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Michael Fallon marks century of Muslim service in British armed forces

24 July 2014

After nineteen hours without food, nor even a drop of water, the prospect of the single succulent date which breaks the fast looms ever larger in the mind as sunset nears.

A few minutes after nine o’clock last night, similar scenes were doubtless playing out in mosques and Muslim homes around Britain. But this event was a little different. As the imam’s prayer rang out across the high ceilinged courtyard, many of those kneeling to pray were in khaki uniforms while others wore headscarves. The Ministry of Defence had invited Muslim soldiers and civic Muslim groups to break their Ramadan fast with a celebratory feast in the Whitehall citadel of the British defence establishment.

New Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said he was proud that the occasion marked his first public speech in the job. ‘It has never been more important that our Armed Forces represent the breadth of the society we serve,’ he said, noting how few people know that 400,000 Muslims fought for Britain ‘with loyalty and pride’ in the first world war a century ago, and another 600,000 in the second world war.

The event launched a new Armed Forces Muslim Forum, committed to deepening relationships between the armed forces and Britain’s Muslim communities.

Almost a decade ago, Iman Asim Hafiz became the Armed Forces’ first Muslim Chaplain. He has served on tours of Afghanistan. Now he is Islamic adviser to the service chiefs, and spent the last year using his boundless energy and considerable charm to build the relationships that could make the new forum possible.

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‘Love of your country is a Muslim duty,’ said Hafiz. ‘Serving your community is part of the Muslim faith.’ Governments have to take the political decisions about war and peace; but the values represented by those who serve in the armed forces — courage, discipline, respect and protection of our country — are widely shared in the Muslim community, he said. That dozens of Muslim groups had come together to be founding partners of a forum committed to celebrating service and commemorating sacrifice showed a strong appetite for this relationship, he said.

‘Commemorating that history of service shows that our roots in this country go much deeper than many realise,’ said Dilwar Hussain, whose project New Horizons in British Islam speaks to a British Muslim identity confidently rooted and at home here.

But the biggest challenge for so many constructive Muslim voices is how to get the media platforms and public attention that the noisiest, most regressive voices can always take for granted.

The largest academic research study of ethnic minority attitudes reveals that 62 per cent of non-white Britons say they wear a poppy for Remembrance Sunday, including just over half of respondents from Bangladeshi and Pakistani backgrounds. The quiet integration of a million poppy-wearing Muslims will always struggle to compete for airtime with the provocative shock and awe of half a dozen idiots who choose to burn a poppy in the hope they can make their desire for a breakdown in community relations a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The new forum may seem an unusual alliance to some; but that may give it some chance to redress the balance.

‘We have never had a meal like this in the history of the Ministry of Defence,’ said Sir Nicholas Houghton, Chief of the Defence Staff. He welcomed the contribution of the 650 Muslim personnel in the forces today, and said he would like to welcome many more as both regulars and reservists.

The first world war centenary reminds us that the British Army can draw on more than a century’s experience in accommodating the reasonable needs of those of minority faiths, catering at the time for the needs of Muslim, Hindu and Sikh soldiers who made up the Indian Army. Muslim soldiers who lost their lives in the Great War were buried according to tradition, despite German propaganda to the contrary.

The Ramadan event marked a new venture, which will need to engage with contemporary challenges. It could also be understood as a new chapter in a rather longer history than most appreciate.

Sunder Katwala is Director of British Future.

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Show comments
  • lookout

    Fort Hood ?

  • whs1954

    “The largest academic research study of ethnic minority attitudes reveals that 62 per cent of non-white Britons say they wear a poppy for Remembrance Sunday, including just over half of respondents from Bangladeshi and Pakistani backgrounds.”

    I’m sorry, but no. Sadly, fewer than half of white Britons wear poppies nowadays, let alone non-white. I live in the East End of London, with the biggest Bangladeshi population in the country, and a Bangladeshi wearing a poppy in November is about as common as a bacon sandwich at a bar mitzvah. Your study has revealed nothing except that people will make themselves out to be more moral and noble than they actually are.

