France Pays Muslim Soldiers’ Debt

February 19, 2014


A century after their sacrifices to France, long forgotten French Muslim soldiers have been remembered by President Francois Hollande who said France “owed a debt” to Muslim soldiers who died in World War I, pledging to fight racism and discrimination targeting the religious minority.

“France will never forget the price of the blood shed” by Muslim soldiers, Hollande said at a ceremony in Paris’s Grand Mosque on Tuesday, February 18, Agence France Presse (AFP) reported.

Holland’s visit to the mosque, the first since being elected president in 2012, comes ahead of events planned later this year to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the war.

About 600,000 troops from France’s colonies took part in the 1914-18 war and about 70,000 Muslims lost their lives at the battle of Verdun in 1916, according to figures released by the Defence Ministry in 2010.

Hollande unveiled a plaque paying tribute to the 100,000 French Muslims who died fighting in the two world wars.

His presidential predecessors Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy also presented memorials and plaques remembering Muslims who fought for France.

Islam is “perfectly compatible with the values of France,” Hollande said.

“This homage is a call for respect,” Hollande said, urging a “fierce fight against discrimination, inequality and racism” as well as against “anti-Muslim words and acts.”

France is home to a Muslim minority of six million, Europe’s largest.

According to a poll published in April last year, three out of four French people have an negative image of Islam.

French Muslims have been complaining of growing restrictions on their religious freedoms.

In 2004, France banned Muslims from wearing hijab, an obligatory code of dress, in public places. Several European countries followed the French example.

France has also outlawed the wearing of face-veil in public.

The Grand Mosque of Paris, the largest mosque in France, was built between 1922 -1926.

French Muslim leaders have welcomed Hollande’s move to remember Muslim fighters.

“Even if this is not new, it’s good that François Hollande again reminds those who reject Muslims that thousands of natives died for France,” said Abdallah Zekri of the CFCM coalition of Islamic groupings, RFI reported on Tuesday.

“He should seize the chance to discuss the present worrying atmosphere with us,” he added.

On the other hand, Louis Aliot, the vice-president of the far-right Front National, slammed the visit as a “crude attempt at manipulation”.

“These comments are totally irresponsible because France has never forgotten the soldiers who died for France,” he stormed, claiming that the ceremony is exploiting them for the sake of “sectarian lobbyists”.

“If increasingly radical political Islam poses a problem […] of republican compatibility in our country, it’s not up to France to adapt and to provide answers it’s up to that religion,” Aliot said.

French media has also interpreted the visit as being aimed at gaining the favor of Muslims, who currently constitute five percent of the country’s voters, ahead of the March local elections.




Muslim war graves attacked in Carcassone, France

News Agencies – December 27, 2011

Thirty war graves of Muslim soldiers who fought in World War I have been attacked and defaced in the southern city of Carcassonne. Racist insults and swastikas were painted on the graves, which are identified by the Islamic symbols of the star and crescent.

Slogans including “France for the French” and “Arabs out” were painted on some of the gravestones, reported daily newspaper Le Figaro.

Muslim soldiers’ graves desecrated in Tarascon, France

Vandals have desecrated the graves of seven Muslim solders who died fighting for France in World War II, the Defense Minister announced, expressing “deep indignation.” “I wish to express my deep indignation at this ignoble and cowardly act,” Hervé Morin said in a statement after the tombstones were toppled at a military cemetery in the southern city of Tarascon.

“I bow before the memory of these soldiers with more emotion now that the ultimate outrage appears to have targeted them for their religious beliefs,” he said. Morin said the soldiers had given their lives for a “free, just and generous” Europe and France. The regional Muslim council said the tombstones had been toppled and three of them were smashed. There are 130 graves in the cemetery, of which 17 belong to Muslim soldiers.

No plot to poison food at South Carolina army base

Five Muslim soldiers detained since December were released when the investigation showed there had been no plot to poison food at the Army base in Columbia, SC. The five soldiers were serving within the transactor training program. Four of them have been now discharged from Army due to petty crimes. The investigation started following allegation of verbal threats regarding the base’s supply of food. According to the investigation results, no credible information was found to support that there has been any plot.

Religion in the British army

Muslim and Sikh recruits training in the British Army say their faith is not an issue, but at times it can present them with a few dilemmas. “If I was out in Afghanistan in uniform I would be shot at right away, as the Taliban would not know who I was or my Muslim background,” says Akhtar Hussain. “So for me, it’s who shoots first.”

The 19-year-old British Muslim from Brighton joined the Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment seven weeks ago and is currently undergoing a 26-week training program at Vimy Barracks in Catterick. He says his faith does not really affect his army training, and the attitude to British Muslims at the barracks is positive. “They cater for my needs and if I want to pray or observe Ramadan I can,” says Private Hussain. Halal food is also provided for.

