Sunday, 4 November 2012

Remembrance Sunday - the forgotten sacrifice of people of muslim faith

8% of the Hyndburn and probably Haslingden is of Muslim faith according to the census. This Remembrance Sunday I'd like to think in the tributes made, we will remember all those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for British freedoms including the thousands of Muslim soldiers commemorated in Commonwealth War Graves.
I think there has been a historical barrier to this forgotten story. 

Extremists - found in all walks of life - have presented the distorted idea that the Muslim community should see wars not through the fight for freedom and justice, but through the warped and twisted idea of some religious supremacy. They have projected a view that Muslims should in some way feel uncomfortable about supporting the British Army. This distortion of history is not the view of the vast majority Muslim constituents in this constituency who recognise the sacrifices made.

Let us not forget "on the cenotaph at Ypres, France where the war was particularly brutal and horrific, you find the names Muhammad Aslam, Abdullah Khan, Ahmad Khan and Muhammad Usman and numerous other obviously Muslim names on the memorial that is dedicated to the commemoration of soldiers killed in the Ypres Salient of the First World War.

1.3 million Indians constituted the volunteer force during the First World War of which approximately 400,000 were Muslims - predominantly from what is now Pakistan - who fought for Britain, many on the Western Front in Europe, and sadly many who gave up their lives for our freedoms today.

In May 1915 Subadar Muhammad Agia of the 57th Rifles wrote, “It is just like the grinding of corn in a mill; there is no counting the number of lives lost. Not a single British or native officer of the old regiment is left, and not one sepoy (from the Indian regiments).”

The conditions on the front line made it hard to uphold the requirements of faith while on duty, although many Muslim soldiers struggled on and kept the fasts of Ramadan, gaining strength and solace from their faith. Stationed in France at the time of Eid in July 1917, Abdul Ali Khan wrote, “All of the Muslims of the Division had their prayers together and the assembly was close to our regiment. We, as far as possible, gave them food and tea. About 1,500 men assembled and prayers were offered for the victory of our King.”

During the second world war, over 161,000 Indian army soldiers were killed in the two World Wars according to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission with Muslims making up about 30-40%.

In North Africa, Indian soldiers were in the region of 100,000 troops, with five Indian divisions serving in that theatre of war. Out of the 50-60,000 troops serving in Italy the Muslim contingent was estimated to be up to 20,000. Three Indian divisions played a crucial role in the Italian Campaign and the 4th & 8th Indian divisions won numerous battle honours for their bravery and gallantry against the might of Nazi Germany.

Of the 122 deaths of soldiers under the age of 18 in Italy, 90 were Muslim. Among them were three 15-year olds: Amir Khan from Attock, Gulab Khan from Rawalpindi, and Mian Khan from Kohat. One of them was a Lance Corporal, quite an achievement for a boy of his tender age."

Those of whatever faith in Hyndburn will I am no doubt remember these three young boys along with all those who made sacrifices for our today.

Remembrance Sunday is a day when we should all stand together in sombre memory of our history.

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