Thursday, 31 October 2013

Muslim Soldiers - The Elephant in the Room

BFTF has previously posted on some of the roles played by Muslims in support of the UK in WW2, such as the bravery of SOE opertive Noor Inayat Khan and the thousands of Muslim seamen who died transporting goods for the UK during WW2.

Similar stories are told by a number of websites, including this fascinating booklet by the MCB, an article on the work of Jahan Mahmood and this startling list of Muslim war heroes in an Emel article (see also here)

But there is an elephant in the room.

Is it acceptable for Muslims to join the army today and fight wherever they are told to?

The far right has a view about Muslims joining the army - it is that they can't be trusted and are not loyal

The extremist Muslims have a view about Muslims joining the army - it is not acceptable and makes you a traitor to Islam

What is missing is the well argued view of mainstream Muslim organisations.

The only resource BFTF can find that answers this question is the MCB booklet mentioned above, which states that :
"The MCB has worked with all three Armed Services to encourage British Muslims to serve their country. We hope that we will see increased numbers of British Muslims taking up positions in our Armed Forces just as they have done so in other sectors of our society"
and, in the same booklet, Imam Asim Hafiz, the first-ever Muslim chaplain to the British armed forces, recognises why Muslims may be hesitant to join the armed forces:
“At the moment, because our current conflicts are in Muslim countries it could be more challenging for a Muslim to join the armed forces. . .Another challenge though is how the Iraq and Afghanistan war are perceived by Muslim communities in Britain.
It can be hard to join the Armed Forces and there is concern as to how you will be received back in the community.

But I would like to stress this is no different to Catholics serving in Northern Ireland. This is not an issue isolated to Muslims.”
However, whenever BFTF has directly asked senior people in the local Muslim community whether it is ok for Muslims to join the army they have quickly changed the subject, leaving questions like those below unanswered...

Can Muslims fight in the British army? Does it make a difference if they are fighting against a Muslim majority government?

Similarly, are Muslims asking for special treatment, "we`ll fight in this war but not in that one"?

How is the situation different if both belligerents are Muslim majority countries?

How did the Muslim soldiers in the British Indian Army feel about fighting against the Ottoman Empire?

How did the Arab Revolt leaders justify attacking the Muslim Ottoman forces?

These are the kinds of questions that the senior figures in the Muslim community need to address.

In addition, it may be worthwhile to reinforce the point that whether one approves of people serving in the army is a different issue to whether one approves of the wars they are being sent to fight (just as one can be in favour of people paying their taxes without being a fan of all the items that taxes are spent on).

Memorial to Noor Inayat Khan in London

Related Content
Muslim Soldiers fighting for Britain

External Links
Imam Asim Hafiz article
WW1MuslimSoldiers site
British Muslim Soldier Zeeshan Hashmi article
Pte El-Miniawi article
MilitaryMigrants site
Interesting article on experiences of some young Muslims today
Image Sources :
Memorial to Noor Inayat Khan

Edited 26th Dec 2015

1 comment:

  1. I am a non-religiously minded white Englishman of almost 55. I have served my country and have only this to say; in Northern Ireland one worked against terrorists that had, broadly speaking, the same religion as the vast mojority of one's colleagues. It wasn't the religion that was the issue, it was them killing other people! When one joins HMF one makes a tacit agreement to use force on behalf of HM Government to protect British interests here AND abroad. So, if you're sent to Somalia or Sierra Leone or the Balkans, it should make no difference. You and your colleagues are the sharp edge of British diplomacy, whether you like it or not. The most basic question is really "should I join, or not?" not "should I fight other muslims?"