Millions of Muslim soldiers fought in Europe during World War I, but their contribution has been largely forgotten. New research has uncovered tales of courage and comradeship that could counter anti-Islamic sentiment.
The giant Menin Gate in the Belgian town of Ypres echoes with the mournful tune of the Last Post played by buglers from the local fire brigade.
The ceremony, watched by hushed school groups, has been repeated every night at eight o’clock since 1928 apart from the years of German occupation during the Second World War. It commemorates soldiers who fought and died for Britain in the First World War.
The walls of the gate are covered with the names of 54,607 soldiers who were killed in Belgium and have no known grave. Among them are 412 soldiers from India including Muslims such as Bahadur Khan of the 57th Wilde’s Rifles, who fell during the First Battle of Ypres on October 28, 1914, and Nur Alam of the 40th Pathans, killed on April 26, 1915, during the Second Battle of Ypres.
The role played by these soldiers and their 2.5 million fellow Muslims who fought for Britain, France and Russia in a war not of their making has been under-researched in comparison with the extensive accounts of Western troops in poems, diaries and histories.