Mohammed Samaana – Informed Comment https://www.juancole.com Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion Thu, 13 Aug 2020 05:45:53 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.15 Palestinian Workers in Israel and Coronavirus Vulnerability https://www.juancole.com/2020/05/palestinian-coronavirus-vulnerability.html Tue, 19 May 2020 04:03:23 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=190986 Belfast (Special to Informed Comment) – The novel coronavirus pandemic, by its nature, highlights inequalities of race, class and gender in its victims. Palestine is no different. The displacement of 720,000 Palestinians from their homes by the Zionist project in 1948 was not a one-time event. That catastrophe or “Nakba,” marked by assaults on civilian populations and massacres, is commemorated annually by Palestinians on May 15. The Nakba, however, is ongoing, inasmuch as many of the descendants of the displaced, in whose former homes Israelis now live, live in refugee camps in Gaza and the West Bank under continued Israeli Occupation. These conditions of squalor and inequality created by historic injustices form a fertile breeding ground for Covid-19.

One of the vulnerable Palestinian groups is the workers who work inside Israel. Many of these workers don’t have permits to enter Israel so they have to sneak into what used to be their own country where the homes of their parents and grandparents stood.

Before the pandemic, about 100,000 Palestinian workers worked in Israel with permits (each permit costs about US $450) and another 100,000 are estimated to have worked there without permits. They are all subjected to discrimination as they work without rights and get paid less than the Israeli workers for doing the same job. This reflects Israeli racism and the difficult economic situation the Palestinians have as a result of long decades of Israeli occupation. The Palestinian economy was crippled further by Oslo Accords which was signed by the PLO leadership and Israeli in 1993, which instead of leading to peace entrenched and prolonged the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and water and ensured that the Palestinian economy will always be dependent on Israel.

At the start of the pandemic the Palestinian Authority (PA) arranged with Israel for 50,000 Palestinian workers to continue working in Israel mainly in the construction sector. This came as a surprise, since it carried a huge risk for the Palestinians — especially when the number of Israel Covid 19 cases is approaching 17000 and 266 deaths compared with 375 cases and two deaths in Gaza and the West Bank.

This potential exposure is alarming considering that the Palestinian health sector is fragile and underdeveloped as a result of Israeli policies. It will not be able to cope with a corona outbreak, especially in the densely populated Gaza Strip. They latter has been under an inhumane Israeli blockade on civilian noncombatants since 2007 that has left Gaza with some 70 intensive care units (ICUs) and 62 ventilators. Hospitals are overcrowded and overburdened. While medicine and food are not blockaded, the strangling of the economy has left Gaza with a 42 percent unemployment rate and left the population unable to pay for medicine or high-tech medical procedures. The Occupation is a constant impediment to health care. When Palestinians in the Jordan Valley of the West Bank recently set up a field clinic with tents to deal with a Covid-19 outbreak, the Israeli Occupation military actually destroyed it on the grounds that the Palestinians did not have a building permit.

The labor arrangement with the Palestine Authority gave Israel the best of both worlds, allowing it to keep its own people safe in lockdown while maintaining economic activity in its construction sector by putting Palestinian workers at risk. A few days after these arrangements, a widely circulated video showed a Palestinian worker being dumped on a checkpoint by Israeli officials after showing signs of infection. It turned out that he didn’t have the virus. Additionally, other Palestinian workers reported that the accommodation conditions were inhumane, with 20 Palestinian workers housed in one room, which obviously makes social distancing impossible. Other workers were made to sleep at construction sites. These procedures forced the PA to ask the Palestinian workers to return to the West Bank and to self isolate for two weeks as it does not have enough resources to test them all.

Not all of them did so and at least 12,000 of them stayed. Considering the higher rates of corona cases in Israel, some Palestinians perceived the workers as a source of threat to their own people and potential corona carriers.

Workers who were interviewed by the media said that unlike advanced economies, the PA is not offering them any payments for staying at home and they will starve if they do not work. One worker said that he has a family of eight to feed and he has no other source of income. Another worker said that his fridge is empty and would rather to take the risk of catching the virus than staying hungry at home. A third said that his only other option is to beg in order to feed his children and even if he did, others do not have the money to give him. Some of them had to stay because they were threatened by their Israeli bosses that they will be sacked if they return to their homes. Others were blackmailed by their bosses by delaying paying their wages to force them to stay longer.

