Leicester Central Mosque has become the first mosque in the UK to sign a pledge to support the British Armed Forces.
According to the BBC, Imam Muhammad Shahid Raza of Leicester’s Central Mosque signed the ‘Armed Forces Covenant’ at a ceremony attended by local regimental officers.
Britain’s largest Muslim umbrella organisation, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), has approved of the pledge and said it hoped many more UK mosques would join in.
The move is likely to prove controversial within Muslim communities given the Armed Forces’ role in recent wars against Muslim nations such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, which have led to hundreds of thousands of deaths.
Due to these invasions, occupations and bombing campaigns many British Muslims shun the Armed Forces and accuse them of waging war against Muslims, and being responsible for the shedding of a huge amount of Muslim blood.
The Armed Forces Covenant is an agreement between the armed forces, the nation and the government. It says that members of the armed forces should face no disadvantage compared to other citizens in the provision of public and commercial services, and that special consideration is appropriate in some cases, especially for those who have given the most such as the injured or the bereaved.
The covenant encourages local communities to support the armed forces and to nurture public understanding and awareness among the public of issues affecting the Armed Forces community, and to recognise and remember the sacrifices faced by the Armed Forces.
Parvez Bhatti, a Leicester Central Mosque spokesman, said the aim was to be “more vocal” about supporting the armed forces. Imam Raza said: “I firmly believe that Islam clearly states that we should serve the country we live in.”
The covenant was launched by the UK Government in May 2011 and until now it had not been signed by a local mosque, an army spokesman said.
Mr Bhatti added: “This is a local initiative – we are doing this on a grassroots level and we have built up a good relationship with a local regiment. We are doing this as a local group and we hope good things will come of it.”
The pledge was witnessed by Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Parker of 158 Regiment of the Royal Logistics Corps, based in nearby Loughborough. Lt Col Parker said: “It is a sign of the commitment they have chosen to make to the armed forces which is part of the fabric of this nation. “I am sure that going forward we will be able to do a lot of great work together.”