The words of Belfast Pastor James McConnell – that he does not trust any Muslims, branding them “Satanic” – ring extremely hollow with new politician and decorated war hero Captain Doug Beattie MC.
Captain Beattie, elected to the ABC Council under the UUP banner, has told how his life was saved by a Muslim Afghan Major – “the bravest man I have ever met in my 32 years as a soldier”.
“I trusted Major Sher Wali with my life during a 13-day battle in Afghanistan in which he was killed on the final day,” he said. “I was awarded the Military Cross for my part in the Battle of Garmsir (South Afghanistan), and such was the rapport and trust we built up, that I felt I had lost a brother when his bodyguard told me he had been killed.”
Captain Beattie was the British Army liaison officer with a small group of Afghan police engaged in the battle with the Taliban. He made great friends, especially with Major Sher Wali – “We told each other about our lives, our experiences, our religion and hopes for the future.
“He took a great interest in the fact that I was from Northern Ireland and he told me he had once, in fact, fought with the Taliban. But he was so committed to the battle against them that he actually risked his life to save mine.”
Captain Beattie recalled that he was isolated and surrounded by the enemy, and that the small group came to his rescue. “The Major was famous for his large Batman-type cloak and he went into action. I was lying in the half-dug grave that doubled as a shallow trench and my sleeping quarters – not a good omen, I suppose.”
He was under a hail of gunfire and there was rocket propelled ammunition above him – but the Major spread himself on top of Doug Beattie and saved his life.
On the final day, Captain Beattie sustained hand and facial injuries and was concussed. And when he was being carried from the scene, he was told that Major Sher Wali had paid with his life at the tail end of the battle.
“I felt as if I had lost a close colleague and brother,” he said. “He was the bravest and noblest man I ever met.”
Praise indeed from a soldier who has served all over the world, including Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan.