Imams in mosques around the country will give remembrance-themed services at Friday prayers as part of Remember Together, a new initiative to promote integration by bringing people from different faiths and ethnic backgrounds together to mark Remembrance and the centenary of the First World War Armistice, writes Steve Ballinger.
A Remember Together event in Birmingham has brought together Imams from across the UK to learn more about the 400,000 Muslim soldiers who fought for Britain in the First World War. There is growing awareness of the contribution made by soldiers from across the Commonwealth in 1914-18 but still only a minority of people, including among Muslim communities, know that so many Muslim soldiers fought for Britain 100 years ago.
Remembrance Sunday will be particularly special this year because it also marks 100 years since the guns fell silent at the end of the First World War, a conflict which cost millions of lives. Imams will be sharing what they have been doing to mark remembrance among their own communities of worshippers and learning more about the Muslim contribution to this pivotal moment in Britain’s history.
Imam Qari Asim, Chair of the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board who is delivering the workshop, said:
“Most people, Muslims included, don’t know that thousands of Muslim soldiers, from present-day Pakistan, fought for Britain in the First World War. It’s important that they do – this shared history of contribution is something that we can all commemorate in Britain, whatever our ethnicity or faith.”
The armies that fought for Britain in 1914-18 looked more like the Britain of 2018 than that of its day. British troops fought alongside soldiers from across the Commonwealth, including over a million soldiers from pre-partition India – what is now India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
Raising awareness of this shared history is important because it helps explain why Britain looks like it does today – and why British Asians and British Muslims have as much stake as anyone in an inclusive British identity that we can all share.
One of the soldiers that Imams learned about is Khudadad Khan, who was awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery in 1914. Khan, a Muslim from what is now Pakistan, was the first Indian soldier to be awarded the VC. His regiment was supporting the British Expeditionary Force to prevent German troops taking vital ports in France and Belgium. As the line was pushed back the machine gunner, badly wounded and massively outnumbered, held off the German advance long enough for Indian and British reinforcements to arrive and prevent the enemy making the final breakthrough. He was the sole survivor of his team.
Remember Together will also see events around the country, in schools and with the general public, where children and adults from different ethnic and faith backgrounds come together to learn that soldiers from all backgrounds fought side-by-side. They will make giant remembrance poppies commemorating individual soldiers from different backgrounds, with poppy wreaths to be laid at local war memorials as part of Remembrance Sunday services in Waltham Forest, Derby and Bradford on 11 November.
Remember Together is a partnership between integration thinktank British Future and the Royal British Legion as part of its Thank You campaign, supported by ISD and Google.org. Members of the public are asked to share pictures and messages of support using the #RememberTogether hashtag.
For more information see www.remembertogether.uk