Politicians from all parties have joined faith leaders, former military heads and charities to support Remember Together, a new initiative to promote integration by bringing people from different faiths and ethnic backgrounds together to mark Remembrance of shared history and the centenary of the First World War Armistice.
In a joint letter in the Sunday Telegraph, they say “There is increasing awareness that Remembrance could, should and does belong to all of us,” highlighting the service of soldiers from across the Commonwealth that made “The armies of 1914-18 look more like the Britain of 2018 than that of its day.” The letter highlights the potential of Remembrance to aid integration, noting that “This shared history of service and contribution is something that we can all commemorate in Britain, whatever our ethnicity or faith.”
Signatories include Baroness Warsi; Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London;Lord Richards of Herstmonceux, former Chief of the Defence Staff; Lord Paddy Ashdown, whose father served with Indian soldiers in WW2; James Cleverly MP; Nusrat Ghani MP; Dan Jarvis MP; Naz Shah MP; Rt Rev Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham; Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, senior Rabbi to Reform Judaism; and Imam Qari Asim MBE, Chair of the Mosques & Imams National Advisory Board. Full text and signatories below.
Remember Together is a partnership between integration thinktank British Future and the Royal British Legion as part of its Thank You campaign, with support from ISD and Google.org.
It will see Imams in mosques around the country give remembrance-themed services at Friday prayers. In Birmingham, a Remember Together event has brought Imams from across the UK together to learn more about the Muslim contribution to WW1.
The initiative is also hosting 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.
One of the soldiers they will learn 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.
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 Indian soldiers, 400,000 of them Muslims from present-day Pakistan. Awareness of the Commonwealth contribution to WW1 has grown over the centenary but only a minority knows that thousands of Muslim soldiers fought for Britain. 77% of the public agrees that teaching this shared history would be good for integration in Britain today (YouGov for British Future, 2016).
Sunder Katwala, Director the the British Future thinktank coordinating Remember Together, said:
“We have seen extremists, both Anjem Choudary and Britain First, try to turn our cherished symbols of Remembrance into ammunition in their culture war. Both rely on an ignorance of our shared history when they tell Muslims and other minorities that they have no place in Britain. So it really matters that we commemorate the soldiers from all backgrounds who served a century ago, as more Mosques, Gurdwaras and other places of worship mark Remembrance this year.”
Imam Qari Asim, Chair of the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board, 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.”
Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Senior Rabbi to Reform Judaism, said:
“The bullets on the battlefields of World War One did not discriminate between Sikhs, Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Jews and others. One hundred years later, we honour those who fought together by remembering them together.”
The full text of the letter, published in the Sunday Telegraph 28 October, reads:
11 November 2018 marks not only Remembrance Sunday but also 100 years since the end of the First World War. It comes at a time when Britain’s society can feel more fragmented and anxious than any of us would want.
There is increasing awareness that Remembrance could, should and does belong to all of us.
The armies of 1914-18 looked more like the Britain of 2018 than that of its day. British troops fought alongside soldiers of different colours and creeds from across the Commonwealth, including some 1.5 million Indian soldiers, 400,000 of them Muslims from present-day Pakistan. Yet only a minority knows that thousands of Muslim soldiers fought for Britain – including soldiers like Khudadad Khan, awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery in 1914.
This shared history of service and contribution is something that we can all commemorate in Britain, whatever our ethnicity or faith.
Remember Together, which launches this week, brings people together to remember all of those who fought for Britain a century ago. Imams in mosques around the country will give remembrance-themed services at Friday prayers as the occasion is marked in churches, synagogues and temples across the country. Young people from communities with little contact will meet, learn, give thanks to past generations and uncover what they have in common today.
We urge everyone this November, across the UK, to put differences and divisions aside and Remember Together.
James Cleverly MP
Dan Jarvis MP
Nusrat Ghani MP
Naz Shah MP
Andrew Murrison MP
Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands
Lord Richards of Herstmonceux, former Chief of the Defence Staff
Lord Paddy Ashdown
Major-General Tim Cross (retd)
Imam Qari Asim, Chair, Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board
Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Senior Rabbi to Reform Judaism
Rt Rev Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham
Sanjay Jagatia, Director Secretary General Hindu Council UK
Jasvir Singh, City Sikhs
Imam Asim Hafiz OBE, Islamic Religious Advisor to Chief of Defence Staff
Sunder Katwala, Director, British Future
Julie Siddiqi, Co-founder, Nisa-Nashim Jewish Muslim Women’s Network
Mustafa Field, Faiths Forum for London
Charles Byrne, Director-General, Royal British Legion
Dilwar Hussain, New Horizons in British Islam
Meg Henry, The Linking Network
Zulfi Karim, Bradford Council of Mosques
Cllr Clare Coghill, Leader of Waltham Forest Council
Kersten England, Chief Executive of Bradford City Council.
Tim Dixon, Co-founder, Moreincommon