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Head of the British Army tells Leicester audience of need to "draw talent from all of society"

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The head of the British Army has spoken of the need to increase its strength by “drawing talent from all of the society we represent”. General Sir Nick Carter, Chief of the General Staff was at the University of Leicester to deliver a lecture on the subject as figures reveal that the changing make-up of the UK’s population mean that around one in four new recruits would need to be drawn from ethnic minorities in the next five years. He said the Army, currently 87,000-strong, had to think “much harder about the way in which we embrace the consequences of diversity and the way in which we change the organisation to be one that reaches out to all types of British society”.

Speaking to the Leicester Mercury in advance of the lecture, organised by the university and the city’s St Philip’s inter-faith organisation, he said the traditional cohort of recruits – white Caucasian 16-25-year-olds – is shrinking. He said Army values shared “common ground” with minority ethnic communities. He added: “The Security and Defence Review in November set a target of having 10 per cent of the Army’s strength from the black and minority ethnic community by 2020.

“It is a target we will be judged against. We need to have an army that reflects society. It doesn’t matter where people are from, it’s their brains and skills we’re interested in.

“We’ve never been smaller or more popular, with a 91 per cent approval rating, but less well understood. Conflicts like Afghanistan haven’t necessarily helped us.

“I posted a leaflet on the Army’s Values and Standards through a madrassa. They got in touch and said we expoused the same values and standards they had – that’s what we’ve got to work at. We need to broaden our recruiting base.

“The Army has traditionally been a Christian-based institution, but we need to broaden that to include people of all faiths to make us more representative of society. Our plea is ‘ come and have a look at us – our door is absolutely open.”

The Rev Dr Tom Wilson, director of the St Philip’s Centre, said: “What we are finding is that the Armed Forces are willing to engage with us and are listening.

“The Army are genuinely keen to listen and learn about engaging with people of different faiths and many are aware of different faiths and cultures through postings abroad. Their challenge is to make sure everyone else realises they understand.”

Captain Naveed Muhammad, 47, a Muslim full time reserve with 28 years service, said: “I’ve served in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s important to remember the decisions to go to war are political. It’s how we behave when we are on there ground that’s important.

“People remember what they’ve seen in the media but they forget the help we give in countries like Sierra Leone, a largely Muslim country, with the Ebola crisis.”

Leicester-based Imam Asim Hazif, Islamic Religious Adviser to the Chief of the Defence Staff and Service Chiefs, said: “It is absolutely crucial to be able to see the top brass of the Armed Forces engaging with the community like this.

“A lot of people misunderstand what the Armed Forces are about. They don’t see the good work they are doing around the world rescuing refugees, helping the fight against Ebola and supporting the Afghan National Army.”


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