Forgotten Muslim soldiers of World War One


A hundred years since the end of World War One, historians think recognising the contribution of Muslims can help tackle contemporary issues such as Islamophobia.
“Muslim soldiers have been forgotten about over time,” Hayyan Bhabha, from the Muslim Experience, says.
“The core far-right narrative is that Muslims have never done anything for us.
“Well, actually, with facts that are over 100 years old, we can say Muslims fought and died for the history and security of Europe.”
It is estimated that 1.5 million Indian troops fought to defend Britain. Of those, 400,000 were Muslim soldiers.
The Muslim Experience is working to highlight the global contribution of Muslim soldiers to World War One and says raising awareness could silence anti-Muslim rhetoric by far-right groups in Britain today.
Mr Bhabha says his team is now opening up documents and discovering new information about their role in the War.
“Accessing archives from 19 countries, we have discovered that more than four million Muslims either fought or served as labourers during the War, from around the world,” he says.
One of those was Sepoy Khudadad Khan, an Indian soldier who fought alongside British troops.
He was the sole survivor of a team assigned to defend vital ports in France and Belgium from German forces.
According to accounts, Khan managed to hold off the enemy advance long enough for British reinforcements to arrive.
On 31 October 1914, Khan, of the 129th Duke of Connaught’s Own Baluchis Regiment, became the first South Asian to receive the Victoria Cross, Britain’s highest military honour.
Groups such as the Muslim Experience want stories of soldiers to be heard.
They also want more British Muslims to find out if they have a personal connection to World War One.
But how connected do British Muslims feel to the War and how aware is the community itself of its links to British military history?
Mr Bhabha thinks some young Muslims in particular are not engaged with British military history.
“Most Muslims are not engaged with military history because they can’t relate to it,” he says. “The way it is taught currently is very European-centric.
“The history that is taught doesn’t show the true diversity of everyone that took part in the First World War.”
A study by think tank British Future found just 22% of people in Britain knew Muslims had fought in the Great War.
So, it has launched a campaign, Remember Together, to raise awareness in schools.

Steve Ballinger, from British Future, says: “Finding out that Muslim soldiers fought and died for Britain to protect us and to protect the freedoms we enjoy today, that’s an important history for everyone to know.”
As the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One is remembered, historians, campaigners, and descendants of the soldiers are making sure the contribution of Muslims is never forgotten.
Luc Ferrier, who chairs Forgotten Heroes 14-19 – the umbrella group for the Muslim Experience – says: “If the world really wants to reach out to the international Muslim community, then they need to know the enormous contribution these people have made, fighting a war none of their making.
“Only by recognising and honouring the global Muslim sacrifices, not only these of the British colonies, we are reaching out to them and saying a genuine thank you”.

Sport England last week launched the latest phase of its This Girl Can campaign, Fit Got Real, which aims to tackle the inequalities in levels of exercise between different social groups of women.
The latest Active Lives Adult Survey from Sport England highlights these imbalances, with women in lower paid, routine jobs almost twice as likely to be inactive (doing less than 30 minutes of exercise a week) compared to women in senior and managerial roles (33.5% compared to 17.7%). The survey also showed significant differences in activity levels amongst women of different ethnicities, with women of a South Asian background (36%) and black women (29.4%) more likely to be inactive than white British women (25.3%).
Sport England research shows that a mix of practical and emotional pressures, such as lack of time, fear of judgement and lack of confidence, prevent many women from being as active as they would like. The insights also highlight that many of these pressures come from the way marketing, the media and TV often portray exercise as being for women who have the money to afford gym memberships, expensive sports clothes or plenty of free time.
The campaign is looking to inspire and motivate women with its new Fit Got Real film by showing real women of different ages and ethnicities doing exercise their own way – whether that is running around a park pushing their child in a pram, hula hooping at home or teaching themselves how to swim using YouTube – and sharing the message that no matter how unconventional, it all counts as exercise.
Jennie Price, Chief Executive of Sport England comments: “There are some stark inequalities when it comes to different levels of exercise amongst women in England. Many of the pressures of modern life do not make it easy for women to have the confidence and motivation to be active. The health and wellbeing benefits of being active should be available to all women, and that is why we have a new message – Fit Got Real – to celebrate the creative and often unconventional ways many women are fitting exercise into their busy lives.”




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