A British general practitioner (GP) of Pakistani origin has drawn a plan to build a memorial in honour of nearly half a million “forgotten” Muslim soldiers who fought for the Great Britain in the First World War.
“From our village, 460 of the 860 men helped out. You don’t read it in the textbooks or see it in the films,” Dr Irfan Malik, a resident of Sherwood in Nottingham, told The Independent.
Dr Malik got his inspiration to build a memorial after he began researching his ancestral village of Dulmial in Punjab and found both his great-grandfathers fought for Britain. “It was generally voluntarily —a lot of them felt pride in going out. For many years there were no men in the village,” he said.
The 47-year-old researcher has formed the World Wars Muslim Memorial Trust, which aims to raise £25,000 ($35,630) to build a Muslim-themed tribute to the men whose “loyalty and sacrifice” helped the Allied forces win the war.
More than 0.4 million Muslim soldiers from pre-Partition India fought alongside British troops during the conflict, but their vital contribution to the war effort has, many argue, gone largely unacknowledged.
The memorial, which has been named as the Great War Muslim Memorial, is said to be in its early planning stages but it has already won the backing of Tazi Husain, a retired surgeon who was the driving force behind a memorial in Tempsford, Bedfordshire, to honour 75 Second World War women agents who helped resistance movements in occupied Europe, unveiled by Prince Charles in 2013.
“We want it to look Islamic in theme… Muslims were loyal to Britain in the First – and Second – World Wars. We were there and we were part of it,” Dr Malik said, hoping the tribute will show young, disaffected Muslims their ancestors contributed to the war effort and will encourage “community cohesion”.
Further, the plans have been welcomed by Jahan Mahmood, a military historian and former UK Home Office terrorism adviser. “The Muslim community by and large don’t know about this story. It’s a failing on behalf of the Government (of the UK),” he said.
Mahmood believes the Great War Muslim Memorial has the potential to “garner a sense of belonging” among Muslims and “make them feel more British”.
“A low sense of belonging is used in the radicalisation of Muslims. I hope the memorial will help Muslims feel like stakeholders in modern-day Britain,” he added.
This article originally appeared on The Independent.