But when Pte. Hussain finishes training, he might be posted on a tour of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan – and he is aware British Muslims joining the army has become a contentious issue. “Obviously coming from my background, it plays on my mind. I may end up in this situation but I don’t think religion comes into it, it’s more about terrorism.”

American Muslim soldiers love the US; caught between two worlds

American Muslim soldiers who serve in Iraq and Afghanistan find themselves caught between two worlds. On one hand they want to serve their nation, and on another they are criticized for fighting what fellow Muslims perceive as an unjust war against Muslims. One Christian group asserts they should be prohibited from serving.

But soldiers in this article reject extremism from any side. “We love this country,” said Shelton Hasan, 54, of Detroit, an Army veteran, “and want to protect it like anyone else.”

Muslims must quit British Forces, says Iranian envoy to Britain

The Iranian representative in Britain, Abdolhossein Moezi, has told Muslim servicemen and women to quit the Armed Forces, saying that their involvement in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars is forbidden by Islam. He said that it was wrong for followers of Islam to serve in the Armed Forces, especially in Afghanistan and Iraq where Muslims were being killed.

The cleric, personally appointed by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to be his special envoy to the UK, also urged Muslims to defeat the opposition to the Iranian regime and keep the 30-year-old Islamic Republic alive. He condemned 9/11, 7/7 as well as the Fort Hood incident, but accused the forces of “Zionist imperialism” of using the atrocities to smear Islam and its followers.

Furthermore Moezi stated that his role in Britain was to provide spiritual advice to all Muslims, irrespective of their sectarian backgrounds, and encourage them to become more involved in British society through education and employment.

Preventing Fort Hood?

It’s reported that the FBI and Army intelligence investigated contacts between the alleged shooter and a militant Islamist cleric who is calling him “a hero.” Why did the FBI and the Army decide not to pursue his contacts the cleric? Did they know that Hasan warned fellow officers that Muslim soldiers could be dangerous because of conflicts about fighting in Muslim countries? Is al Qaeda telling Muslim soldiers to commit violence? Do they face discrimination, especially where Christian fundamentalism is widespread?

This hourlong interview explores these questions with the following guests:

Josh Meyer: Staff Writer, Los Angeles Times
Bruce Hoffman: Professor of Security Studies, Georgetown University
Salam Al-Marayati: Executive Director, Muslim Public Affairs Council.
Mona Charen: author and syndicated columnist
Mikey Weinstein: President of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation

German military draws on expertise from female Muslim soldiers

Since the German armed forces, the Bundeswehr, opened its doors to women in 2001, their ranks have grown to a modest, yet proud seven percent. But of the 13,000-strong female force, very few are Muslims. Staff Sergeant Narima H. speaks five languages, wears a uniform, takes part in dangerous foreign missions and believes in Allah. And as a woman of Islamic faith, the 29-year-old is precisely the kind of asset the Bundeswehr needs when trying to bridge the cultural gaps that the security of its soldiers and the success of its operation depend on. At present, the Bundeswehr is almost exclusively active in countries where the majority of the population is Muslim, and Narima’s next mission is no exception. She is currently preparing for another deployment to Afghanistan. “I am learning Dari,” she told Deutsche Welle. “My company is based in Kundus and that is one of the languages spoken in Afghanistan – specifically northern Afghanistan.” The trip will be her fourth foreign assignment.

“If we have migrants from countries where we are on a mission, we can learn a lot,” said Lieutenant Colonel Ulrich Kirsch of the Federal Armed Forces Association. “We can draw on their intercultural expertise.” Although Narima H. does not come from Afghanistan – she is of Moroccan descent but was born and raised in Germany – she shares her belief in Allah with the majority of the population in Hindu Kush. And that mutual faith has already proved useful in dealing with local people.

“I was in Kundus in Afghanistan last year and it was quite easy for me to communicate with people there, especially with Afghani women,” the young soldier said, adding that as soon as they realized she was Muslim, they opened doors for her.

Slovenia: Vandals Spray Nationalist Symbols on Graves of Muslim Soldiers

The headstones of Muslim soldiers killed in the first World War have been vandalized in the North-western Slovenian Log pod Mangartom. The tombstones were sprayed with Serbian nationalistic symbols. Community Secretary Nizet Poric reacted angrily to the act of defacement, saying that the incidents are “first-class vandalism (and were) right out of order.” The local Islamic community has been notified, and the police are still investigating the incident. The cemetery is the final resting place of Bosnian soldiers who fought in the Austrian army during WWI and killed in the battles of 1916.

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