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Anti-hate group hears of unknown Muslim soldiers

The untold story of the millions of Muslims who fought for the Allies in World War One was revealed to members of the West Midlands Together campaign.

The organisations’s steering group, meeting in Birmingham, heard from Hayyan Bhabha, Director of The Muslim Experience in WW1, about his researchers’ discovery of the unknown scale of the contribution Muslims made in the 1914-18 conflict.

He said more than 2.5 million Muslim troops fought for the Allies in the various campaigns.

West Midlands Together was formed as a cross-party campaign for harmony and tolerance in the wake of a spike in hate crime following the EU referendum.

Joint founder Anthea McIntyre MEP, Conservative MEP for the West Midlands, said: “This information is so powerful.

“It shows extent to which we all have shared backgrounds and that we have so much more to bring us together than to keep us apart.”

Mr Bhabba said the project was the first to ask for access to WW1 documents in the Farsi, Arabic, Urdu and Hebrew languages from 377 locations in 19 countries.

He said research had unearthed many fascinating stories about the war service of people from a range of faiths.

He said: “These stories can be a very powerful tool in showing young people from different religious and ethnic backgrounds that this is their country and their families are part of its heritage and history.”

The group has begun organising interfaith trips to the battlefields and war graves of northern France.

Mr Bhabha said the All Party Parliamentary Group of British Muslims, of which he is secretary, will also be working with colleagues to establish consensus in finding a definition of Islamophobia that the Group hopes the Government will adopt.

He said: “We recognise that Brexit has emboldened people to express hatred of anyone they deem to be different from the norm.”

Nasar Iqbal of We Stand United, an initiative against hate crime in Walsall, spoke of his organisation’s work in inviting people to come forward with their experiences.

He said these accounts would be shared via text and video on social media, with viewers asked to comment and add their own stories.

Mr Iqbal also spoke of plans to launch a Hate Crime Network in Walsall to allow a variety of agencies concerned with and affected by hate crime to work more closely together.

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