    • sarahsmith232

      Absolutely brilliantly wicked comment. Was thinking exactly the same thing, have lived in Muslim areas, lived in Tower Hamlets, v.familiar with Pakistanit communities in the North also, ‘62% of non-white Britons say they wear a poppy’? Ha! Yeah right, good luck to one of these academics trying to spot a poppy on a Pakistani/Somali/Bangladeshi etc.
      Your going with – ‘people will make themselves out to be more moral’, personally, i’m going to go with – the looney Left that makes up the bulk of our academic body can manage to distort any screamingly in your face reality with their . . er. . ‘research’.
      Are there really people out there that are so easily led by these people that they’ll read that and believe it? Other than your Lee Jasper, Abbott, Alhia-Brown, ‘racism, racism, anyone got any racism’ lot?

  • English Majority

    No matter how many times you try to lie to people by telling them Muslims etc have always been a part of Britain, you’ll fail due to those things called facts and reality.

    Reality: Britain was a White nation for thousands of years. Whites BUILT Britain, Whites created the Industrial Revolution, the Welfare State and the NHS. Britain WAS built by White people only. And our White history is very long, well documented, and actual historical fact.

    Your aim, though, of course, is to absolutely rewrite this, and to make people think that non-Whites have always been here. You also, disgusting, push the putrid lie that “Immigrants built Britain”. Man, you deeply, deeply despise our forefathers, don’t you. And you deeply despise the native British today because they oppose everything you stand for.

    Regarding World War 1: Its boring and nobody is that bothered about it. What the British people care very much about, though, is World War II. Because World War II was entirely fought and won by White people. And because the most horrific tragedy of World War II was that 60 MILLION White people died in it. But of course, Katwala, you’re really, really not bothered about that fact, are you.

    Your job, and your natural racial allegiance, is to help the remnants of our dying White lands be completely overun, colonised and ruled by your fellow brown immigrants.

  • Alexandrovich

    Just another prong of long term infiltration to add to the others. Unfortunately for you Mr. K. we’re not all as gullible as you may think.

  • Conway

    The Ministry of Defence had invited Muslim soldiers and civic Muslim
    groups to break their Ramadan fast with a celebratory feast in the
    Whitehall citadel of the British defence establishment.
    ” Why? I don’t see them having a celebration of the end of Lent.

  • Colonel Mustard

    I see that the magazine that holds such a passionate and determined belief in the freedom of the press has excised one comment already.

    Maybe the term we should coin for the Bubble that governs us is ‘hypocriarchy”?

  • telemachus

    What a splendid post
    Also Fallon has gone up in my estimation

    • girondas2

      I wonder if muslims would serve in iraq – you know, killing other muslims on behalf of the Labour Party

  • Airey Belvoir

    They should have no trouble killing Muslims if ordered, given that most Muslims killed these days are the victims of other Muslims.

  • English Majority

    Erm, NEWS FLASH: More ‘British’ Muslims have joined ISIS than they have the British Army.

    A conservative, genuine estimate is that around 1000 ‘British’ Muslims have joined ISIS. There’s only 400 in the British Army, and even they are a constant security risk.

    I’m interested as to why Sunder is given a platform here. If you’ve read his daily lies, propaganda and activity, you’ll know that this Indian deeply, deeply hates the native British people.

    • GraveDave

      What’s more why does he think we should even care. I don’t hate or despise Muslims. But – if – I – did – this wouldn’t change my thinking one bit.
      Just more PC propaganda is all it is

  • mohdanga

    What about the other million Muslims that don’t wear a poppy? Are they ‘quietly integrated’ too? Or are they part of the large chunk of Muslims that want Sharia instituted in the UK?

    • Damaris Tighe

      “62% of non-white Britons wear the poppy.” My guess is that of this 62% at least half are Afro-Caribbean. That leaves a frighteningly tiny proportion of Muslims wearing the poppy. Sunder has presented these figures in a very sanitised way.

  • Last Man Standing

    Katwala is a Leftist. A Fabian. This is just leftist propaganda. It is also a fact that Muslims eat as much as they want before sunrise in Ramadan and as much as they want after sunset. More food is consumed by Muslims during Ramadan than at any time in the year.

    • HenryWood

      It is also a fact that the Religion of Peace does not let Ramadan interfere with its favourite hobby.