Unlike their Israeli counterparts, Palestinians work without pension, health insurance or the right to join trade unions. Those who work without permits are treated as undocumented aliens in their ancestral country and risk being jailed and fined. The Pandemic highlighted once again the inhumane treatment that the Palestinian workers are subjected to by Israel for long decades. The international community has sometimes paid lip service to condemning the Israeli occupation and the treatment of Palestinians, but has never taken practical action to change the situation. The Trump administration does not even consider these Israeli activities illegal, despite their contravention of the Geneva Convention of 1949 on the treatment of occupied populations.

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Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

Ruptly: “State of Palestine: Palestinian workers allowed back into Israel during outbreak”

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On the 75th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz: Remembering the Muslims who Rescued Jews https://www.juancole.com/2020/01/remembering-anniversary-liberation.html Mon, 27 Jan 2020 05:02:24 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=188778 Belfast (Special to Informed Comment) – As the world marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, it is important to remember those who put their own and their families safety in jeopardy in order to save Jewish lives including Arabs and Muslims. The heroic acts made by Muslims in order to save Jewish lives are now little remembered. I’m not talking only about the hundreds of thousands of Muslim soldiers who fought against the Nazis, I’m also talking about ordinary Muslims who risked their own lives in order to rescue Jews from the Nazis. This article is about some of these forgotten heroes.

In Albania, a European Muslim country where many Jews found their refuge after fleeing Nazi persecution, a Muslim photographer called Refik Vesili saved the lives of eight Jews by taking the risk of hiding them at his family home in the mountains during the Nazi occupation of Albania. After that, Refik’s brother Xhemal brought another Jewish family to hide with them saving another Jewish family in the same house. If they were caught by the Nazis, their entire family would have been killed. In honor of his courageous act, a school in Berlin was named after Refic in 2014.

In another story, a Muslim Turk, Selahattin Ulkumen who was the Turkish consul-general on the island of Rhodes when it was under German occupation , rescued 50 Jews from Auschwitz by insisting that they were Turkish citizens. Most of them actually weren’t Turks but he fabricated that in order to stop the Germans from sending them to Auschwitz. The Turkish diplomat paid the price when the Nazis bombed his house killing his wife who was pregnant with their baby.

A remarkable contribution was made by Dervis Korkut, who was a Bosnian Muslim. After the formation of the new kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, he was involved with the Yugoslav Muslim Organization when he opposed plans by a Serbian politician to strip the Jews of their voting rights. His views were not welcomed by the Serbian nationalists and the Serb Radical Party got him removed from his government job. During WWII when he was working at the museum, he saved the Sarajevo Haggadah, a valuable Hebrew manuscript, by giving it to a mosque imam who hid it his village mosque. Korkut also saved the life of a young Jewish woman by hiding her at his home and presented her as his wife’s cousin from Kosovo who couldn’t speak Bosnian. He also wrote an article arguing that anti-Semitism is alien to Islam.

Another remarkable story is how Dr Mohammed Kundurovic, a Bosnian Muslim, helped Jews to get out of a Nazi camp by duping the Nazis and telling them that they had an infectious disease and must leave the camp. This saved their lives, since the Germans feared for their own safety if they kept them in.

During the holocaust, the pro-Nazi Vichy Government of France occupied some Arab countries in North Africa where it tried to enact laws that could have had many Jews sent to their death in Europe concentration camps. The Arab King of Morocco, Mohammed V interfered and refused to enact such laws which saved Jewish lives. There are also stories of Arabs hiding Jews in their farms and homes. For example, Khaled Abdul Wahab hid a Jewish family in his home in Tangier while he entertained SS personnel in the same house who weren’t aware of who else was in the house.

Actually as a result of the colonization of Arab countries by Vichy government, some Muslim Arabs ended up in the same concentration camps with Jews, communists and others. Mohammed Arezki Berkani documented this experience in his book, L ́Histoire de Djenien-BouRezg (Algiers, 1965) in which he described how Arabs and Jews were put in the same section separate from the Europeans. The Nazi officials were hoping that the two groups would start killing each other. The opposite happened as Arabs and Jews understood the Nazis’ plan. Berkani described these events in his book by saying ‘Never could one have believed that the Arabs and the Jews in the first section of the camp would become real friends, even brothers. Whether you wish to believe it or not, they were moreover brothers in hunger, in suffering, in misery, in punishment/pain etc’.

