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Radicalization makes gains among young in Indian state

A group of them are suspected to have traveled from Kerala to the Middle East to join the so-called Islamic State

ucanews.com reporter, Kochi

ucanews.com reporter, Kochi

Published: July 19, 2016 09:13 AM GMT

Updated: July 19, 2016 09:56 AM GMT

Radicalization makes gains among young in Indian state

A Palestinian man walks past a graffiti portraying the so-called Islamic State's flag in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina on July 5, 2015. A group of young radicalized Muslims have recently left India to join Islamic State in the Middle East. (Photo by AFP)

A small group of young Muslims in India are suspected to have gone to join so-called Islamic State, prompting concerns about the spread of radicalization in their home state of Kerala.

Seventeen young people from Kasargode district are believed to have traveled to the Middle East with the aim of joining the terror group May 28, Denedra Kshyap, Inspector General of Police of Kannur Range told ucanews.com.

The families did not report the disappearances until July 9 and 11 which triggered police investigations.

Kasargode district is a predominately Muslim area and reports have indicated that increasing numbers of young people are taking up orthodox forms of Islam.

Although the stories are "worrying," Father Jimmy Poochakkat, the spokesperson for the dominant Eastern-rite Syro-Malabar Catholic Church in Kerala did not want to make a comment because police investigations are ongoing.

Fears for the missing 17 young people were heightened when one of the missing — Mohammad Marwan — sent a text message to his family confirming that he has joined Islamic State.

"If fighting in the path of Allah is terrorism, yes I am a terrorist," said Marwan's message sent in late June according to a July 17 report by The Times of India.

Marwan further said that he will return home after he "finishes work with IS to help the persecuted Muslims in Kashmir, Gujarat and Muzaffarnagar" areas of India.

For Joseph Koyippally, a Catholic and social observer based in Kasargode, the radicalization of young people is a concern.

Reports of "increasing conversions could result in social tensions," Koyippally said, "but the biggest fear is young people being used in global terror."

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Koyippally told ucanews.com that local reports speak about centers that teach young Muslims a radical form of Islam in the district where 40 percent of its 1.3 million people are Muslim.

The radicalization has also resulted with Christians and Hindus being converted to these puritanical versions of Islam. Several of the missing people are newly converted Muslims.

K. J. Vincent, has two sons — Bexon and Betson — who converted to Islam and are now among the missing. Vincent told ucanews.com that his second son, Betson went to Mumbai for a job and became a Muslim and then influenced his elder brother, Bexon to convert.

"Bexon was an alcoholic and a drug addict. But conversion changed him completely and he followed Islam with passion," Vincent said. Bexon married a Hindu woman, Nimisha, who also converted and changed her name to Fatima.

"Both my sons left home saying they were going to Mumbai for business," continued Vincent. "I only found out they had left the country from media reports."

He has had no communication from either of them.

Nimisha's mother, Bindhu Krishna told ucanews.com that her daughter was a dentistry student.

The police have yet to confirm that the missing people have reached Islamic State controlled areas in the Middle East, according to a senior police source.

"But we have found that they were indoctrinated by radical ideologies and want to follow Islamic puritanism. All of them are educated and from wealthy families," said the source.  

An increasing number of Muslim leaders in Kerala are now preaching Salafism, an orthodox Islamic ideology that defies democracy and nationalism. It prefers to stress that it is the moral responsibility of every true Muslim to engage in physical action to establish Islamic rule.

Shamsudheen Fareed, a Salafi preacher, recently said Kerala's popular harvest festival Onam and Christmas are "haram" (forbidden) for followers of Islam and true Muslims should not be apologetic about dismissing them as such.

"For us the after-life is more important and we are not ready to sacrifice it for the ‘so-called religious amity'," said 45-year-old Fareed, who was a school teacher, according to The Times of India.

Psychologist, John Zacharia told ucanews.com that this is the first time this has happened in Kerala.

"The families reported the events to police a month after the people went missing which shows they had only limited contact with their parents and relatives," Zacharia said, stressing the need for families keep close ties with their young people.

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