Khudadad Khan, the first Muslim soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross, should be more widely recognised
General Lord Dannatt and General Lord Richards lead a group of peers, MPs, historians and religious leaders who say children should be told about the role played by Muslim troops in the First World War.
In a letter to The Telegraph they say that the actions of Sepoy Khudadad Khan in a battle at Ypres 100 years ago on Friday “exemplified the courage” of many who served in the war.
Khudadad Khan, the first Muslim soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross, should be more widely recognised, they said in the letter.
The knowledge of his role, together with that of the other 400,000 Muslims who fought alongside British troops, is vital to “fully understand the multi-ethnic Britain that we are today”, they add.
British Future, the think tank behind the letter, believes that the commemoration of Sepoy Khan and the other Muslim soldiers will act as a rebuttal to Isil extremists. It has been claimed that more than twice as many British Muslims have travelled to Syria to fight alongside jihadists than are serving in the Armed Forces.
Dilwar Hussain, a Muslim academic and one of the signatories of the letter, said: “The quiet dignity of our commemoration of Khudadad Khan’s bravery and service is perhaps the most powerful riposte we could possibly send to the sickening extremism of Isil.”
Other signatories include Lord Ashdown, the formal Liberal Democrats leader, Sir Hew Strachan, the military historian, Baroness Warsi, the former Coalition minister and Sughra Ahmed, president of the Islamic Society of Britain.
“We wish today to highlight one man whose service exemplified the courage of many who served in the First World War,” they write.
They describe how on October 31 1914 Sepoy Khan, who was later promoted to the rank of subedar, fought off a German advance at Ypres, helping to protect two vital ports used to supply British troops with food and ammunition from England. He was one of 1.2 million men from the Indian Army who fought for the Allies in the war.
Lord Ahmad, the communities minister, unveiled a commemorative stone at the National Memorial Arboretum in his honour.
He said: “In honouring the courage of Khudadad Khan we not only remember our shared history, we are also cherish the long tradition of Muslims fighting bravely alongside British soldiers, for a just cause in the service of this country.”