Muslims helping Jews is not something new. When the Castilians conquered Andalucia and issued an exclusion act against Jews, Ottoman Sultan Bayezid II sent ships to rescue Jews, and welcomed them in Istanbul.

Even in more modern times, Muslims still saving Jewish lives. It was a Muslim employee in Paris Kosher supermarket who hid a number of Jews in the store basement freezer when the store was attacked in 2015. The same Muslim also played a crucial role in helping the police when he sneaked out to give the police the key to the metal blind which enabled them take control of the situation.

Islam encourages social justice and taking stands against oppression and injustice, and Muslims through history have risked their lives to implement these ideals.


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Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

Muslim Families Who Saved Jews in World War II

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Islamophobia, Boris Johnson and the British Conservative Party https://www.juancole.com/2019/09/islamophobia-british-johnson.html Mon, 09 Sep 2019 04:15:50 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=186225 By Mohammed Samaana | –

Belfast (Informed Comment) – The new British PM Boris Johnson prided himself on having a diverse government. Actually only on September 4, his new chancellor, Sajid Javid was proud to say during his first spending review speech that someone with his background, the son of a Muslim bus driver, can become what he became. But is this the true face of the Tory Party (also known as the Conservative Party) or is it just a facade to hide the scale of the problem that the party has with racism and Islamophobia? Perhaps what Javid failed to mention, however, helps to answer this question. He didn’t say that he was asked to cancel his own spending review speech and instead told to go with what was prepared for him. He didn’t say either that his own media adviser, Sonia Khan, was sacked by the PM adviser, Dominic Cummings without informing him as if he is there to follow orders.

Moreover, during Trump visit to the UK in June, Javid, who was then home secretary, was excluded from the state banquet though more junior ministers were invited. Alas Javid didn’t have the courage to call out the Tories on their racist behavior. Sayeeda Warsi, a Muslim woman who was a co-chair of the Conservative Party described the snub as “Islamophobia.” Warsi also said on her twitter account: “To use my own phrase from 2011, ‘Islamophobia has passed the dinner table test’.” Javid silence over his treatment by his own party reflects a chronic problem of lack of assertiveness among community and political Muslim representatives though this has started to change.

In fact, Javid’s boss, Boris Johnson himself is guilty of Islamophobia. He wouldn’t apologize after he wrote in an article that Muslim women wearing the burqa or niqab look like bank robbers and letterboxes despite being asked to apologize in his first PM question time. Statistics showed that his comments were followed by a sharp rise in attacks on Muslims. Additionally, In his book, Have I Got Views For You, Boris said: “The proposed ban on incitement to ‘religious hatred’ makes no sense unless it involves a ban on the Quran itself.” Johnson knows rightly that only a very tiny minority of Muslim women wear the burqa but his intention was to demonize and insult Muslims. What’s worse than that is the stunning silence of some feminists over a racist white man patronizing women and telling them how they should dress.

Michael Gove, who does not hide his western supremacist tendencies, is another leading Conservative Party member who holds extremist views about Islam and Muslims. When he was education secretary in 2014, himself and the right wing press relied on a fake letter detailing an alleged Islamist Trojan Horse plot to take over schools in Birmingham in England and Islamize them. Co-incidentally, the Trojan Horse plot was fantasized in Gove’s book Celsius 7/7 published in 2006 in which a chapter is entitled “Trojan Horse”. Gove appointed the head of the national counter terrorism to investigate the matter, a move that was described by the chief constable as “desperately unfortunate”. Obviously appointing such a person to deal with school children and teachers will only instill fear and distrust of Muslims into the heart of the nation.

Islamophobia, however, isn’t a new problem in the Tory Party that came with the new leader who is also an ally of Donald Trump. It is also a problem that runs from the party grassroots right to the very top. The problem is widely spread amongst ordinary members. An online survey conducted by YouGove on behalf of Hope not Hate showed that the views of the Conservative Party members are similar to the views held by members of the far right organizations. For example, 67% of the members believe the myth that there are areas in Britain that operate under the Sharia law. 45% believe the lie that there are areas where non-Muslims are not allowed to enter. Only 8% said they will be proud if they were to elect a Muslim as a PM. Conservative Party members are also more tolerant of other faiths when compared with Islam. Only 3% said immigration policy should allow more Muslims in the country compared with 16% for Jews and 25% for Christians. Despite these shocking figures, only 8% think that there is Islamophobia in their Party while 79% don’t think the problem exists.

