The family of two brothers, who converted from Christianity to Islam and are suspected to have left the country to join the Islamic State along with their wives and 11 others from Kerala, claimed on Sunday that the duo had visited Mumbai to meet preacher Zakir Naik more than once.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Vincent, the father of brothers Essah and Yahiya, said, “My sons used to visit Naik when they were students a few years ago. Once, they also took their brother-in-law to meet Naik in Mumbai and get him converted to Islam. But the conversion did not take place because their brother-in-law objected to it.”

The activities and funding of Naik’s Mumbai-based Islamic Research Foundation are under the scanner of the Home Ministry after reports emerged that his speeches had inspired some of the Bangladeshi militants involved in the restaurant attack in Dhaka on July 1. The Maharashtra government has ordered a separate probe into Naik’s sermons.Meanwhile, the stepmother of the brothers who went missing from Palakkad said that it was the younger brother, Beston, who first converted to Islam last year and became Yahiya.

“The eldest son, Bexen, who became Essah, married a Muslim woman three years ago. Initially, Bexen was not willing to convert to Islam. He was a very devout Christian who used pray on his knees every day. The younger brother exerted pressure on the elder one to join Islam,” said Gracy.

“Before they got converted, some youths from Kasaragod used to visit them in Palakkad. Now we have been told that those youngsters are among the missing group,” said Gracy.

Vincent had filed a missing person’s complaint on Saturday.

After the marriage, the brothers were staying in a separate house owned by Vincent.

“They would sit together with their wives to learn about Islam. Fathima used to get lessons on her mobile phone and explain the details to others. They used to observe a fast on two days every week,” said Gracy.

“I believe they had gone to Sri Lanka and various parts of Kerala and Mumbai to study about Islam,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Indian Union Muslim League, a Congress ally, on Sunday extended support to preacher Naik.

IUML general secretary and MP, E T Muhammad Basheer, said, “The Maharashtra government has ordered a probe against Naik with prejudice. Naik is a preacher of peace. It is very strange that a person who stands for peace and harmony is depicted as a promoter of extremism,” said Basheer.

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