LONDON - Muslim soldiers serving in the United Kingdom's army have come together this week for the sixth annual Armed Forces Muslim Conference, to address any issues individuals have faced and connect them with their Muslim peers.
"As the only Muslim in my brigade based in Germany I do not get the opportunity to socialize with other serving Muslims," Lance Corporal Momodou Sonko who works in the Adjutant General's Corps Staff and Personnel Support branch in Germany, told People In Defence, the official website of the British Ministry of Defence on Friday, September 7.
It can be very hard to get this many of us together to be able to pray together, which is important for a sense of bonding in a religious context. It does make a difference to our spiritual life.
The British Ministry of Defense is holding its annual conference for Muslim soldiers this week.
The conference aims at connecting the 500 serving Muslims in the British Armed Forces as possible to discuss their faith and values
Seen as a rare opportunity to network and pray together, the conference will also discuss any problems facing Muslims in the British army.
I was deploying to Afghanistan during the last conference so this is my first time here, but I'm hoping to get a lot out of it, said Corporal Momodou Haddi Jallow, a Royal Logistic Corps driver with 1 Logistic Support Regiment, also in Germany, who has just returned from Afghanistan.
"My interaction with the Afghan troops did change when they saw me coming to pray with them when I was staying at the checkpoints.
They didn't realize there were Muslims in the UK let alone serving in the British Army, and they couldn't believe the knowledge I had about the faith. It certainly changed the relationship.
Muslim soldiers were grateful to the British government for allowing this annual meeting to network and present the faith to policy-makers within the Army.
"This conference shows that the Army takes the well-being of its personnel seriously, Captain Naveed Muhammad, a reservist Royal Signals Officer currently posted as second-in-command of the Armed Forces Careers Office in Birmingham, said.
There are only around 500 serving Muslims in the Army, so in most units you will only have a small handful, or individual Muslim soldiers.
As with any minority there are always challenges, but, by coming together, those who have had good experiences can advise those on the correct process to follow, Captain Muhammad added.
"There are already a lot of policies in place that specifically deal with individual faith requirements but because the numbers are so few they are not always widely known.
"Coming together likes this increases awareness but also allows us to speak directly to the policy-makers who come here to discuss our concerns such as taking leave during religious holidays and dietary concerns.
Not every soldier is given that opportunity to speak directly to the policy-makers, so it is important that we take this opportunity and use it wisely.
Britain is home to a Muslim community of 2.5 million.
A recent government-commissioned study has found that a torrent of negative and imbalance stories in the British media demonize the sizable Muslim minority and their faith by spreading prejudices and portraying them as the enemy within.
An earlier British study had accused the media and film industry of perpetuating Islamophobia and prejudice by projecting Muslims as violent, dangerous and threatening people.