These are only examples of Islamophobia in the Conservative Party which demonstrate that it is a serious, widely spread and deeply rooted problem. The party needs to acknowledge that it exists and to draw a plan of action in order to deal with it. This will not happen unless more light is shed on the problem and the pressure kept piling on the party.

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Bonus video added by Informed Comment:

TRT World: “Labour Party MP urges Boris Johnson to apologise for ‘racist’ remarks”

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Combating Islamophobia: Rami Malek sets Conditions for Playing Villain in Bond 25 https://www.juancole.com/2019/07/combating-islamophobia-conditions.html Mon, 08 Jul 2019 04:11:24 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=185142 Belfast (Informed Comment) – It is well overdue for a Hollywood star to refuse to take a role in a film that will continue to serve colonial interests and reinforce the message of racism and Islomophobia by presenting Arabs and Muslims as terrorists, religious fanatics and uncultured barbarians.

The rising star, Rami Malek, however, is a breath of fresh air in the world of the film and entertainment industry which has become very comfortable with bigotry and racism towards Arabs and Muslims. Before accepting a villain role in Bond 25, Malek – who was born in America to Arabic-speaking Christian parents from Egypt – insisted that his character must not be an Arabic-speaking terrorist or a villain who uses religion to justify his crimes. It was his awareness of his ethnic origin and the importance of making a positive impact that led him to take this decision.

Christians from the Arab world who live in the United States have faced racism and discrimination like other minorities. One of these cases involved a man who was like Rami, a Coptic Egyptian Christian called Adel Karas who was shot dead at his convenience store in California just after September 11. His family believe he was killed because he was mistaken for a Muslim. The Arab-American Palestinian Christian journalist and comedian, Ray Hanania, wrote a book titled ‘I’m glad to look like a terrorist’ in which he described how it was like to grow up in America. The title of his book reflects his life experience.

Speaking about how he connects to the homeland of his parents, Rami said: “I am Egyptian. I grew up listening to Egyptian music. I loved Omar Sharif. These are my people. I feel so gorgeously tied to the culture and the human beings that exist there.” Of course his connection goes beyond music. The cuisine was surely another connection. While looking for work when he was in his early 20s, making falafel which is a popular fast Arabic food was one of the jobs he had in order to make ends meet.

This is, however, only a small step and a very tiny drop in a big ocean. Hollywood has always unfairly depicted Arabs and Muslims as misogynists, wife-beaters and uncivilized people who impose a threat to civilization and to western values and culture. It also contributed to creating the wrong impression that all Arabs are Muslims and all Muslims are Arabs while the fact is that while the majority of Arabs are Muslims, most Muslims are not Arabs.

Perhaps the most expert person on the portrayal of the Arabs and Arab-Americans was the late Jack Shaheen. He surveyed 900 Hollywood movies released between 1896 and 2001. Arabs were dehumanized and presented as villains, sheikhs and criminals. Women were silenced and covered in black clothes while the reality is that women in the Arab world wear different clothes of different colors and most of them are not covered from head to toe. Many of them go also to university, drive cars and have careers. Shaheen believes that stereotypical, repetitious images of Arabs and Arab-Americans have tutored audiences over and over in film after film.

Post-September 11 films continued with the same with American soldiers shooting nameless and faceless Arab and Muslim men, women and children. In other words, Hollywood got worse and started to present women and children as a threat as well. The way Hollywood presents Arabs and Muslims to the world was summed up by Humera Khan, the founder and executive director of Mulflehun who said: “Imagine if you introduced someone to white people only by way of the Ku Klux Klan, but then said afterwards, ‘Oh, by way, there are some good white people out there, too.”

it is noticeable, however, that portraying other minorities in the same way is becoming less and and less acceptable. This could be due to the increased cultural awareness among these minorities and vocal protests against their negative depiction in movies. These protests have made it increasingly difficult for Hollywood to continue with the same. The Muslims and Arabs are among the last minorities who can be treated openly in a racist manner in US media. In part, this inequity derives from current American foreign policy, which is often characterized by aggression towards Arab and Muslim countries. The shadow of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Israel’s Occupation of the Palestinian territories also hangs over these racist depictions. The tenacity of racist depictions of Muslims highlights the need for more vocal and assertive voices to challenge Hollywood publicly using long term strategies.

