The Head of the British Army, General Sir Nicholas Carter, has said that more must be done to recruit soldiers from ethnic minority backgrounds, and the Muslim community in particular.
The Chief of the General Staff, who took up his post last year, told Sky news that ethnic minority representation is “nowhere near where it needs to be” and has launched an Armed Forces Muslim Forum to bring the two communities together.
It is also working to create a Muslim Peace Garden to commemorate Muslims killed in the Armed Forces in addition to the National Memorial Arboretum, the UK’s centre of remembrance in Staffordshire.
Traditionally, the military attracts a higher proportion of recruits from the black community compared to the general population, although there are fewer Asian personnel. Figures released by the Ministry of Defence show there are only 480 Muslims serving in the Army.
That makes up only 0.54 per cent of the total regular Army total of 88,500 and this includes Muslims who join the British Army from Commonwealth countries, rather than British Muslims themselves.
Overall, all ethnic minorities – including black, Asian, Sikh, Hindu and Fijian recruits – make up less than 10% of the personnel. Gen Carter said, “We have to do more. My highest priority is ensuring we continue to have the best possible talent throughout our Army.”
And his position was welcomed by the military’s Islamic Religious Advisor, who said, “In my view, the values of the Armed Forces are fully compatible with the values of Islam as well as other faiths,” said Imam Asim Hafiz.
“Anybody wishing to pursue a career in the Services, Regular or Reserve, and is prepared to work hard can be assured of a very rewarding experience.”
But the comments have caused some upset among current troops, who feel that they are not as valued for not being a member of a minority. One soldier told Breitbart London, “What’s the point in serving if you’re not valued and they’re obsessed with quotas?”
Senior Military figures in the Ministry of Defence and the three services are aware that wars in Iraq and Afghanistan led to a negative perception of the military in Muslim communities, with even charities such as the Royal British Legion experiencing residence to the wearing of poppies for commemorative purposes in certain populations within the UK.
This is something which General Carter wants to change, through closer interaction and engagement with ethnic minority communities.
“Our recruitment from the black, Asian and minority ethnic communities has been improving over the years, but it is nowhere near where it needs to be,” he said.
“The values and standards we espouse resonate closely with these communities and there is much common ground that we can build on to broaden our recruitment base.”
Labour’s Shadow Defence Secretary Vernon Coaker MP, said: “It is essential that the UK Armed Forces reflect the communities they serve, and that they are more representative of modern Britain.
“The forces must accelerate the recruitment and retention of personnel from ethnic minorities, and need to work more closely with leading community groups from across the UK to advance this.”