Sunday, 8 November 2009

MCB Report: Remembering the Brave: The Muslim Contribution to Britain’s Armed Forces

Ahead of Remembrance Sunday, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) has published a special report highlighting the long-standing and continued support for the Armed Forces. Remembering the Brave: The Muslim Contribution to Britain’s Armed Forces outlines how Muslims have made a historic contribution to the defence of this nation. The document also covers the current contribution of British Muslims to the UK military. It states:

"The Muslim Council of Britain issues a necessary reminder to British Muslims and society at large of the Muslim community’s enduring contribution to the nation’s Armed Forces.

Amongst the countless First and Second World War memorials around the world are emblazoned Muslim names, which represent the tens of thousands of Muslims who have stood as part of this nation, who fought bravely, and who fell defending this country in corners near
and far all around the world. The poignancy of this should not be lost on any of us, especially Muslims who have now made Britain their home.

While largely forgotten until now, at the time, Muslim sacrifices were acknowledged with gratitude. Wounded Muslim soldiers fighting in France were treated in special hospitals along the south coast in Brighton, Bournemouth and Brockenhurst. Those among them who died received burial rites according to their religion. The first burial in this country of an Indian Muslim soldier who succumbed to wounds received while serving in France took place in the Brook-wood Cemetery in December 1914. Floral tributes were placed on the coffin by local Muslim converts. In 1915 the burial of an Indian Muslim officer took place. At the request of the imam of the Woking Mosque, the local commanding officer detailed fifty soldiers, headed by an officer, to attend the funeral in order to pay military honours to this gallant Indian soldier. Three rounds were discharged and, in a fusion of Muslim practices with British military traditions, the “Last Post” was sounded by the bugle boys. The Chairman of the local Urban Council deemed it ‘an honour to have men who fell as a result of the war buried in the district’.

By the end of the First World War in 1918, India had sent over one million volunteer troops to fight side by side with the British. Muslims were disproportionately involved. They saw action in France and Belgium; in Gallipoli and Salonica; in East Africa; in Mesopotamia, Egypt and Persia. Over 47,000 were killed and 65,000 were wounded. During the Second World War over 2.5 million men and women from the Indian sub-continent, formed the largest volunteer force ever seen in history. They served in Africa, Burma, Malaya and in the Middle East. Again over 24,000 were killed and 65,000 were wounded. As in the First World War, hundreds of military awards were won. These included thirty Victoria Crosses, the highest award for bravery.

As Remembrance Day approaches our thoughts turn to observance of commemoration of all those members of the British armed forces who lost their lives during the wars. Special services will be held and wreaths laid at war memorials throughout the country and at London’s Cenotaph. But how many of us will be aware of the magnificent role that thousands of Muslims played in those wars? How widely, for instance, is it known that more than 1.3 million Indian soldiers served during the First World War, a large proportion of them, Muslim? That they suffered heavy casualties – 53, 486 died, 64,350 wounded and 3,769 were missing or taken?"

You can dowload the report full (PDF) here.

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