New WW1 Centenary project tells unknown story of Britain’s Muslim soldiers

Posted on 16 April 2015

A new project announced today seeks to raise public awareness during the First World War Centenary of the 400,000 Muslims from undivided India who served in the British Army in The First World War.

Few people are aware that the multi-ethnic army of 1914 looked much more like the Britain of 2014 than that of 1914, nor that Muslims fought alongside Christians, Sikhs, Jews and Hindus on the battlefield. Research conducted by British Future discovered that only 1 in 5 people know about this Muslim contribution, and almost nobody (2%) is aware of its scale. This public knowledge gap belies the significant contribution of soldiers from different faiths and nations to Britain’s role in the First World War, and the shared history of different communities in the country.

Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the major national project – “An Unknown and Untold Story – The Muslim Contribution to The First World War” – is a partnership between British Future and New Horizons in British Islam, and aims to address the public appetite for information and learning about the contribution of soldiers from the Commonwealth during WW1.

Over 14 months from May 2015, it will bring together Muslim and non-Muslim communities to explore this shared history and its relevance to modern-day Britain.

Dilwar Hussain, Chair of New Horizons in British Islam, says: “The story of Muslim contribution to the British Army of the First World War is little-known among the public. Many British Muslims themselves don’t realise the relevance of the WW1 centenary to their own history.”






Posted in Featured



  • Comment by Lawrence at 04:32 on 08.05.15

    The brave actions of Indian soldiers of all faiths is commendable, however to link this with future and ongoing mass immigration to Britain by attempting to show cultural coherence and a shared history is stretching your point a little too far. As these men were volunteers and professional soldiers their motivations were many: removal from poverty, family honour, tribal and caste pride being but a few.
    Their continuing mass movement to Britain has nothing to do with political decisions made by successive governments to make our country more diverse, taken to an extreme by Tony Bliar.
    While in no way taking anything away from the bravery of these Indian troops it does not relate in any way to the current state of multicultural Britain.

  • Comment by Arshad Kamal Khan at 14:09 on 31.07.15

    My grandfather joined the British Indian Army in 1895. He was sent to British East Africa in 1896 with the Baluch regiment. Because of his good handwriting he was then kept as storekeeper, He saw services in Tibet 1904 , Somaliland in 1907 and finally was In Uganda till the outbreak of the WWI He stayed in Uganda till the end of the war. He was awarded the Tibet and Africa Medals. His military service is interesting as he was able to get testimonials of his superior officer. There are other interesting episodes which have survived. I have written his history and wish to publish it one day.

  • Comment by Juliet Davies at 12:57 on 10.02.16

    Assalam Alaikum. I am writing from the National Memorial Arboretum, the UK’s year-round centre of Remembrance. The Arboretum is part of The Royal British Legion family. We host 200 independent events each year in addition to year round events of Remembrance. We have 30,000 maturing trees and over 300 memorials; it is a place that honours the fallen, recognises service and sacrifice, and fosters pride in our country.

    400,000 Muslim soldiers fought for Britain in WWI yet their story is largely ‘unknown and untold’. We want people to remember their sacrifice and this message is more important now than ever. Following on from the Living Islam Festival and British Future project, with a new exhibition centre being built and Somme commemorations following later this year, we would love to involve Muslim artists, musicians, poets etc. to explore this shared history and its relevance to modern-day Britain. We are open to suggestions as to how Muslim communities might engage with the new Remembrance Centre, exhibitions and events.

    As Inclusion Officer for the Arboretum, I am keen to meet with Muslim community groups to discuss their thoughts about remembrance, how (and if) they mark remembrance of people who have given their lives in wars for Britain and to ask also what we could do here to tell that story this year through our events. I would love to be able to meet or talk with you and very much hope to hear from you.

    Kind regards
    Juliet Davies
    Inclusion Officer
    Direct: 01283 245166
    Switchboard: 01283 792 33
    National Memorial Arboretum
    Croxall Road
    Staffordshire DE13 7AR