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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 December 2018

UK MoD celebrates Muslim Armed Forces members who completed Hajj

This year’s Hajj saw almost two million pilgrims complete their pilgrimage

This year’s Hajj saw almost 2 million pilgrims complete their pilgrimage. Omer Saleem / EPA
This year’s Hajj saw almost 2 million pilgrims complete their pilgrimage. Omer Saleem / EPA

Ten Muslim members of the British Armed Forces have completed Hajj.

Led by Islamic Religious Advisor to the Chief of Defence Staff Imam Asim Hafiz, the experience was as a chance for British Muslim Armed Forces personnel to reflect on the role of their religion as part of their service.

The group were hosted by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Armed Forces (KSA AF) and consisted of personnel from the Army and Royal Air Force. They visited the Holy Mosque in Mecca, Arafat, Muzdalifah, and Mina. In addition they visited the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina.

“We have learnt a lot about ourselves and confirmed that Islam is not only compatible with military life, but supports the Armed Forces’ values we strive to embody,” reflected Captain Tim Rudkin, from the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME).

“This journey has no rival to anything I have done before, with representatives of almost every country it is the largest gathering of people in the world, sharing common goals and values, coexisting peacefully,” he added.

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During the group’s visit to Medina, the pilgrims visited the Prophet’s Mosque and toured the site of the Battle of Uhud. Afterwards they travelled to Mina where they stayed in a tent city and performed the daily stoning of the jamaraat against three pillars where the devil appeared to the Prophet Abraham.

The UK personnel also met with the KSA AF’s Head of Religious Affairs Major Muhammed Al Sadan, who spoke of the importance of Hajj and Islam’s compatibility of serving in the Armed Forces.

“The military gives me the strength to become a better Muslim. My chain of command not only understand the significance of this journey, they actively encourage it as an opportunity to reflect and aim to be a better person, both in and out of the military,” said Sergeant Ahmed Dhalai, from the UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD).

In a statement, the MoD said, “A diverse and inclusive force is a stronger force, and the MoD encourages and celebrates diversity, promoting an inclusive working environment”.

The MoD has a wide range of initiatives under a Diversity and Inclusion Programme which places importance on having diversity within the leadership and culture of the defence department. It has said it is taking steps to increase the retention and progression of people from underrepresented groups.

The Armed Forces personnel entered a raffle across the three services to join the 25,000 pilgrims from the UK travelling to Mecca this year.

One of the successful candidates was Corporal Ceesay Ali, from 1 Medical Regiment, who said, “Without doubt this journey I have made is going to make me a better Muslim, a better person, and a better soldier. It has provided me with personal and professional development, as well as allowing me to meet my religious obligation”.

The group also met with the Malaysian Chief of Defence Force General Tan Sri Raja Mohamed Affandi Bin Raja Mohamed Noor, Sudanese Major General (Pilot) Hussein Muhammed Othman, and Senior Bangladeshi officers who offered words of encouragement on religious tolerance and explained the importance of Hajj, not only as a religious obligation for Muslims but as an experience to reflect on as ambassadors to develop greater understanding of faith in our militaries.

This year’s Hajj saw almost two million pilgrims complete their pilgrimage.