Assalamu alaikum, peace be with you.
This is the story of how I, a British Army soldier, became a Muslim.
It was set in motion when I joined the Army in 2005. At the time, even in training, they pushed us to hate Muslims and Arabs, they fed us lies. Me being curious I looked into it. I found what they were saying to be lies, but they pushed hard on “ragheads should die”, “they are dirty” etc etc. Anyway, I was deployed to Iraq in May 2006, I was only just 18. It was tough. There was much mistreatment of locals, which, regardless of faith, was wrong.
It came to a head for me in July 2006, after a three day long battle in which we came close to being overrun and captured by insurgents. We managed to drive them back. We also captured one insurgent, a local man named Hakim. Being youngest I was tasked with guarding him. I cuffed him and sat him in a building and saw a man in fear. I got our interpreter and told him not to worry.
I asked him about family and just tried to relax him. I knew we would hand him over to the Iraqi forces and he’d be released after a week. I asked why he was fighting. He explained that it’s more complicated than we westerners believe. Some of the people didn’t want to fight, but if you didn’t you were risking your and your family’s lives.
About an hour later my platoon sergeant came storming in. He pointed his rifle at the prisoner, saying the raghead should die, he could’ve killed us. I could see he was serious. An argument ensued, me saying basically “he’s just a guy leave him be, do your job”. The Sergeant threatened me with charges. He then raised his rifle, getting ready to shoot Hakim, and at that point I fired a shot through the roof and said “Stop or I will shoot you. He is a prisoner, a human being, fuck off out of here!”. Well this just made me the ‘chogi lover’ for the next 3 months. Prisoners were mistreated, beaten and tormented. If you defended them you then were a marked man. I was on guard a lot, first into buildings in a raid, first man in a patrol, all for protecting a man. Senior officers said I did the correct thing but I must understand that it has consequences. When I enlisted I swore an oath to uphold the laws of the crown and international treaties. My allegiance was to the Queen, not the government. I took that oath seriously then, as I do now.
My father was a soldier too, and fought in the Aden emergency in 1967. Before I went he gave me this advice which I still use today.
“Remember son, the man shooting at you is shooting because he has been taught something from birth. If he only knows one side you can’t blame him for shooting at you. It’s his belief, we don’t agree but that doesn’t make him a bad man. He has his orders like you do. We are told we are right and we never question it, they do the same so we can’t criticise. When they stop shooting you stop, because at the end of the day he’s a son of someone, if you can get away with not injuring him do it.”
My dad is very old fashioned, believes in honesty and honour. You capture someone you show them you don’t want to hurt them. But no, they battered and demoralised them, and wondered why they hated us.
Unfortunately something happened in Iraq that caused me to have a breakdown and I was discharged from the Army in 2007. We were on patrol in a Warrior armoured personnel carrier. The driver stopped as he saw wires coming out of some rubble. At this time it was always my job to check due to my actions. My friend had had enough of my punishment, which he saw as unfair, and he told me “No, its fine, I’ll go it’s probably nothing as usual”, so he opened the door and climbed out. I followed and covered him then bang he just disappeared into nothing. I was blown against the Warrior, it tipped over. I woke up in an ambulance. Two soldiers died by that roadside bomb, one of them should have been me, but my friend died instead.
Back home I’d been reading about Palestine and could see the injustice, so I booked a flight to Jordan. I travelled to Palestine with no plan, i just wanted to help. I was still Christian at this point. I ended up staying with locals helping rebuild homes or connecting water back up. I saw how the Israeli Defence Force treated the Palestinians. It just can’t be described.
By 2009 I was back in UK, but no longer drank or ate pork. However I live in a very remote, rural area and there was no mosque at this time. I didn’t know who to talk to so I just carried on with life. I’d read about Islam and the Qur’and it just helped me be at peace. In 2016 an advert appeared in my local paper about an open doors day at a mosque in a nearby town. I literally drove to the mosque and went in and introduced myself. For 3 months they educated me, made sure i was certain and in October 2016 I took my Shahada.
This is a short version of a very long story, but basically the British Army’s instilling of hatred of Islam and Arabs led me to question it. It makes me wonder why others don’t. Because of it they led me to Islam, and I thank them for it, but technically it should never have happened.