His zeal to learn more about his religion led Areeb Majeed towards social media pages of ISIS, which fed him propaganda videos and connected him with others who wanted to join the cause. Here are excerpts from his confession to the NIA
I was an avid follower of Islam since my school days. In 2005, when I was in Std VII, I met Mishalbhai, the head of Students Islamic Organisation (SIO), at Kalyan during namaz one day. He suggested that I join SIO.
The organisation’s programmes were held twice a week and I attended several lectures on Islam. There were 15-20 other boys with me and we were taught the basics of Islam and teachings like obeying our parents, helping the poor, etc.
When I passed Std VII in 2005, we moved to another house in Kalyan, where I have been staying with my family since. I completed my primary education from Lourdes High School in Rambaug, Kalyan (West). Having secured 83 per cent in my SSC board exams in 2008, I joined Father Agnel’s Polytechnic College in Vashi and graduated with a diploma in 2012.
I read the Quran and other holy books on my way to the polytechnic college in Vashi. I offered namaz during breaks at Noor Masjid, which was right outside the college. Since the year and a half, I have been offering namaz at a mosque in Sarvodaya Nagar Residency in Kalyan.
I always asked my friends to follow Islam, but they showed no inclination towards it. I read several books on Islam and my inquisitiveness and thirst for knowing the religion knew no bounds. I was thoroughly inspired to study more about my religion.
In January 2013, the news on ISIS trying to establish a Khilafat (Caliphate, a form of government ruled by a Caliph and governed by Islamic laws) caught my attention. There was a lot of information on the Khilafat in Syria on social media platforms.
I started liking those pages on Facebook and gathered contacts from the profiles connected to these pages. I tried to speak with several people from different countries like Australia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and I started harbouring a desire for Hijrat (migration).
As I searched more about the Islamic State, I learnt about the injustice and atrocities done to Muslims by (Syrian president) Bashar Al-Assad’s Army. ISIS had their own media networks, which were actively showing the work they did in Syria and Iraq.
In the videos and on Facebook pages, I saw that the militants were burning alcohol factories, burning cigarettes and punishing smokers and thieves. They were amputating the hands of thieves, according to the law described in the Quran. They were telling people to live under the law of Allah. I also watched lecture videos of several Islamic speakers.
These books, videos and lectures had a great impact on me in developing my jihadi mindset. My understanding of jihad is: any contribution from your end, whether by way of wealth or life, for the sake of implementing the law of Allah to make Islam the highest authority and Sharia law the most powerful.
In Hadith (collection of sayings of Prophet Mohammed), a companion asks him, “Where do I go for Hijrat?” “Go to Syria,” the Prophet replies. This motivated me to leave for the Islamic State in Syria and participate in their jihad to establish Islamic law and live under Sharia.
Meeting the others
I met Fahad Shaikh in October 2011, while he was visiting my cousin in Kalyan. We bonded well since we were from the same college (Kalsekar), but Fahad was three years senior to me, and, hence, we had never met at college. We became friends on Facebook.
Fahad knew a lot about Islam and we would discuss it. In January 2014, a sect in Kalyan organised a procession of the Eid e-Milad-un Nabi (the birth anniversary of the Prophet). The organisers were playing Bollywood music during the procession and we were opposed to this.
Fahad went to the extent of snatching the microphone from the singer on the vehicle. I was very impressed with this display of strength. It was then that we opened up to each other about our love for jihad. Fahad revealed to me that he was operating a profile called Magnet Gas to support the cause of ISIS.
On February 20, 2014, I told Fahad I wished to migrate to Syria to help our brothers and sisters who were in trouble there. Fahad, too, expressed his wish to join me. He told me there were two other friends of his Saheem Tanki, a resident of Dudh Naka in Kalyan (West), and Amaan Tandel, an electrical engineering student, also from Kalyan (West) who were also willing to join the movement in Syria.
Accordingly, on February 25, all of us decided to leave the country for Syria. I began doing research on the Internet on how to reach Syria. I read about all the neighbouring countries from where we could cross the border and enter Syria.
On the Facebook account of ISIS, people I knew suggested that I travel via Turkey, saying it was the most convenient and easiest way to reach Syria. I began making enquiries at various travel agencies about ways to travel to Turkey (before crossing the border to enter Iraq).
I first approached a Thomas Cook office in Kalyan, but the travel agents asked us for our salary slips and other documents which we couldn’t have produced. I then found out we could enter Syria through Iraq. The visa had no other requirements apart from a passport and a few photocopies.
We visited other travel agents, and zeroed in on Rahat Travels in Byculla, who agreed to send us to Baghdad at a cost of Rs 60,000 per head. We paid the sum in three to four installments, from April 14 to June 1. I had started saving for this trip six months before we began hunting for a travel agency, and managed to accumulate Rs 25,000.
Amaan contributed Rs 60,000, Fahad Rs 55,000 and Saheem paid the maximum amount Rs 1,10,000. When I asked him how he had managed to arrange this sum, he told me that one Adil Dolare, a resident of Kalyan, had loaned him R 25,000 and the rest came from a friend who stayed in a Wowli village in Kalyan.