A delegation consisting of local community and charity organisations, schools, media and representatives from the Muslim Council of Britain joined the Muslim Chaplain to the Armed Forces, Imam Asim Hafeez and members of the British Army for a visit to Belgium and France to remember and reflect on the often forgotten contribution that Muslim soldiers made during the First World War.
The delegation visited the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing in Belgium, dedicated to the memory of the British and Commonwealth soldiers who were killed in the Ypres Salient of the First World War, whose graves are unknown. It contains the names of over 54,000 Commonwealth soldiers who died without graves; thousands of whom were Muslims from the Indian sub-continent.
The group further visited the India Gate in France where the Indian Army made a significant contribution during the war effort and the peak of their involvement came at the Battle of Neuve Chapelle in March 1915. The names of the many missing Indian soldiers are inscribed on interior panels along with the regimental crests of Indian Army Units. Among the many Indian features, there is a 15 metre high column in the foreground recalling the pillars of Asokar (Ashokan) surmounted by a Lotus capital, the Star of India, the Imperial Crown and the inscription in Arabic calligraphy of 'Bismillah-hir-rahman-nir-raheem'. The Muslim Chaplain to the Armed Forces, Imam Asim Hafeez, led a short service of remembrance and thanks.
Signing the Book of Remembrance, Shahid Akmal, Chair of MCB's Education Committee said "the Muslim contribution is often forgotten. At a time when there is much criticism of Muslims in Europe, we need to look no further than the First World War to see what a crucial role Muslims played, where thousands paid the ultimate sacrifice in defence of sovereignty".
The visit follows a publication the MCB released in November 2009 entitled "Remembering the Brave" detailing the contribution of Muslims during the First and Second World Wars.
The Muslim Council of Britain is the UK's largest Muslim umbrella body with around 500 affiliated national, regional and local organisations, mosques, charities and schools.
Report published by the MCB on the Muslim contribution to the Armed Forces Remembering the Brave
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