With more Muslims joining the British military, Islamic religious adviser to the Ministry of Defence Imam Asim Hafiz has said that there is no contradiction between being of the Muslim faith and choosing to defend Britain.
Mr Hafiz, who was the first Muslim chaplain for the armed forces, also strongly believes that British Muslims can be good soldiers. He said:
The increasing number of Muslims in the UK 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.
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 importance of communities is reflected in his work, as it was just last month that Mr Hafiz received an OBE for his work with Muslims in the armed forces and for improving religious and cultural understanding between international forces and the Afghan people.
The religious adviser said that there is still work to be done in Muslim communities to encourage family members to be more accepting, but the chain of command inside the military is ‘getting better every year at accommodating Muslims’.
Muslims in the UK armed forces are able to pray 5 times a day and fast, as long as there is not an overwhelming operational requirement against either. They are provided with halal rations, can seek support from Muslim chaplains, and use prayer rooms on base; one of which was recently made available on a naval warship.
Captain Naveed Muhammad, who has served in the Royal Corps of Signals for 27 years, is a practising Muslim soldier.
His role involves helping young soldiers forge a future and taking groups of young Muslim children on trips to Flanders. He has also served his country in Iraq, the Balkans and, most recently, Afghanistan.
Captain Naveed said:
Our faith teaches us resilience. 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.