Remembering the Muslims Who Fought for Britain in World War I

Remembrance Day is here and I still believe in it as strongly as I always have done. Remembrance Day started after the First World War, where Britain, alone, lost almost 1 million soldiers.

Many people nowadays do not give Remembrance Day the precedence that is deserves. Maybe because, like many things, it is being lost to another generation from a time none of us can even begin to imagine.

Many men, would not have wanted to go out to war. They would have gone because they felt it was their duty and back then, fighting for their country was something great. It may not be that great now, but we have to remember we are dealing with a different era.

Historical Background

When the British Army suffered great losses, the Indian Army (which at that time included Pakistan and Bangladesh, as they had not received independence) was drafted in to aid the British Army in the war.

This is extremely critical to note because had they not been there, then the Germans would have certainly advanced and the outcome could be different. Almost 400,000 Muslim soldiers fought in the First World War on Britain’s side. Only 2% of people know about it.

Many Muslims will not agree with Muslims fighting in the First World War because they fought against the Ottoman Empire and it will hold strong views. We need to look at it from another perspective. One that is very relevant in today’s society.

We have to remember that back in those days, Britain had a habit of invading many countries and colonializing them. We have to remember that if the men did not fight as they were asked to do, they would have been shot for treason. We have to remember that the opinion and mind set was extremely different to what is happening today.

We also have to think that these men helped Britain fight in two world wars and they did make a huge difference. It is relevant because there are 2.71 million Muslims in Today’s Britain.

If many trace their roots back, they will find that their relatives fought with the British Army in the world wars. It is a huge sacrifice and an act of bravery that none of us can even come close to understanding unless we have lived it.

Why is this relevant in today’s society? Simply because, when we have right-wing media scaremongering normal people who know very little about Islam, who are normally very tolerant people, but after reading something in the media, or seeing some of the atrocious acts committed by ISIL, then they are going to think Muslims are violent people. They are not going to rush off and get educated about what Islam is and if that is what we expect, then we are very much deluded.

What Should Muslims Do?

It is Muslims’ job to educate about what Islam is. It is Muslims’ job to show people who know very little about Islam, what is Islam.

Therefore, in a country that honors their war dead with pride, it is absolutely essential to educate them that 400,000 Muslims fought alongside British men and women.

So the next time some far-right extreme view is pushed at a British Muslim that they have no right to be here, the answer is simply this; yes they have every single right to be there. Their older generations fought and sacrificed for us in two world wars. Their older generations had to cope with colonialization from the British.

After the Second World War, Britain started a phase of economic recovery and it needed human recourse to boost the economy.  It resorted to the peoples of the old British Empire. Mass migration began because the British asked these people to come and live in Britain. Hence, no one can say that they do not have a right to be there.

This Remembrance Day and every Remembrance Day from now on, I will not only remember my own relatives who fought and died in the wars.

I will not just remember the British soldiers who fought and died in the wars, I shall be remembering those 400,000 Muslim soldiers, who fought, sacrificed and died for Britain. They did so much more than we could ever thank them for.

If anyone ever wants to say that Muslims are not welcome or should return back to their own country, perhaps we would do well to mention that Muslims fought side-by-side with the British in what was supposed to have been the war to end all wars and so they have every right to stand side by side with us today.

First published: November 2017

About Nichola Taylor
Nichola Taylor: BA (HONS) European Studies with German language. Social Media Editor of About Islam and mother to my beautiful little girl.