The untold story of the millions of Muslims who fought for the Allies in World War One was revealed to members of the West Midlands Together campaign.

The organisations’s steering group, meeting in Birmingham, heard from Hayyan Bhabha, Director of The Muslim Experience in WW1, about his researchers’ discovery of the unknown scale of the contribution Muslims made in the 1914-18 conflict.

He said more than 2.5 million Muslim troops fought for the Allies in the various campaigns.

West Midlands Together was formed as a cross-party campaign for harmony and tolerance in the wake of a spike in hate crime following the EU referendum.

Joint founder Anthea McIntyre MEP, Conservative MEP for the West Midlands, said: “This information is so powerful.

“It shows extent to which we all have shared backgrounds and that we have so much more to bring us together than to keep us apart.”

Mr Bhabba said the project was the first to ask for access to WW1 documents in the Farsi, Arabic, Urdu and Hebrew languages from 377 locations in 19 countries.

He said research had unearthed many fascinating stories about the war service of people from a range of faiths.

He said: “These stories can be a very powerful tool in showing young people from different religious and ethnic backgrounds that this is their country and their families are part of its heritage and history.”

The group has begun organising interfaith trips to the battlefields and war graves of northern France.

Mr Bhabha said the All Party Parliamentary Group of British Muslims, of which he is secretary, will also be working with colleagues to establish consensus in finding a definition of Islamophobia that the Group hopes the Government will adopt.

He said: “We recognise that Brexit has emboldened people to express hatred of anyone they deem to be different from the norm.”

Nasar Iqbal of We Stand United, an initiative against hate crime in Walsall, spoke of his organisation’s work in inviting people to come forward with their experiences.

He said these accounts would be shared via text and video on social media, with viewers asked to comment and add their own stories.

Mr Iqbal also spoke of plans to launch a Hate Crime Network in Walsall to allow a variety of agencies concerned with and affected by hate crime to work more closely together.

Reforming the European Union is the best way to keep it together post-Brexit.

That was the message today from Conservative MEP Anthea McIntyre as she welcomed plans for a task force to bring greater focus to EU legislation. It will aim to improve the lawmaking process so that the block does less - but does it better.

Miss McIntyre, who chairs a Task Force on Better Regulation for the European Conservatives and Reformists Group (ECR) in the Parliament, said the move was: "Music to the ears of anyone who wants to see EU regulation only where appropriate and proportionate."

The task force was promised in Commission President Jean-Claude Junker's State of the Union speech. It will start its work in January, chaired by Frans Timmermans, Commission First Vice-President in charge of Better Regulation, it has been announced.

The task force will be composed of nine additional members, with three members from national parliaments, three from the European Parliament and three from the Committee of the Regions.

Miss McIntyre, who represents the West Midlands and is Conservative employment spokesman said: "We are very hopeful that as the parliament's third-largest group the ECR will have one of the European Parliament places on the task force.

"This can only be seen as a positive move and one which will counter the impression that the EU wants to interfere anywhere and everywhere. By allowing that perception, the EU has alienated many ordinary citizens across Europe including those who voted Leave in Britain.

"If it is to win back that lost confidence, regain its relevance and keep its integrity and unity, the EU must fix its tendency to legislate to widely, too loosely, and too readily."

Letter to Editor

Your story about the thuggish and racist menacing of three sisters aboard a train left me dismayed but not despondent.

As joint-founder of West Midlands Together, a cross-party campaign for tolerance and mutual respect, I found the details of the court case distasteful in the extreme - especially that someone could behave so offensively to young women who had offered no provocation.

But I was heartened to see how the prosecuting officer praised members of the public who had rallied round and helped to identify the culprit to the police.

And I can only offer sincere admiration and praise to the women involved who were brave and calm enough to film their assailant on their mobile phones, thus providing the evidence to ensure his prosecution.

Here are examples for us all. We formed our organisation following a spike in hate crime after the EU referendum last year.

We want to show that our region is welcoming and accepting of all decent people - and that as a society we will not let people with hatred in their hearts hold sway.

 



Horticulture must be treated as a prime asset and nurtured carefully as Britain leaves the EU, a high profile conference heard this week.

Anthea McIntyre, Conservative MEP for the West Midlands, told the Growquip conference in Stratford upon Avon that farmers and growers were the major stewards of our environment and needed continued access to innovation, new technology and research.

She said: "They need this to produce food in a sustainable way so that we can both feed the world and protect the environment for future generations.

"Horticulture is a key economic asset, and key to meeting the challenges presented by climate change and population growth.  In a post-Brexit world, Regulators and policy makers in the UK must - now more than ever - stand with the grower and the consumer in allowing this world-beating sector to thrive and grow."

Miss McIntyre, a member of the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee and Conservative employment spokesman, has produced two influential parliamentary reports - The Future of Europe’s Horticulture Sector - Strategies for Growth and Technological Solutions for Sustainable Agriculture.

Her speech touched on regulation, research and development, plant protection, pests and diseases and Brexit.

She said: "As we leave the EU, it is essential that the UK government, academia, industry, breeders, the agro-chemicals sector, growers and food manufacturers all work together to improve the translation of research into practice."

Miss McIntyre suggested that recent ministerial statements pointed to three reasonable assumptions about a future British Agricultural Bill:

# First, it will pay close attention to science based evidence and, if the science agrees, UK law will closely follow what the EU is doing.

# Secondly, it will offer the devolved administrations more control than they currently have.  

# Third, it will look again at risk versus hazard-based regulation so that agricultural legislation may be simplified.

She warmly welcomed the Government's announcement of  a £40 million grant scheme to boost countryside productivity through investment in cutting-edge technology and new equipment.

Under the scheme, she said, grants would be available to help farmers, including horticultural growers, to improve productivity through new technology to reduce cost or improve product quality. The funding could be used on diverse investments, from robotics to green technology.

She said: "This is a great opportunity for our growers and food processors to invest in the technology they need to boost productivity, competitiveness and, of course, sustainability.

West Midlands MEP Anthea McIntyre has condemned false claims that Brexit will trigger a "race to the bottom" on worker's safety.

Miss McIntyre, Conservative employment spokesman in the European Parliament, stressed Britain's leading role in improving workplace safety when she spoke in a Strasbourg debate on carcinogens.

MEPs were assessing EU proposals for new Europe-wide limits on exposure to carcinogens and mutagens - but the UK already largely works to stricter levels.

She told the debate: "The limits originally set out in the Commission proposal were the result of many years of detailed work including evaluation and fitness checks.

"It was easy for me, coming from the UK, to agree to the majority of the proposed limits as we already have these lower limits in Britain.

"But as well as enforcing the exposure limits, Member States should be encouraging businesses to strive for the lowest levels possible - lower in fact than the levels set in legislation.

"I am very concerned by claims that a consequence of Brexit will be a race to the bottom for workers’ rights and health and safety standards.

"In fact, the UK has the highest health and safety standards and we have one of the lowest fatality rates among member states - second only to Malta.

"Our rates of work-related-ill health and of workers reporting that their job risks their health are lower than most other member states.

"There is an established and rigorous process for setting limits to ensure that they are evidence based, proportionate, measurable and achievable. As law makers we should respect this."