Letter to The Times on Kemp’s Article on War Service Men/Women

3rd August 2017

Today The Times published the Muslim Council of Britain’s response to an extraordinary article by Richard Kemp who casts a dark shadow of suspicion on Muslims serving in our nation’s armed forces, even though a Northern Irish, Catholic man has been convicted of terrorism.

Our original letter can be seen below:

SIR –

Even though a Northern Irish, Catholic man has been convicted of terrorism, Richard Kemp chooses to cast a dark shadow of suspicion on Muslims serving in our nation’s armed forces (Islamists may have already infiltrated our armed forces, 1 August). This is a strange feat of logic that would make Donald Trump proud. He says that the jihadist strategy of infiltration in the army goes back for years, but the Muslim contribution to Britain’s wars of survival goes back much further. Perhaps he is unaware that in a week where we mark the Battle of Passchendaele, over 400,000 Muslims, alongside hundreds of thousands of Hindus and Sikhs, fought in the Great War. Or maybe he is unaware of the thousands of Muslim servicemen evacuated at Dunkirk, or the lascar merchant seamen who helped with the heroic evacuation effort. Today, while it is reasonable and prudent to have every man and woman who join the military to go through security checks, it is unreasonable and downright unfair to single out Muslims who have taken the patriotic step to enlist. Unlike Mr Kemp, we believe it is not ‘politically correct’ to say that those who serve Queen and country should deserve our respect, not our suspicion.

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One of the Seamen mentioned in our letter was Haji Taslim Ali (1915-1998), who later served as superintendent of the East London Mosque, and founded a funeral service that still continues to this day.

Haji Taslim Ali

Taslim signed up as a lascar on a ship that was torpedoed during World War II:

“Taslim Ali then became a lascar – a seaman – working in the boiler room as a coalman and travelled the world, probably from the age of seventeen or eighteen:

“There was no literate one on the ship. I was the only one who could read and write, so I was doing everybody’s letters for them, and I became a favourite. The engineers somehow liked me [as] I could understand them better … Hong Kong, then Kobe, Japan … [the ship] carried different goods, Brazil nuts from Brazil. Then we got to Australia, the War started … [I] came back to Calcutta. I went home but there was nothing to do. So I came back to Calcutta, found another ship … name of the ship was Durbar. Soon we came to the English Channel, and the ship was torpedoed. We were in the boats, and they took us out in a gunboat and brought us to Chatham. We lost about 12 men. They took us to a hospital, then from there to the seamen’s boarding house in Canning Town. They said, ‘If you want to go, we will pay to send you, at your own risk, but if you want to stay, you can stay in this country until the War finishes.”

Source: Caroline Adams’ transcript, Tower Hamlets Local History & Archives, P/ADM/1/2.