Imam Asim Hafiz OBE, the first Muslim Chaplain of the British Army, has drafted the below comment piece for Remembrance Day today.
In this week of remembrance, the thoughts of the nation turn to our Armed Forces and their families in gratitude for the service they have made for our country. It is because of the sacrifices of our soldiers that we live in freedom, peace and security.
Remembrance is a powerful way of honoring and showing our gratitude to those who sacrificed so much for our country and for us, whether it was a hundred years ago or in more recent years.
The Kohima Epitaph, “When you go home, tell them of us and say, for their tomorrow, we gave our today” personifies this so poignantly and always stirs my emotions.
At this time of national commemoration we also remember those who exemplify the values of courage, discipline, respect, integrity, loyalty and a selfless commitment to the task and their comrades.
These values break down social, ethnic and religious barriers between soldiers, airmen and sailors giving them a shared sense of purpose and identity which have served this country so well for so long.
As a Muslim, the act of remembrance as an expression of gratitude is very clear in the words of the Prophet Muhammad who said, “He who is not thankful to people can never be thankful to God”, therefore, likening it to prayer and dedication to God.
In 2006, Lance Corporal Jabron Hashmi was killed fighting in Helmand Province in Afghanistan. In some people’s eyes he was different because he was a Muslim serving in the British Armed Forces. While his religion differs from the other 452 killed as part of the UK’s involvement in Afghanistan, Lance Corporal Hashmi’s values as a member of HM Armed Forces did not.
These values are in step with Islamic beliefs too. Islam encourages the love of nation as part of our faith and drives a Muslim’s sense of belonging. There is a rich tradition of Muslims serving in the Armed Forces throughout history including Khuddad Khan, the first Muslim soldier to receive the Victoria Cross and Noor Inayat Khan, who was awarded the George Cross for her SOE work in WWII.
Currently, 650 Muslims serve in the British Armed Forces and it has been my job to provide these serving men and women with the emotional and spiritual support needed to carry out their duties on the front line.
The values and standards of our Armed Forces make them the right people to defend our country and support peace and stability around the world. Whether it is supporting Britons to get through times of national emergencies, delivering international humanitarian aid or fighting terrorism, extremism, tyranny and persecution wherever required, all this keeps us safe in Britain and supports security around the globe.
Religion be it Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish or Sikh – all faiths represented in the Armed Forces, provide a sense of moral guidance for people. In my view this is a universal perspective of morality which has enriched our Armed Forces in the past, in the present and will continue to do so in the future.
At this time of reflection, as well as remembering those who have served and died for us, I hope we can find a moment to appreciate the values we share, and be thankful of their role in shaping our Armed Forces and what they fight to defend today.