How dare you bunch of cowards think of calling yourselves believers of Islam?

My name is Major Mohommed Ali Shah (veteran). My family has had a tradition of soldiering for 200 years. My father retired as the deputy chief of Army Staff and was vice chancellor of the Aligarh Muslim University thereafter. Because of his and his brilliant team’s back-breaking efforts, Aligarh Muslim University was ranked as India’s best university by the Times Higher Education Ranking, London, the most reliable ranking of universities in the world.

However, because of your ill actions, even such a fine university has to bear the brunt of having the word “Muslim” in its name. My father’s honest autobiography, The Sarkari Mussalman, which speaks very highly of the fine, secular organisation that is the Indian Army, was misunderstood because it had the word “Mussalman” in the title.

My ancestors were veterans of both the world wars. My family chose not to go to Pakistan during Partition but stay in India, for various reasons. We are the children of this soil. We are a family of proud Indians and have performed the pilgrimage of Haj.

So there cannot be a person more qualified to tell you cowards that nowhere in Islam does it say go kill anyone. You people are truly the enemies of Islam, giving it a bad name to the extent that the community is getting typecast. Today, every Hindi movie has a criminal or a gangster bearing a Muslim name.

I saw my father fight insurgency in Punjab in the early 1990s, in Manipur, Nagaland, and Jammu and Kashmir. I have risked my life on several occasions while serving in the Army in Jammu and Kashmir and the North East, in both Muslim and non-Muslim areas of insurgency. However, only one community is being branded as a terrorist community because of ignorant fools like you.

Peace-loving religion

My religion (I am not saying yours because you are not Muslims; you are terrorists and terror has no religion) is actually a very peace-loving religion and talks of unity in diversity. The term “jihad”, which actually means struggle and not terrorism, has been misunderstood and misinterpreted by non-Muslims to the extent that even the national media has started misrepresenting Islam, for which terror outfits like yours are responsible. Today, all good work the Muslim community is doing is being discredited because of the wrongdoings of a few misled, uneducated, disloyal enemies of humanity like you.

The brainless “fidayeen” you have been breeding are going to rot in hell and not to any heaven as you mislead and brainwash young, unemployed, ignorant youth who have absolutely no idea what the holy Quran says. Islam is a peace-loving, scientific, logical and simple religion. There has to be an end to this madness. You people have spoilt the name of such a beautiful religion that once even I, a right-thinking citizen of my motherland India, had to suffer personally. Fortunately, my parents had given me the best gift a parent can give to their child, the gift of education. I could stand tall and fight, and teach the perpetrators a lesson they would never forget in their life. Taking up arms and killing people is not the answer to anything.

Major Mohommed Ali Shah leads an Army contingent at the Republic Day parade. Photo via Facebook
Major Mohommed Ali Shah leads an Army contingent at the Republic Day parade. Photo via Facebook

Education is the only key to progress. I am a proud Muslim and a very proud Indian, and I am qualified enough, not only because I was educated at the best school and the best college or an Indian Institute of Management but because I understand the religion much better than you do. I appeal for peace in order to be a true Muslim. You might have recruited people with little intellect who might be PhDs. However, there is a huge difference between being literate and being educated. Members of terrorist outfits like you are uneducated and should make an effort to analyse yourself, and face and understand the reality that you are not only doing great disservice to a peace-loving religion but to humanity itself. Shame on you!

My reason for writing this open letter is that I hope it reaches you somehow and, maybe, makes a difference somewhere. I truly believe the society will not change unless and until we change ourselves. I hope it reaches you and you do serious introspection, and the change begins. Violence in any form is not the answer to anything.

As Martin Luther King once said, “Darkness cannot fight darkness, only light can do that, hate can not fight hate, only love can do that.” Muslim terror outfits must realise they inflict casualties, directly and indirectly, on Muslims themselves. Any sensible person can see it is not some cause you are fighting for, it is a racket you are running. You are manufacturers of hate. The “fidayeen” whose video I saw will certainly not be going to heaven to enjoy the hospitality of hoors as he claimed. He will rot in hell. To quote a line from the film Khuda ke Liye (which made a lot of sense to me as a Muslim) that was delivered by a great actor playing the character of a maulvi, “Deen mein daari hai, daari mein deen nahi.” There is no need to wear one’s religion or patriotism on one’s sleeve. People are intelligent enough to see what is inside a person’s mind.

Root cause

Having spent considerable time combating insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir and the North East, and having risked my life multiple times in the process, I strongly believe the root cause of the militancy in Kashmir is not religion or “jihad”, as is widely believed. The real cause is that unemployed youth are extremely vulnerable and easily susceptible to brainwashing by vested interests from across the border. Educating and empowering them, making them self-sustaining will help weed out this problem once and for all. The use of arms or a show of strength can defeat them only temporarily – you kill one and 10 more will be ready to take his place. Our only hope is to win them over.

The next big question that arises is about prejudices against the Muslim community. Yes, prejudices exist, not only towards Muslims or any other community in particular, but for those who are less educated. Why would anyone employ someone who is not educated enough, or capable or suitable for the job? We have to admit that Muslims in India are not educated enough and that is the cause of all our woes. The only way forward is to educate our children.

If our children don’t get good education, they won’t have good jobs, then they won’t be able to educate their children, and so on. We will never be able to rise above the poverty line and will always be discriminated against. Education does not mean merely sending them to school. Making sure they have the right mindset is also extremely important. As Allama Mohammad Iqbal, who did great service to the Muslim community, said,

“Khudi ko kar buland itna ke har taqdeer se pehle,
Khuda bande se khud pooche bata teri raza kya hai.”

If one is educated, one can stand tall.

Finally, if we forget all our differences, if India is united, if we stand together, we have the ability to be a superpower – and we surely will be. Jai Hind!

Major Mohommed Ali Shah completed his short service commission in the Army in 2008, participating in counterinsurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir and the North East. He is currently a defence analyst. He has also worked on and acted in several films, including Haider, Bajrangi Bhaijaan and Agent Vinod.

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