Exhibition revealing Islamic contribution to WWI to be housed at Manchester police headquarters

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A ground-breaking exhibition revealing the extent of the Muslim contribution to World War One has been given a temporary new home at the Greater Manchester’s Police headquarters.

The ‘Stories of Sacrifice’ exhibition opened in the British Muslim Heritage Centre in Manchester last year, and after speaking at the launch, Police Chief Constable Ian Hopkins has requested a mobile version of the exhibition be installed in the foyer at the Greater Manchester Police headquarters.

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The installation gained prominence after revealing that twice as many Muslim soldiers fought for the Allies during World War One than previously believed.

After researching historical stories, documents and artefacts Curator Dr Islam Issa, discovered that at least 885,000 Muslim soldiers were recruited for the war effort, more than doubling the 400,000 figure previously reported.

It also brought to light a number of personal letters detailing the experiences of soldiers during the conflict and the role football played for those fighting in the Great War.

The exhibition will remain at the venue for two weeks for GMP officers and staff to view. 

Exhibition curator Dr Islam Issa, Lecturer in English Literature at Birmingham City University, addressed members of the police force at the launch, commenting on the importance of trust-building between Police and communities.

Commenting on this initiative after the launch, Dr Issa said: "The findings I made in this exhibition are just one part of the story. The other part is the impact the findings can have on different communities, particularly in light of recent events that risk dividing us.

"It's really reassuring to see the police themselves taking proactive steps to engage with the history and experiences of the Muslim community. Such partnerships can go a long way in building and maintaining trust.

‘Stories of Sacrifice’, commissioned by the British Muslim Heritage Centre, was originally produced to mark the ongoing centenary of the War and was the first ever exhibition devoted entirely to the Muslim contribution to the conflict.

Also among the findings was the fact that 1.5 million Indians and 280,000 Algerians, Moroccans and Tunisians fought for the Allies during the war, as well as soldiers recruited from other parts of Africa.

Nearly 3.7 million tonnes of supplies and more than 170,000 animals were shipped from India to support the war effort.

Nasar Mahmood, Chairman of the British Muslim Heritage Centre, said: “This exhibition has been a really significant step in highlighting the contribution of Muslim soldiers during the First World War. More importantly it has demonstrated the longstanding unity between diverse communities from across the globe.

“We are delighted that Greater Manchester Police have requested the exhibition be housed in their headquarters as a symbol of our collective strength, the diversity of Britain and the sacrifice of soldiers.

“There is no clearer demonstration of the historic connection between Muslims and the British, which only serves to emphasise why so many of us today are proud to call ourselves British Muslims.”

Dr Issa found that Muslims involved in the war effort came from as far as Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia and that at least 89,000 Muslims were killed fighting for Allied forces under French or British command. 

The roles included front-line soldiers, trench builders and those transporting vital goods and materials.

Research also revealed that at least 20 per cent of all British Empire recruits were followers of Islam and that the financial and material contribution from India alone was £479 million - £20 billion in today’s money.

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