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Indian Armed Forces: Opportunities for Muslim Youth

In Islam loyalty to one’s motherland is a part of faith. There is no difference between following Islam as a religion and having loyalty to one’s country. The Quran state­­s, “O ye who believe, obey God and obey the Prophet and obey those in authority from among you” (4:60). Loving one’s own country and its people is trait of a good Muslim. Prophet Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Love of your country (patriotism) is a part of your faith.” A true Mu’min (believer) loves his own country dearly. He works for securing the interest of his country. On the contrary, those who do not love their own country are ungrateful. They are guilty of treason and such persons can never be truly pious and Mu’min.

There have been apprehensions in Muslim community regarding joining armed forces. This stems mostly due to ignorance and lack of confidence. These myths need to be countered with facts and evidences so that the true picture of Indian Army can be represented. Representation of Indian Muslims in the Indian Armed Forces has been a debated topic and it is important to understand the factors that determine this. There are no reservations in the Indian armed forces either, for minorities or SCs/STs. A unique representation system exists, which is regionally balanced and based on what is referred to as the recruitable male population index (RMPI). It ensures regional distribution but no bias towards any faith or caste. This exists in the level below the officers’ cadre. At the officer level, it is simply open competition – those who are competent will be selected.

Independent India’s history is replete with examples of Muslim officers having reached very senior positions. The Indian Army has had nine Muslim major generals so far, while the Air Force was once commanded by a Muslim Air Chief Marshal. The Indian Military Academy has had one Muslim commandant, while the National Defence Academy has had two. These figures will only see a positive growth in the future and are a testament to the fact that sky is the limit when it comes to Indian Armed Forces. Indian Muslims should come forward in large numbers to be a part of this elite and professional force and serve the motherland.

India’s Muslims need to be made aware that the Indian Army is the only Indian institution which has an Institute for National Integration (INI) for promotion of plurality, tolerance, integration and multi-faith existence. The fear that they cannot pray at will, cannot fast, and cannot consume meat of their preference is a misnomer. Retired Lieutenant General Syed Ata Hasnain writes that a Muslim subunit of the Grenadiers regiment is almost always commanded by a non-Muslim. That officer keeps all 30 fasts of Ramzan with the troops and leads their prayers five times a day.

Wherever 120 Muslims are present the rule is that a religious teacher will be posted for religious guidance. Wherever a subunit of Muslim troops stays, a masjid will be mandatory just like a temple, church or a gurdwara. If Muslims are present in a mixed All India All Class unit, there will be a ‘Sarv Dharm Sthal’ (all faiths under one roof) with troops being continuously preached on the virtues of multi-faith existence in the spirit of true India. All this is for the troops and is a demonstration of the Army’s secular and tolerant culture.

For Indian Armed services officers, there is only one rule – follow your own faith, but the faith of the soldier you command becomes the faith of the officer. Muslim youth seek opportunities everywhere but hold back from the various cadres of the Indian armed forces. The armed forces can contribute immensely toward strengthening India’s social fabric and therefore Muslim Youth should become a part of it.

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