LONDON – About one million British Muslims will wear a poppy on Monday, 11 November, to mark Remembrance Day, in a clear sign that Muslims feel deeply connected to the British History and in protest against anti-poppy preacher Anjem Choudary.
“The centenary of World War I provides an opportunity to tell young Muslims that we are all in this together,” Julie Siddiqi, executive director of the Islamic Society of Britain, told OnIslam.net.
Each year on November 11th, the British people and the Commonwealth people stand still for two minutes; in recognition of all those who sacrificed their lives during WWI.
Just as Christians and Jews fell on the battle fields, Muslims too paid with their blood for the freedom Great Britain enjoys and cherishes today.
The red remembrance poppy has become a familiar emblem of Remembrance Day due to the poem "In Flanders Fields".
These poppies bloomed across some of the worst battlefields of Flanders in World War I, their brilliant red colour an appropriate symbol for the blood spilled in the war.
Although they acknowledge many Muslims are uncomfortable about military action in Afghanistan and Iraq, several major mosques have set up poppy stalls this week.
Commenting on Muslims and Remembrance Day, Siddiqi rejected comments given last week when Choudary said all Islamic leaders who encourage Muslims to wear or sell poppies would “burn in hell-fire”.
“British Muslims should be wearing poppies, not burning them,” Siddiqi
“How can you question a whole community's loyalty to a country when thousands [of their forefathers] died serving this country?”
Figures from the latest Ethnic Minority British Election Survey (EMBES) report, in an Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC) study published by the Oxford University Press, showed that an overwhelming majority of British Muslims wear the poppy; over 53% of Pakistanis and 46% of Bangladeshis.
This means that an estimated 800,000 Muslims in the UK - two-third of Britain’s 2.7 million Muslims - will proudly wear the poppy, a clear sign the British Muslims feel connected to British History on a very deep level.
Sunder Katwala, the director of British Future, said the survey findings showed Choudray's views were regarded as nonsense by ordinary Muslims.
“Anjem Choudary claims that no real Muslim could ever wear a poppy. He accuses those who do of being 'apostates, lackeys and bootlickers. But these findings clearly show his claim is nonsense,” he said.
“In fact, what the new findings show is that more than a million British Muslims express support for Remembrance Day and wearing the poppy. As they quietly join in our solemn national acts of remembrance, how sick and tired they must be of the divisive image that the noisy extremists present of their faith.”
Chaudry’s comments were also criticized by the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), encouraging the British Muslim community to embrace their historic heritage.
"Our main messaging is around highlighting the contributions that Muslims made and sacrifices especially during World War 1 and WW2,” MCB said in a statement obtained by OnIslam.net.
“It is easy to forget that millions of Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and people of other minority faiths have served in the British Armed Forces across two World Wars, facing down the hatred of Nazism and helping keep Britain safe in its direst hours of need."
Moreover, Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari MBE, MCB Secretary General, wrote a pamphlet in which he outlined the Council’s position
“In this publication, the Muslim Council of Britain acknowledges that the operations which the Armed Forces are engaged in today are deeply controversial. But that is not simply a concern amongst Muslims; it is shared by other British people also,” he said.
“Nevertheless we are all proud to be part of a nation that actively encourages dissent and scrutiny of our government while maintaining a strong support for the welfare of the men and women who are sent to fight on our behalf.
“We are also fortunate to be in a country that aims to apply higher standards to the conduct of our Armed Forces. That value is coupled by strong civic and democratic traditions that allow us to debate all these issues in freedom and without fear.”
Finally, he stressed, “Remembrance Sunday is a formal recognition of our achievements as a country, it gives us a moment to pause and consider how this country has evolved since the last wide-scale sacrifice of the Second World War. Today we have come to cherish values that uphold freedoms, diversity, human rights and the rule of law.”
Britain is home to a Muslim community of nearly 2.7 million.
In 2011, think tank Demo found that Muslims in the United Kingdom are more patriotic than the rest of population.
Responding to the statement “I am proud to be a British citizen”, 83% of Muslims said they are proud of being British.
Around 1.2 million soldiers from undivided India fought for the British Empire during the war. About 74,000 of those soldiers died.
Baroness Warsi, whose grandparents fought in the Second World War, recently said that the anniversary was particularly poignant given tensions today.
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