World Bulletin / News Desk
The number of Muslim recruits in the British military has risen by 40 percent since 2007, according to the Ministry of Defense.
The Islamic religious adviser to the ministry, Imam Asim Hafiz, has said there is no contradiction between being Muslim and defending Britain.
Hafiz, who was the first Muslim chaplain in the armed forces, said he believes British Muslims can be good soldiers.
“The increasing number of Muslims in the U.K. armed forces is a natural change because society is becoming more tolerant and young Muslim men and women feel more able to come forward and serve," he said, according to the Ministry of Defense. “I’ve met many Muslims in the military who are very devout, because to Muslims a love of your country and serving your community is an important part of your faith.”
The Ministry of Defense has been trying to recruit Muslims but has faced considerable obstacles. Many Muslim communities in the U.K. disapprove of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2011, British Imam Shaykh Asrar Rashid said Muslims should not fight in the armed forces due to the U.K.’s involvement in those wars.
In spite of the increase, the number of Muslims in the British military is estimated to be only 620, meaning the group makes up well under 1 percent of the 200,000-strong military. Muslims are estimated to make up about 4.8 percent of the British population of 63 million.
Hafiz received the Order of the British Empire for his work with Muslims in the armed forces and for improving religious and cultural understanding between international forces and the Afghan people.
He said there is still work to be done in Muslim communities to encourage family members to be more accepting, but the military's chain of command "getting better every year at accommodating Muslims."
The Ministry of Defense said Muslims in the military are allowed to pray five times a day and fast. "as long as there is not an overwhelming operational requirement against either."
Muslims also receive halal rations and have a prayer room.
Captain Naveed Muhammad has served in the military for 27 years.
“Our faith teaches us resilience," he said. "Of course, taking life is something you think about when you first deploy operationally. … But Britain is a special place to be and we all have to contribute to keep it like that.”Last Mod: 02 Nisan 2014, 16:51