Kochi, Jul 12: Senior Congress leader PT Thomas today came out strongly against Indian Union Muslim League for backing preacher Zakir Naik, alleging his Islamic Research Foundation is suspected to have a role in "brainwashing and radicalising" the youths from Kerala who went missing in the Middle East recently.
"I have come to know from relatives of Merin, alias Mariyam, who hails from my constituency Thrikkakara that she took a rigid stand on religious issues under the influence of Zakir Naik's Islamic Research Foundation," Thomas said.
Merin, who hails from a Christian family in Kochi converted to Islam while she was in Mumbai last year and she is one among at least 21 youths from Kerala who had travelled to the Middle East and had gone missing.
Most of their families suspect they may have joined the ISIS. Merin, who christened herself Mariam, later married Yahiya, her classmate and Christian who converted to Islam.
Talking to PTI, Thomas, representing Thrikkakara Assembly constituency in Ernakulam, said the teachings of Zakir Naik and the position he has taken on matters like co-education, issues related to women and even on other religions are totally against the Indian secular concept.
"IUML leader and senior Lok Sabha MP E T Mohammed Basheer should not have supported a person like Zakir Naik whose activities are even closely monitored by countries like Bangladesh and Indonesia," the Congress MLA said. Addressing a press conference at Kozhikode two days ago, Basheer had said, "Naik is an advocate of peace theory in Islam.
The action by the authorities against the Islamic preacher is a violation of the freedom of expression. He is being harassed for no valid reason."
Thomas said there is a strong feeling among the relatives of some youths, who went missing, that Zakir Naik's Islamic Research Foundation had a role in "brainwashing and radicalising" their children.
"What I gathered from the talks of Zakir Naik is that... his teachings are against the values of Islam. I am not against love marriages or a person's legitimate right to switch to another religion. But radicalising our youths in the name of religion is totally wrong...," Thomas said.
Naik has come under scanner over reports that one of the Dhaka attackers was allegedly inspired by his speeches.