parents of Arif Fayaz and Fahad Shaikh, their world has collapsed in the gunfire and explosions ripping apart Fallujah, a land so distant from their homes. Sadly, there may be more families like theirs who might be fated to see their boys disappear, only to join the one-way trip to jannat.