On Armistice Day, Dr. Islam Issa, Professor of English Literature at the University of Birmingham, has unveiled in an exhibition of the British Muslim Heritage Center, hundreds of personal letters discovered more than 100 years ago where he leaves see what at least 885,000 Muslims were recruited by the allies (especially for the British Army) during the First World War.
After tracing thousands of personal letters, historical archives, regimental diaries and census reports, Issa has highlighted the experiences of Indian soldiers, who have shared in these letters their impressions of England compared to their home country.
«The police are to be commended. If one of them raises a hand, it doesn't matter if the others are rich or poor, they all stay put until the police say otherwise.", wrote A. Ali in one of those letters.
In other, the same author talks about a store in London: «We visited a store where 2,000 men and women were working and everything could be bought. There is no need to ask the price of anything as it is written all over«.
In the same letter recounts his experience on the London Underground: «then we went on the underground train, which was a strange and wonderful experience for us. They call it the subway train«.
During his research, Issa found that 1.5 million Indians and 280,000 Algerians, Moroccans and Tunisians fought for the allies during World War Ias well as soldiers recruited from other parts of Africa.
When I decided to look at the soldiers' letters, I expected to find a very bleak outlook from the war. Of course that is what I have encountered many times, but often, the letters were about individual experiences and very normal. About very human things, "he explained.
“These anecdotes certainly helped shape my narrative. While there is no major narrative about the war as a whole, the personal and human narrative is probably much more striking. Whatever their ideology or stance, we see that these Muslim soldiers were individual human beings, and as a result, they were making sacrifices on that human level.
This exhibition is also complemented by a virtual library, lessons and a set of tools for schools, being the first long-term exhibition of its kind dedicated exclusively to the contribution and sacrifices of the Muslim community during the First World War.
Here you can access all the information about the "Forgotten Soldiers" of World War I.
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