The ‘My Armed Forces’ series gives an in depth look at life as a Muslim in the Armed Forces.
In January 2016, AFMA Chair Major Naveed Muhammad was awarded an MBE in the New Year Honours List in recognition for his exemplary service within the Army and strengthening positive relationships with minority communities around country. He has been an inspiration to many by showing it is possible to practice Islam whilst serving as an Army Officer. We spoke to him about his career to date and some of the work he has done to influence policy to better accommodate Muslim service personnel in all branches of the Armed Forces.
During his long career in the Army, he has been deployed to many conflict areas across the world including the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan where he maintains he never felt any internal conflict with his faith; “The Government makes the decision to deploy us, but it is the individual who has the ultimate responsibility for upholding the military’s core values and standards whilst on operations.” He also visited Ebola ravished Sierra Leone, a country with a large Muslim population, where the British Armed Forces played a critical role in combating the human disaster.
He has been instrumental in shaping policy within the Armed Forces that supports serving Muslims in everything from Halal ration packs, being able to wear beards, observing Ramadan and raising awareness of the need for prayer facilities for all faiths. This has seen him become a role model both inside and outside the Armed Forces.
He has also been instrumental in educating ranks within the wider Armed Forces about Islam, challenging misconceptions and bringing together communities to engage in a dialogue of understanding. His work over the years has also provided opportunities for younger Muslims to join the British Army. He continues to support those already serving, while highlighting the lack of conflict between being a Muslim and serving his country. Strategically, Major Muhammad MBE has been called upon by Imam Asim Hafiz, the Islamic Advisor to Chief of the Defence Staff to contribute to the highest levels of Defence.
“Hundreds of thousands of Muslims before me have loyally served the Crown with distinction; thousands having given their lives for the prosperity and future of others”
The telecommunications expert, who later joined the Royal Signals, moved from Kenya with his family as a young boy, and considers the UK his only home. He describes his deep loyalty and sense of obligation to serve his country as “Nothing new. Hundreds of thousands of Muslims before me have loyally served the Crown with distinction; thousands having given their lives for the prosperity and future of others.”
Major Muhammad MBE has been the Chair of AFMA for two years, during which time he has focused on supporting and training his comrades in the Armed Forces, developing relationships and outreach activities. He was also involved in a mentoring programme at several schools, changing misconceptions about the Armed Forces whilst building their confidence.
Continuing his remarkable work, Major Muhammad MBE hopes to inspire more talented young people from minority backgrounds to join their Army whether in the Reserve or as a Regular. He sincerely believes that Britain’s Armed Forces must reflect the diversity of the country that they are designed to serve and protect.
The Armed Forces Muslim Association (AFMA), was set up in recognition of the contribution Muslim personnel make across all three services, both in the Regular and Reserve forces.
From the earliest days of basic training, through to deployment and military operations, AFMA is on the ground helping support these dedicated Muslim men and women perform their military duties in full without compromising their faith.
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