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.”