Muslims and Arab-Americans are underrepresented in US media, and should make a push to have a more vital voice. While it’s a step forward, moreover, that a film star such as Malek made a statement by refusing any role that demonizes to his own ethnic group, it is also the case that such initiatives should also come from non-Arab stars, directors and authors.

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JAMES BOND 25 Official Teaser Trailer (2020) Daniel Craig, Rami Malek Movie HD

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In Both Irelands, Movement to Stand against Settler Occupation of West Bank https://www.juancole.com/2018/12/irelands-movement-occupation.html Thu, 06 Dec 2018 06:04:40 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=180535 Israel diplomatic efforts in both the Republic of Ireland and in Northern Ireland, UK, have failed to halt the momentum of Irish solidarity with the Palestinian people. Visits by members of the Israeli Likud Party to meet politicians in Belfast are increasing. The Israeli ambassador to the UK, Mark Regev, was in Belfast as well in October. His visit coincided with the visit of the Israeli Labour Party former leader, Isaac Herzog. This is besides a friendly football match between Israel and Northern Ireland in September.

Protesting against these visits was not the only show of solidarity. Two major breakthrough events took place in the North and the South of Ireland. In Belfast, on November 29, the UN International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, representatives from churches and trade unions launched the Kairos Ireland document. Kairos is an initiative that was launched in 2009 by 13 Coptic, Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican and Lutheran churches in Jerusalem. It offers a theological analysis and calls for international punitive action against the occupation of Palestinian land by Israel including boycott, divestment and sanctions. Kairos Palestine drew upon the South African Kairos in 1985 during the apartheid years.

This was followed by an open letter from the National Coalition of Christian Organisations in Palestine in 2017. The letter referred to 100 years of suffering and injustice inflicted on the Palestinian that started with Balfour Declaration which led to the Nakba, the creation of Israel in 1948 and the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank including Jerusalem in 1967. It also calls to recognise Israel as an apartheid state. This Christian perspective is not new, but Kairos has the potential to widen its reach and to impose a challenge to the fundamentalist Christian dogmas in the West that uses the Bible to justify colonial interventions in the region.

Irish Nobel Laureate, Mairead Corrigan Maguire was at Gaza Freedom Flotilla in 2010, which was attacked by the Israeli forces killing nine Turkish peace activists. She spoke at the launch. She called for support to the BDS movement in order to end the suffering and bring justice to the region.

Rev Dr Bill Shaw, a Presbyterian minister from Belfast also spoke at the event. He described how he grew up in a pro-Israeli home but a five days trip to the West Bank five years ago changed his views after witnessing the Israeli oppression of the Palestinians. He gave an account of his first hand experience witnessing the impact of the Israeli checkpoints and the wall being built by Israel around but largely in the West Bank on the Palestinians. This is besides witnessing dumping an Israeli settlement sewage on a Palestinian village.

Six days after Kairos launch in Belfast, over in the Republic of Ireland, the Occupied Territories Bill passed the final vote at the Seanad (the upper house) in Dublin, which is largely an advisory body. The next stage for the Bill is the Dail (the lower house) where if approved, it will become a law. Although the Bill is opposed by the Irish executive, it has cross-party support from Labour, Fianna Fail, Sinn Fein and independent senators. The Bill is also backed the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and charity organisations. Rosamund Bennett, chief executive of Christian Aid Ireland, which supports the Bill described the vote for the Bill as “a vote in support of the rule of law, for justice, and for human rights.” He also said: “For too long settlements and the produce that come from them have been at the expense of Palestinian rights, forcing them off their land and into poverty,”

Independent senator Frances Black who tabled the Bill said that “we are simply saying that, if we are sure that certain goods have been produced as a result of war crimes, we should not be trading in them.” She added, “how can we condemn the settlements as illegal, as theft of land and resources, but happily trade in the proceeds of this crime?”


Singer and senator Frances Black, via Twitter.

The EU imports approximately 15 times more from the illegal settlements than it does from Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. The Irish charity Trocaire which supports the bill estimated that one million euros worth of settlements’ goods are imported to Ireland annually. This might not sound much but if the Bill becomes a law, it will send a powerful message to Israel that the world can no longer standby and watch as it continues its campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Palestinians. If the same political parties continue to support the Bill and to resist pressure coming from the US and Israel then the bill will pass and become a law.

