Saturday, 17 August 2013

Weekend Reading: From Adnan Sarwar

Been a while since I did a post about blogs that are worth reading. I've been chatting online with an interesting writer called Adnan Sarwar whose work on Sabotage Times I'd been reading over that last few weeks. His series Confessions of a Muslim Squaddie is both a coming of age tale and an interesting insight into the gap between disillusion and duty. Funny too.

Adnan Sarwar is a former British soldier who wrote a diary while serving in the Iraq War of 2003 and since leaving the military has written for The Guardian, Taki’s Mag, Channel 4 News and the Burnley Express. He has been a military adviser to the BBC and ITV for war drama scripts and acted in films, dramas and at the theatre. 

What do you do when you're the only Muslim in the squad and your leader gives you a dead rabbit?

From his story: Corporal and the Rabbit 

Corporal McBride had a Muslim in his section and had a lot of questions for him. What’s all this praying about? Five times a day? Fasting? Mecca? And if I’m honest I didn’t know much about it but I was the Muslim so I was meant to be the expert, I tried to keep up appearances as far and long as I could. During an exercise while digging a trench to sleep in, Corporal Mac asked me ‘What’s this Halal thing all about?’ I told him the animal had to be killed slitting the jugular vein at the throat, he asked why and I told him what I’d been told which was that it was to kill the animal quickly with the least amount of pain. He said he didn’t believe that would happen and asked why not just shoot it? Oh, I don’t know Corporal Mac, all I know is I need to dig this hole so I can get some rest in the soil. Look, I told him Allah had said it had to be done that way so we the Muslims did it that way, it’s just the way it was. He then asked what would happen if you went hunting and had to shoot an animal, could you eat it? I said you still had to slit the jugular vein and pray on it. He then asked what if you had found an animal dead in the woods, I said the same would apply not really knowing, all my answers were to cut throats and bleed. My parents bought meat from the Halal butchers and hadn’t killed it themselves but here in the army things were different. He told me it was a peculiar way to kill something and left me to my digging. Good I thought, hopefully there’ll be no more questions, I can’t be both digging a hole and an expert on Islam, I’m too tired today. I want to dig the earth, make a berm with it, clean my rifle, get into my sleeping bag and go to sleep until somebody gets me up for guard duty. No more questions, Corporal Mac.

The ground was soft from the rain which made it easier to bite into with the shovel but dirtied the sleeping bags and mats. I didn’t mind, didn’t mind at all, sleep was my goal and I could sleep anywhere, even in the damp soil. My eyes wouldn’t mind the wet, they just wanted to close. Once I’d rolled out my sleeping mat and put my sleeping bag down and laid on it, it felt just fine and made me smile. I was near sleep. I was sharing the hole with a friend, another soldier, and in between the two sleeping bags rested our rifles to be cleaned and cookers on which we boiled meals in mess tins. Every so often after the hard work was done for the day, I’d catch moments like this and remember how much I loved the army. Loved the digging despite being dirty, loved the soil despite it being wet. I had all an animal needed, shelter in my little earthy hole with a poncho over to keep away the rain, food in my ration boxes and drink in my water bottle, a little fire going which I could get warm off and watch and play my fingers into, and if you tried to attack me, I had a gun - bullets were my teeth. It was all I ever needed. The army wouldn’t allow me one but this would could be made higher than perfect by adding a small transistor radio. The rain outside could do what it wanted, I was under my camouflage poncho drinking a hot brew and if you came my way, I’d shoot you, listening to the Shipping Forecast, if they’d let me. Forties, Cromarty, Forth, Bang Bang you’re dead.

The army issued me Halal ration boxes and the lads would always want to swap my Chicken Tikka Massala meals for theirs. We sometimes mixed them all up in a mess tin and got a big stew going. Nothing could touch us here in our little holes with a little fire going, if Corporal Mac let us relax a bit we’d get a right old chat on in the hole all huddled in talking about where we were from, fights at school, girls we liked, and I’d stir the pot for us all. But not today. Corporal Mac came back smiling with an air rifle in one hand and a dead rabbit by the ears in the other hand. “Halal this, then,” he said as he put the rabbit in front of my hole. READ MORE HERE and you can find him on Twitter @adnansarwar

More soon

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