British Army may send imams to Afghanistan
The Independent reports (03 Apr 2010) that Muslim clerics in the British Army may be deployed to Afghanistan in a "hearts and minds" mission to highlight the part played by Islam in UK society.
The scheme is believed to have the support of the head of the Army, General Sir David Richards, and was proposed by a delegation of Muslim scholars from Afghanistan during a visit to Britain, The Independent has learnt.
The army currently has just one imam in its ranks but the numbers are expected to increase with a drive to attract more Muslims into the armed forces, along with others from the ethnic and religious minorities.
General Richards, the patron of the Armed Forces Muslim Association, held a two-hour meeting with the ulama, or senior clerics, from Helmand at the Ministry of Defence in London.
The clerics suggested that the presence of Army imams in Afghanistan would help to counter Taliban claims that Muslims are denied the right to practise their religion and face persecution in the UK – while at the same time explaining Islamic customs to soldiers.
The ulama's views would strengthen the hand of Gen Richards and others in the military who want to project the role played by Muslims in the Army, expand the number of imams and deploy them on missions abroad. Others in the hierarchy say the imams should concentrate on pastoral care at home.
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