Conversion attempts

The soldiers were told to post these to their families. Many obliged. One wrote in a letter to his friend: “A lady gave me this. I do not know what it is. She told me to send it to my home. So I sent one home, and am sending the other to you”. Interestingly, the card was printed in Germany, leading the censor to speculate that it could be an attempt, “to make use of the devout to distribute cards like this... in the hope of making trouble”

Some Muslim soldiers were subject to conversion attempts by the YMCA (The Young Men’s Christian Association). Some received small cards with Biblical verses on them, translated into their own language with culturally relevant pictures under them. One such example is this card, quoting a verse from John’s Gospel, in which Jesus states, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life”.

Profile: Mahomed Khan

Rank: Lance Dafadar (non-commissioned officer)
Regiment: 6th Cavalry

It is claimed that many soldiers married French women, although this is probably an exaggeration. But it was a controversial matter, so when Mahomed Khan decided to marry a French woman in early 1917, there were mixed receptions from his comrades and family.

A letter from Abdul Ali, a soldier in the same regiment as Khan, explained to a friend how Khan’s marriage was ‘an extraordinary affair’. Khan “is engaged to a Frenchwoman on the understanding that he becomes a Christian”, he wrote, adding that they would be married within days. “We have done our best to prevent it”, he continues, “but all has been in vain”.Khan’s family also responded with hostility.

A few months later, Khan would write a letter to them in which he claimed that he was forced to marry the woman when she wrote to the King for permission to do so. He goes on to claim that the Colonel called him, and when he insisted that the girl becomes a Muslim, he was demoted. When the girl wrote to the King again, the marriage took place, “but I swear to God that I did not want to marry, but after the King’s order I should have got into grave trouble if I had refused”. This story is almost certainly untrue.