24/07/2016 12:14 PM IST | Updated 24/07/2016 2:15 PM IST

Arrested 'ISIS Recruiters' Allegedly Converted 800 To Islam, says ATS

Rizwan Khan and Arshi Qureshi were held earlier this week.

Shailesh Andrade / Reuters
Representative image.

Rizwan Khan and Arshi Qureshi, who were arrested earlier this week, had allegedly helped convert around 800 people to Islam, officials of the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) have revealed.

Khan and Qureshi, who were held from Kalyan and Navi Mumbai respectively, are believed to be linked with televangangelist Zakir Naik's Islamic Research Foundation (IRF). Although IRF confirmed that the men were involved with it, it denied having encouraged them to get involved in any form of terrorist activity.

The men were picked up on suspicions of influencing the conversion of Mariam, also known as Merin, who went missing from Kerala along with her husband, after her brother Edin Jacob complained to the police. Earlier this month, at least 21 people from the state had left home, apparently to join the ISIS in the Middle East and other parts of Asia.

ATS has seized documents from Khan which indicate that he may have been involved in the conversion of 800 Christians and Hindus into Islam. Khan, however, denied the charge of forcible conversion. He said that since he ran a marriage agency, he had signed as a witness on the marriage certificates of many couples, none of whom, he insists, was coerced into embracing Islam. Khan's relatives also insist that while he was involved in social work and did help those who voluntarily wanted to choose the path of Islam, he was far from being an indoctrinator.

Officials with the security establishment maintain that IRF, along with two other organisations, is actively involved in the running of large-scale conversion programmes, especially among college students and prison inmates, who are lured with the promise of financial and legal help respectively.

Khan has been remanded to transit custody till 25 July, after which he is expected to be produced at the Ernakulam court in Kerala.

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