New research reveals almost 900,000 Muslims fought in WWI

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SHAFAQNA – Dr Islam Issa, a lecturer at Birmingham City University, has been studying the Islamic contribution to the conflict.

Twice as many Muslim soldiers supported Allied forces in World War One than was previously thought, according to new research by a Birmingham academic.

Dr Islam Issa, a lecturer at Birmingham City University , has been studying the Islamic contribution to the conflict and has found that at least 885,000 Muslims were recruited by the Allies – more than double the 400,000 previously estimated.

Dr Issa’s findings are part of Britain’s first exhibition devoted entirely to Muslim involvement in the Great War, which is called ‘Stories of Sacrifice’ and is being staged at Manchester’s British Muslim Heritage Centre.

The academic spent months trawling through thousands of personal letters, historic archives, regimental diaries and census reports as part of his research.

Graphics showing some of the figures uncovered by the new research

He found that Muslims involved in the war effort came from as far as Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia and that at least 89,000 Muslims were killed fighting for Allied forces under French or British command.

The roles they played included front-line soldiers, trench builders and those transporting vital goods and materials.

The English literature lecturer said: “The 400,000 number we so often hear refers to Muslims in the Indian Army, and there were at least 430,000 of these.

“But many people forget that there was a significant Arab contribution.

“For instance, Egypt alone contributed at least 150,000 camel drivers for British campaigns, and the other north African countries helped the French with at least 280,000 men.

“I think the numbers are probably understated; they represent a minimum that we can be sure about, but it could potentially be quite a bit higher.

“The numbers may be huge, but the exhibition isn’t just about that.

“In fact, a key aim of the exhibition is to remind us that these numbers are made up of one individual after another, so there’s a real emphasis on individual, personal stories throughout.”

While carrying out the studies Dr Issa also found that at least 20 per cent of all British Empire recruits were followers of Islam and that the financial and material contribution from India alone was £479 million – £20 billion in today’s money.

Also among his findings was the fact that 1.5 million Indians and 280,000 Algerians, Moroccans and Tunisians fought for the Allies during the war, as well as soldiers recruited from other parts of Africa.

Nearly 3.7 million tonnes of supplies and more than 170,000 animals were shipped from India to support the war effort.

It is estimated that only two per cent of British people are aware of the Muslim contribution to the war effort.

The Stories of Sacrifice is a long-term exhibition, which will be on show for at least a year.

• For more information visit http://www.bmhc.org.uk/100-untold-stories-of-sacrifice-exhibition/

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