The Earl of Wessex officially opened a new Peace Gar den on November 12 at the site of a re stored Muslim Burial Ground in Woking, Surrey
In an act of remembrance, the Earl of Wessex officially opened a new Peace Garden on November 12 at the site of a restored Muslim Burial Ground in Woking, Surrey.
The site that was once the final resting place for 19 Muslim soldiers from the Great War, and a further eight casualties of the Second World War, has been restored to its former glory to create a lasting legacy for the 27 servicemen who paid the ultimate sacrifice to defend Britain.
The four-year restoration project of this Grade II listed structure forms part of Woking’s centenary commemorations of the Great War and celebrates the Borough’s relationship with the Shah Jahan Mosque, the first purpose-built mosque in the UK.
The main Remembrance event at the Cenotaph is a Christian-led ceremony that commemorates all personnel. There’s also an event in Brighton which is a Hindu & Sikh-led ceremony that commemorates all personnel. However, there was never an Muslim-led commemoration. This was the first time that Muslim-led ceremony was held.
Located on the south east corner of Horsell Common, a short distance from the Mosque, the site was purchased by the War Office, and a Muslim Burial Ground was commissioned in 1915 to ensure Muslim soldiers could be buried according to their religious rights.
In 1889 the first purpose built Mosque was erected in Woking and the Muslim Burial Ground was then created in 1915 for 21 Indian Army soldiers (fighting for the UK) who died in WWI. It was subsequently used to bury 6 more Indian Army soldiers (fighting for the UK) who died in WWII.
During the 1960s the Muslim Burial Ground was vandalised and the 27 bodies moved to Brookwood Military Cemetery. However, the Muslim Burial Ground remained sacred and untouched. Funding from the Muslim community and public bodies including Historic England, the Armed Forces Covenant Grant Scheme, and the Department for Communities and Local Government, has led to the transformation of the site into a befitting Islamic inspired Peace Garden.
The Earl of Wessex was accompanied on a tour of the national and internationally significant heritage site by project leader, Dr Zafar Iqbal from Woking Borough Council.
The Earl officially opened the memorial with the unveiling of a plaque that will adorn the entrance of the restored Chattri, inscribed in Arabic with the words “In the name of God the Most Merciful and Most Kind.”
Islamic Religious Advisor to the Armed Forces, Imam Hafiz, welcomed Woking Council’s decision to build the Peace Garden. “The message it sends to all is that we must commemorate those individuals who have sacrificed their lives – Muslims and non-Muslims – to protect our safety and our freedom whether in the past or in the present. It also highlights that Muslims contributed to the Defence of Britain historically and continue to do so today.”
Among the civic dignitaries attending the opening ceremony of the Muslim Burial Ground Peace Garden, Defence Minister, Earl Howe, said: “It is vital that we keep alive the memory of all those who have fought to protect the freedoms we now enjoy in the UK, including the enormous contribution of Muslims who came to our aid when we needed it most. Our Armed Forces share the values of the Islamic faith, and protect those values at home and abroad.”
Speaking at the reception that followed at the Shah Jahan Mosque, Commandant of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, Major General PAE Nanson, said: “The Army is incredibly proud of the strong links it has with our Muslim communities. The ceremony this morning has presented us with a unique opportunity to remember the vast sacrifice Muslim soldiers and officers have made, and continue to make, on behalf of our Country.”