      Ramadan Bombathon 2014 Scorecard
      Day 27 of Ramadan, results in so far:

      In the name of The Religion of Peace:
      Terror Attacks = 215
      Suicide Bombings = 30
      Dead Bodies = 2024
      Wounded = 1586

      In the name of ANY Other Religion:
      Terror Attacks = 0
      Suicide Bombings = 0
      Dead Bodies = 0
      Wounded = 0

      By Way of Anti-Muslim Hate Crime:
      Terror Attacks = 2
      Suicide Bombings = 0
      Dead Bodies = 2
      Wounded = 0

      If you think all religions are the same, then you haven’t been paying attention.

      • the viceroy’s gin

        Those are stark numbers. The magnitude of that slaughter demands it be decried by everybody. 50% participation might be overlooked for poppy wearing, but for this… no. Something far closer to 100% is to be expected. All of us must decry this barbaric slaughter.

        • HenryWood

          Stark numbers indeed, all freely available together with verifiable references, and not a single Islamophile dare deny them. And not a single outlet of our once famous MSM dare print them. Not even this magazine; and their telephone sales people wonder why I treat them with contempt when they call and ask me to renew my subscription.

          • Abdur Razzaq bin Mohamed Ali

            please renew it, but this time ask them to list all the names of innocent died (in millions) with their full names and family history too…

      • Abdur Razzaq bin Mohamed Ali


        Bismillah (In the name Allaah)

        Terror Attacks (By Isreal on Gaza) = 3209
        Terror Attacks (By Hamas on Isreal) = 2090

        Killed by Isreal (in Gaza) = 797 (mostly innocent civilians, childrens)
        Killed by Hamas (in Gaza) = 35 (all soldiers), 1 man by rocket in Isreal.

        Would like to add more on the killing of Muslim by US, UK, NATO, AUS, etc, since 9/11. which will come to around millions, but you can google it.

        So much for the civilised world….of Jews and Chrsitains….

        • Ian Walker

          The reason that the Israeli deaths consist of only soldiers is because Israel does it’s damnedest to protect its citizens with air raid sirens and shelters. Hamas on the other hand deliberately sites its soldiers among civilians and tells the women and children it is their Muslim duty to die as human shields for the sake of propaganda.

          All religions are, at heart, about cynical powerful men controlling the ill-educated and poor for their own ends, through the facade of belief.

        • whs1954

          The Israeli reaction to Hamas’ terrorist attacks is not terrorism, but a legitimate response to the murderous genocidal aims of anti-semitic fascists. That Hamas are incompetent matters not one jot. Who is in the right is not defined by keeping tally on deaths.

        • HenryWood

          What about the killing of Muslims by Muslims, 1,000 each and every day? Who says this is so? Professor Dr Mehmet Görmez, head of Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs, addressing the World Islamic Scholars Peace, Moderation and Common Sense Initiative conference this week in Istanbul. One thousand Muslims are being killed by their brothers every day.

        • Colonel Mustard

          Hmm. “Targets struck” vs “rockets fired”.

          And how, precisely, are “targets” defined?

  • Marmalade Sandwich

    Is this a deliberate positive muslim story in the Spectator, the first this week? Notice in the photo how the women are all at the back. I hope they were not forced there.

    • Shazza

      Actually that photo says it all really.

    • Conway

      You are lucky they were allowed there at all.

      • telemachus

        Why cannot you celebrate the splendid contribution of Muslims to our Nation, as Fallon does

        • swatnan

          because its a stunt! a PR job.

        • GraveDave

          I think ‘splendid contribution’ is taking it a bit far, tele.

        • girondas2

          “Why cannot you celebrate the splendid contribution of Muslims to our Nation, as Fallon does”

          I wonder if muslims would serve in iraq – you know, killing other muslims on behalf of the Labour Party

        • WillyTheFish

          Mainly because they seek the destruction of civilisation itself and the imposition of sharia barbarism in place of the rule of law. You have only to see what Muslim savages are doing in Iraq to see the real agenda of Islam.

  • TRAV1S

    I thought those in the army were exempt from Ramadan fasting?

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