Muslim and Sikh Soldiers in the British Army Say Religion is Not an Issue Photo: Sikh soldiers, Signaller Simranjit 'Sim' Singh, 21 Signal Regiment (right), and Lance Corporal Sarvjit Singh, 3 Regiment Army Air Corps. [Picture: WO2 Richard Dawson RLC] By Deepak Lal Muslim and Sikh training recruits have claimed that their religion is not an issue when it comes to joining the army. They do however find it difficult at times when it comes to explaining their beliefs and physical appearance for example wearing a turban. Latest figures from the Ministry of Defence show that of the 106,460 soldiers in the army, 9.5% represent minority communities. This has shown an increase of 1.5% over the last three years. Muslim and Sikh soldiers say their faith doesn’t affect their training as they are allowed to pray and observe Ramadan at Vimy Barracks in Catterick. 19 year old British Muslim, Private Akhtar Hussain who is training at the barracks is pleased with the treatment he receives and says he is even provided Halal food not only inside the barracks, but also in his ration packs, which he uses when out training. The support and positive attitude received towards British Asians is positive according to Pte Hussain, which may surprise much of the public. Pte Hussain says his friends and family are very supportive of his decision to join the army, whereas some may consider his decision to be controversial as he could be sent to Iraq or Afghanistan: “Obviously coming from my background, it plays on my mind. I may end up in this situation but I don’t think religion comes into it, it’s more about terrorism,” he told the BBC Asian Network. “It’s been a dream that I have worked so hard for. I am the eldest son in my family and my parents say what more could they ask for. Me being in the British Army they are so proud. All my friends are also pleased with my joining up and say how mature I have become in such a short space of time.” Sikh soldiers are also being welcomed into the army and have been successful. With approximately 750,000 Sikhs in the UK (the second highest after India), and with over 1.5million representing the British Army in both world wars, Sikhs do have a strong history of joining the British Army. In August 2009, Signaller Simranjit Singh and Lance Corporal Sarvjit Singh made history by becoming the first Sikh Service personnel to guard the Queen at the Tower of London. Although it is tradition for the guards to wear scarlet tunics and bearskin caps, Signaller Singh was exempt from this as he wears a turban, but did have the Royal Signal corps badge on his turban. According to the Sikh way of living (Rehat Maryada), turbans, long hair and beards are compulsory. The families of both soldiers were very proud of the pair, and Lance Corporal Sarvjit Singh went onto say: “My experience being a Sikh on the Queen’s Guard is beyond words. It is a once-in-a lifetime opportunity. I feel privileged to have this honour, he proudly told the MOD.