Recent Islamic Contributions to the World

By Ifty Rafiq, Founder of The Harmony Initiative

Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head on 9 October 2012. She was shot because of her activism on behalf of women in her region who were being deprived of educational rights by a brutal, regressive regime. Zinedine Zidane, one of the most decorated footballers of all time and a manager of champions. Nadiya Hussain, since winning the Great British Bake Off in 2015, Nadiya Hussain has become the face of baking and a popular broadcaster. Sir Mo Farah, famous for the Mobot, and of course for being a four-time Olympic gold medallist, is the most successful British track athlete in modern times.

These are only a few of the modern Muslims, who we’ve all heard of, who have, in their own way, made a remarkable contribution within their field, and command great respect.

They are not the first Muslims, nor will they be the last, to make waves. Muslims can, should and do contribute positively to the world they live in. Abdol-Hossein Sardari, an Iranian diplomat in Paris at the time of the Nazi occupation, was instrumental in rescuing hundreds, possibly thousands of Jews from the fascist regime, issuing them with Iranian passports. He is often described as the “Iranian Schindler”.

During Ireland’s Great Hunger in the 1840s, Ottoman Sultan, Khaleefah Abdul-Majid I declared he would send £10,000 to ease the famine but, so the story goes, Queen Victoria intervened and asked that the sultan only send £1000 because she had only sent £2000, herself. The sultan obliged, but also sent five ships full of food, which arrived despite the intervention of English courts.

It’s a lesser known fact, especially in the world of the “War on Terror”, in which Islam is depicted as being pitted against the West, that in the First World War alone, 2.5 million Muslims fought alongside British, French and Russian comrades in the trenches to defeat their common enemy. But can you think of a single instance of a mainstream war film depicting Muslims fighting in solidarity with the Triple Entente? I can’t. And yet 400,000 Indian Muslims fought with the British army, alone. They were joined by 1.3 million Russian Muslims and a further 450,000 from North Africa.

A further 5 million Muslim soldiers fought in the Second World War, many having volunteered from across the British Empire and Soviet territories. Of those, around 1.5million died fighting against the fascist ideology threatening to overcome Europe and the Far East. The world wars represent an international sacrifice of proportions unmatched before, since and we hope, never again. The reach of their devastation was truly universal, and it’s beholden to us all, to ensure that such ideological differences never again, lead us to an earth-shattering conflict.

It is of vital importance that the hundreds of millions of moderate Muslims in the world, who abhor the radical hatred espoused by extremists, continue to stand as one against those who would drive open a new gulf between Islam and the West, bringing the world to the brink of another catastrophe.