The British Army is trying new ways to recruit more Sikhs and Muslims
By Barfi Culture Team
1st December 2018

Last week the Guru Nanak Gurdwara in Smethwick, Birmingham, became the second Gurdwara in Britain to sign the British Armed Forces Covenant.

It was a big moment. The Gurdwara had recently unveiled a statue commemorating South Asian soldiers who had fought in the British Army, and said it wanted to build more bridges between the Sikh and military communities.

For the Armed Forces, the Covenant is about ensuring soldiers and their families are "treated with fairness and respect" in public life.

But they also had another motive: to recruit more Sikhs.

170 Sikhs currently serve in the Royal Armed Forces, with many more around the UK serving as Reservists. The British Sikh report published last year found that 69% of Sikhs would support their child taking a career to defend the nation.

A statement by the Gurdwara said: "We started with the WW1 Sikh statue and will continue with an ambitious youth leadership programme to better equip British Sikhs to serve and lead their community and nation."

British Army chiefs are so eager to recruit Sikhs that they have floated the idea of a special Sikh Regiment. But it has never been followed through due to worries it might be regarded as divisive.

So the Army is focusing on building better links with Sikh institutions.

Captain J Singh-Sohal, a member of the GNG Smethwick's Education Board and an Army Reservist said:"By signing the Armed Forces Covenant, GNG Smethwick is committing to a strategic partnership that will provide character and leadership development opportunities for Sikhs in the West Midlands while also educating those who serve about our faith and practices."

The signing at Smethwick was regarded as vital enough that representatives from the Royal Army and Navy came to the Gurdwara and ate langar.

The Army is trying a similar strategy with Muslims.

Last week it also announced that a school in Blackburn, the Tauheedul Islam Boys' High School, would become the first Muslim school in the country to have an army cadet force.

According to The Times, the Army has been trying build links with the school. Earlier this year it invited 50 boys to a cricket match and later joined them on a visit to Regent’s Park Mosque.

In January 2018 it also released a recruitment video (above) that specifically highlighted Muslim servicemen. The Army has also persuaded the Birmingham and Leicester Central Mosques, along with the Muslim Council of Britain, to sign the Armed Forces Covenant.

There's little doubt the recognition of South Asian soldiers in WW1 has helped the British Army build better links with Sikh and Muslim institutions.

Whether it will lead to more recruits still remains to be seen.

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