After fighting with the Islamic State terror group in Iraq for nearly six months, 23-year-old Areeb Majeed returned to his homeland of India last week, complaining of poor treatment by other ISIS fighters.
According to officials from India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA), quoted in Indian outlets including The Times of India, Majeed was forced to clean toilets and carry water to the battlefield, and only permitted to fight after repeated requests by his supervisor.
The detail of the Indian recruit being forced to clean toilets is especially telling. ISIS claims to represent a pure, Islamic contrast to the decadence of the Arab Gulf states, which are notorious for condoning brutal treatment of domestic workers and manual laborers from India and Pakistan.
Sadanand Dhume, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute who specializes in South Asia, told The Daily Caller News Foundation that the image of the Indian jihadist cleaning toilets in Iraq “has gotten a fair bit of attention” in India. Dhume predicted that “Indians will play up the fact that ISIS is apparently discriminating against would-be Indian jihadists, to dampen their enthusiasm for [ISIS].” (RELATED: Australian Jihadis Seek Muslim Recruits For Middle East War)
In addition, Majeed claimed that he had to wait three days in an ISIS hospital before receiving treatment for a bullet wound to his arm. According to Pakistan’s Dawn.com, this was the last straw, after which Majeed called his family in India and said he wanted to come home.
Indian outlets including ZeeNews explained that three of Majeed’s fellow engineering students from Mumbai continue to fight for ISIS — Shaheen Tanki, Fahad Shaikh and Aman Tandel — after the four left India in May on an alibi of making pilgrimage to Islamic holy sites in Iraq. It had previously been widely reported that he had been “martyred” in Iraq, and his family prayed for his soul when they heard they news in August.
Majeed and his comrades were radicalized through ISIS’ online propaganda efforts. The group’s campaign to recruit fighters from among India’s 150 million Muslims has been documented by U.S. outlets including The Diplomat; its strategy includes chat rooms and videos with subtitles in Hindi, Tamil, and other local languages. (RELATED: Nine Japanese Nationals Have Reportedly Joined ISIS)
The young man is suspected by Indian authorities to be responsible for 55 deaths during his six-month stint in Iraq, according to the International Business Times. But this fact, along with the story of the bullet wound and other discrepancies, has led to confusion over the details among the Indian public.
Dhume characterized the Indian media’s coverage of Majeed’s return as “rumor central,” in which an active press is spinning multiple versions of an uncertain truth. Joking about the conflicting reports of Majeed’s time in Iraq, Dhume said, “I don’t know how he’d manage to clean toilets and kill 55 people at the same time.”
Meanwhile, the Hindustan Times quoted Majeed’s father as saying that the returned recruit regrets his mistake and would like finish his engineering degree in Mumbai, saying, “The government should take a soft stand and think about the young boy’s future.”
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