A Milwaukee Muslim Leader Notes Muslims Fought For England In World War I

Nov 12, 2018

Banks and post offices are closed Monday for the federal Veterans Day holiday. 

About 100 people gathered Sunday night at Milwaukee City Hall to remember that Veterans Day was previously known as Armistice Day and dedicated to peace. Another message was that world peace remains elusive.

Paul Moriarty, of Vets for Peace, speaks to the audience Sunday night.
Credit Chuck Quirmbach

It's been 100 years since the end of World War I, a conflict in which millions died. Paul Moriarty of the Milwaukee chapter of Veterans for Peace says the war was bloody through its last morning.

"Before 11 o'clock on Nov. 11, 1918,  2,738 men from both sides were killed, even though they knew armistice was about to take effect," Moriarty said.

While much has been written about the U.S. and European soldiers who fought and died, Janan Najeeb of the Milwaukee Muslim Women's Coalition says troops from other parts of the world were sent in as well, including hundreds of thousands of Muslims who fought for England.

Janan Najeeb of the Milwaukee Muslim Women's Center speaks Sunday night.
Credit Chuck Quirmbach

"Khudadad Khan was the first Indian soldier to be honored with the Victoria Cross. He was a Muslim. This is the highest British military award for gallantry," she said.

Najeeb says it's unfortunate that given those heroics, the 1918 armistice didn't lead to a quick end to British rule in India and other nations. She says, nor has the peace lasted and eliminated things like racism.

"As Islamophobia runs rampant in Europe and the United States, it's important to have an honest historical record, and highlight the important but forgotten role that black and brown people played in protecting Europe. And the fact that Armistice Day is for them, as well," Najeeb said.

Reggie Jackson of America's Black Holocaust Museum says not only are U.S. troops stationed in several hotspots about the world, weapons made in the U.S. continue to play a role in foreign conflicts, including the Saudi-led battles in Yemen.

Reggie Jackson, of America's Black Holocaust Museum, at the Vets for Peace gathering.
Credit Chuck Quirmbach

"The greatest human rights crisis in recent memory. The famine that's occurring there. Bombs are being dropped every day. And we as Americans sit at home, and we watch CNN, and listen to stupid stuff!," Jackson said.

The four-year war in Yemen has killed more than 10,000 people. After criticism from Congress, the Trump administration says the U.S. military is halting its refueling of aircraft for the Saudi-led coalition and has asked for a ceasefire — or armistice.