This picture has been popping up in my Facebook feed with various anti-Islamic comments so it might be time for a little fact-check.
The picture purports to be ‘Aussie Diggers’ and the story is usually “These Aussie Diggers died for your country, something something, so Muslims don’t belong here” or words to that effect.
Firstly, that semi-famous picture depicts British Soldiers in Burma in World War 2, not Aussies. Yes, the British in Burma wore hats like that too. Burma is where Lieutenant Colonel Tom Price of the Victorian Mounted Rifles got the idea for the first Slouch Hats back in the late 1800s. Many of the 90,000 or so (mostly Islamic) African soldiers that fought there against the Japanese also wore them.
Secondly, when the Allies evacuated Burma in the face of the Japanese invasion they armed the Islamic Burmese to continue the fighting. The mostly Buddhist Burmese Nationals sided with the Japanese when they looked like they were winning, and only switched back at the end of the campaign when it became clear the Allies were winning. But while the Allies continued the fight from India, thousands of Islamic Burmese were killed while they resisted, tying up forces away from the front.
Meanwhile, despite the influx of dominion troops to the theater, the majority of the Allied forces continuing the fight against Japan from India were Indian Army. About 40% of the Indian Army at that time was Islamic; even though Muslims made up only about 25% of the population, (India included Pakistan at the time). This is partly because at the outbreak of the war the minority Indian Muslim League immediately sided with the British while the non-Islamic Indian National Congress refused to fight without full independence. Elements of the National Congress even formed two divisions of rebel troops that fought for Japan against the Allies. Overall during the war the Indian Army, with the unwavering support of the Muslim League, committed 2.5 million soldiers to the allied effort, most of which fought in other theaters despite their homeland being under threat. To this day, it remains the largest all-volunteer army ever assembled.
Only about 40 Australian soldiers served in Burma, though several thousand Australian sailors and airmen served there. Around 2700 Australian soldiers did die in Burma. They were prisoners of the Japanese shipped there to provide slave labour and they were tortured, beaten, worked and starved to death. And I’m willing to bet that if they rocked up today they would be less concerned about the 2.5% of the Australian population that share the same religion as their coloured allies, than they would be about the 80% of the Australian population that spend billions of dollars per year on Japanese and German cars, motorbikes and/or electronic goods.
So unless you’re willing to set fire to your Toyota Hilux, with its Bridgestone Desert Duellers and its Pioneer sub-woofers, and swear a blood oath against the Emperor of the Sun and all his descendents, then maybe you should stop hijacking another generation’s sacrifice for your own xenophobic ends. Like it or not, one Australian generation’s enemies usually end up being the next generation’s best mates. It has been that way with the South Africans, the Turks, Germans, Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, and it will always be that way, regardless of what gets your particular hate-boner turgid.
Well, maybe not all South Africans…