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Electrifying 007... There Are Life Lessons For All Of Us At Southbank's Being A Man Festival

25/11/2016 13:35

So, who would have thought that little old me #MuslimGirlwiththeSAS, a skinny, Northern girl from Oldham would find a political ally in James Bond? Yes, Roger Moore, the quintessential English gent and man's man, who could make love to a woman and beat the enemy to a pulp without creasing his white dinner jacket, was reported last weekend as sharing my views on re-introducing compulsory National Service.

In an interview with the Sunday Times' Style magazine, to commemorate being involved in the Being A Man festival taking place on Southbank on Saturday, he said:

"I read that people think conscription should be back. I'm inclined to agree, because if you don't have any purpose, if you can't have a job and you've not had education, the discipline of army life is very good. It certainly brings standards up. We've become immune to horror because of the news. People were moved by a picture of the child washed up on the beach, but the real men are out on the boats, picking up the poor bastards before they drown."

It was like hearing my father talk. My father, who died in 2012, would have been a similar age to Mr Moore and fought on the frontline of the British Army in World War Two. Perhaps that was what I have found so comforting about Roger Moore's words. It was a welcome change to hear that strong voice of another generation. A generation that developed knowing that as long as you had a purpose in life, and as long as you strived to meet that purpose, you would be fine.

Post Brexit, post Trump, post yet another recession... look around you at the dissolute faces of young people who aren't interested in a job, social mobility or, well, its hard to know what really does motivate them to get out of bed in the morning, let alone really make a difference in our world. You get the feeling they are getting up into a void. A swirling grey mass. The leaders, the men, the women, who led with charge and authority - they aren't what they were, they aren't even who they were. Jobs? Nightmare. Home-owning under thirty? Forget it. There are so many mixed messages. I'm in my forties and our generation is unique compared to the previous, as we haven't experienced a real world war, which has affected our daily lives. The youngsters are the same. This could be the reason for a lack of purpose and the lack of general understanding about the importance of military service. To think the two are not linked is a mistake. Some kind of part time, compulsory national service would not only provide youngsters with a badly needed sense of purpose and sense of self, but also excellent basic skills on grafting and team work, which will then give them a head start to entering employment and further education when they do find themselves and get more sorted about what they want. If it sounds like I think that British Army training is the answer to everything, it's not far from the truth. I think when I trained with the SAS, that's when I really figured life and how we all rub along together out.

In the Muslim community in the kebab shop, I was an outsider because I wanted to be independent. In the outside world, I was the skinny Muslim kid with prayer beads. But in the Army, with the help of my colleagues, I could be me, in a supportive and structured environment, and be useful at the same time. It's not a bad place to start.

Azi Ahmed is author of World's Apart: A Muslim Girl with the SAS www.aziahmed.com

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