Ireland was the first country in the EU to stand up to exploitative corporations by banning smoking in the work place. Moreover, it was Irish workers who refused to sell products from apartheid South Africa. Ireland is best positioned to show Europe the way in standing firm against injustice and oppression.

Layla Moran MP: Why I am presenting a Bill to recognise the Palestinian State

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Muslim Troops Helped Entente Win WW I, Shaped European Security https://www.juancole.com/2018/11/entente-european-security.html Mon, 12 Nov 2018 06:23:51 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=180013 (Informed Comment) – As the world is marking the end of the First World War first centenary and remembering its millions of military and civilian victims, in this article I’m going to focus only on one victim of the Great War and that’s the truth. There are millions of forgotten Arab and Muslim soldiers who fought with the Allies but unlike their European and other Western comrades in arms, they did not get the recognition they deserve and their stories were buried with them.

Egypt, the biggest Arab country which was under British rule contributed with 1.2 million conscripts who served with the British army in different roles. At that time this would have been about 10 percent of Egypt’s entire population. France which colonised several Arab countries in North Africa conscripted 170000 Algerians to go and fight for the country that occupied their homeland for 132 years and killed more than 1 million Algerians. France also conscripted 80000 Tunisians and about 45000 Moroccans to join its war effort which brought the total of Arab men who fought with the Allies to almost 1.5 million.

A similar number of conscripts came from pre-partition India when it was under British rule. Indian soldiers were Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims. Other researchers, however, estimate that 2.5 million Muslims fought with the Allies including 1.3 million Russian Muslims and 400000 other Muslims of the Indian subcontinent. Other Muslims including labourers who came from China, sub-Sahara Africa, Libya, Somalia and America. Considering the different figures presented by different researchers and historians, the number would have been well above 3 million forgotten Muslims. Aljazeera produced a three part documentary on these contributions.

Despite evidence of cases of discrimination against Muslim soldiers, they were loyal and brave fighters but unlike the troops who came from Australia and New Zeland who are well recognised by Western governments and the media, Muslim soldiers rarely get mentioned let alone commemorated. There are however, non-governmental initiatives to recognise their contribution and the sacrifice they made. An inspiring work in this field has been done by Luc Ferrier after he found the diaries of his Belgian great grandfather who fought alongside Muslim soldiers. After reading the diaries, Mr Ferrier said “I was impressed by the enormous respect he had for his Muslim brothers in arms from all these continents, while he himself was a very devout Christian.” This led him to leave his full time job and to dedicate his life to highlight the importance of the contribution made by Muslim soldiers and founded the Forgotten Heroes 14-19 Foundation. He believes that without their contribution, the Allies wouldn’t have been able to win the Great War.

Such initiatives have unearthed inspiring stories of Muslim soldiers sharing their food with hungry civilians. More stories are also emerging of French, Belgian and Canadian officers impressed by how the Muslim soldiers treated the German prisoners humanely according to the teachings of their faith.

There is no exact figures for how many Muslims died but surely there was an immense loss of lives amongst them. For example, the death rate amongst Moroccan soldiers was 26 percent compared with 24 percent for French soldiers as the Moroccans were sent to face the Germans first. Algerian troops were amongst the first who were gassed by Germany. It is also estimated that half a million Egyptians never made it home.

Britain, however, never lived to its promise of granting independence to the Arabs after the war, instead, in 1916 it secretly signed the Sykes-Picot agreement with France to partition Greater Syria into the four different countries of Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine and to colonize them. It followed that with a promise to create a Jewish state in Palestine a year later through the Balfour Declaration which condemned the region to endless wars and bloodshed that haven’t stopped. France continued to occupy North African Arab countries and carried out nuclear experiments on Algerian civilians after the Second World War which resulted in more death and suffering.

It is important that these historic facts are recognised in order to counter Islamophobia and the rise of the far right which portrays Muslims as the enemy within while the fact is that Muslims fought and died to defend the West. In order to achieve that, however, mainstream political leaders and the media need to start the process by acknowledging the role played by Muslims and others in defending the freedom of the West. It will also be helpful if they stop playing into the hands of the far right by talking about Muslims as a menace. Other initiatives like commemorating plaques and including the topic in schools history curriculum would be another way to honour the deserving heroes. There is a long way to go but it has to start somewhere.

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Bonus video added by Informed Comment:

Chanel 4 News: “The role of Muslims in WW1”

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