150 years ago, when Delhi was still the capital of the Mughal Empire, an odd public notice emblazoned with a sword and shield appeared on the wall of its great Jama Mosque. The crowd that read it before it was torn down gathered that the Shah of Persia was on the march to liberate his Muslim brethren from their Christian oppressors, his forces having just dealt a crushing defeat to the British on India's Northwest Frontier.
Fundamentalist Sunni clerics, third generation followers of Waliullah Shah, the Arab Ibn Wahab's Indian contemporary and fellow student in the madrasas of Medina, embraced the news, for they took as dim a view of the last Mughal emperor's embrace of Hindu customs and Sufi saints as of his collusion with the divide and conquer policies of the British East India company.
It did not matter that the poster was a fiction- later in 1857 the Great Indian Mutiny erupted, and both Hindu and Muslim troops slaughtered the British by the thousand, coming to within credible military distance of driving Queen Victoria's forces from the subcontinent.
This sobering tale is elaborated in William Dalrymple's The Last Mughal , a useful reminder of how complex the internal affairs of South Asian states can be, and the dangers of acting in ignorance of that complexity.