The conference aims to bring together as many of the 500 serving Muslims in the British Armed Forces as possible to discuss their faith and values, and also address any issues individuals have faced and offer guidance. For many, the conference is also the only time they may see another serving Muslim and it is therefore a rare opportunity to network and pray together:
As the only Muslim in my brigade based in Germany I do not get the opportunity to socialise with other serving Muslims. It can be very hard to get this many of us together to be able to pray together, which is important for a sense of bonding in a religious context. It does make a difference to our spiritual life,” said Lance Corporal Momodou Sonko who works in the Adjutant General’s Corps Staff and Personnel Support branch in Germany, and deployed to Iraq in 2008.
With him is Corporal Momodou Haddi Jallow, a Royal Logistic Corps driver with 1 Logistic Support Regiment, also in Germany, who has just returned from Afghanistan:
I was deploying to Afghanistan during the last conference so this is my first time here, but I’m hoping to get a lot out of it,” said Corporal Haddi Jallow who spent his HERRICK tour driving logistic supply vehicles across Helmand.
My interaction with the Afghan troops did change when they saw me coming to pray with them when I was staying at the checkpoints. They didn’t realise there were Muslims in the UK let alone serving in the British Army, and they couldn’t believe the knowledge I had about the faith. It certainly changed the relationship.
Prayer plays an important part in the conference, but it is also an opportunity to network and present the faith to policy-makers within the Army explains deputy chairman of the conference, Captain Naveed Muhammad, a reservist Royal Signals Officer currently posted as second-in-command of the Armed Forces Careers Office in Birmingham:
This year’s conference was organised by Corporal Mohsin Mugal, a dental hygienist with the Royal Army Dental Corps, while the British Army’s Muslim Chaplain, Imam Asim Hafiz, is currently deployed in Afghanistan:
We all miss the presence of the Imam with us at this year’s conference, but we are looking forward to a refresher in our faith and dialogues about Islam,” said Corporal Mugal.
The lecture about what the faith teaches us about living and working alongside soldiers of other faiths will be of particular interest to all of us I think.
The teaching of Islam is very positive and teaches us to live in harmony with other faiths so the discussion will be very interesting in giving us a wider understanding of working and living together within the Armed Forces.