Deeply personal tale of “British Muslim Soldier”

Former Burnley soldier Adnan Sarwar
Former Burnley soldier Adnan Sarwar

A former Burnley soldier has won a prestigious essay writing competition for his recollections on the deeply conflicting emotions which faced a Muslim serving in the British Army.

Adnan Sarwar’s essay “British Muslim Solider” was described as “a meditation on identity, dealing with why he, a Pakistani boy from Burnley with no degree, decided to join the British Army.”

It was chosen by judges including Stuart Williams, publishing director at Random House, and television historian Simon Schama, to win the Bodley Head/Financial Times competition.

Adnan (35) who was born in The Hague but grew up in Burnley, served in Cyprus, Kuwait, Iraq, Qatar and in the UK.

His childhood in Burnley forms an important part in his difficult decision to join the Army at a time when British soldiers were fighting in Muslim lands.

He said: “I wanted to talk about identity as it’s one of the most important issues in our conversation today.

“I’ve always been proud of my military service and don’t think it’s a conflict to join the British Army if you’re a Pakistani or a Muslim, they’ll treat you the same as the rest.

“There are questions we need to ask ourselves, and it is hard coming from somewhere else to somewhere new so we should talk about it.”

On leaving the Army, he worked as a military consultant on films and television shows.

Now living in London, he works as a writer and actor.

Stuart Williams described Adnan’s essay as “arresting for its style, for its urgency, for the freshness of its approach to challenging subjects,” adding “it’s a wonderful piece of writing and a worthy winner.”

Adnan won £1,000, and publication of his work in the FT’s “Life & Arts” section and as a free digital short with The Bodley Head.

To read Adnan’s essay visit