by Sameea Jonnud, UK
The red poppy has become the symbol of remembrance since WWI and is worn on lapels and laid in wreaths on memorials across the country; the first poppy appeal was held in 1921 and has been going ever since with proceeds going towards assisting service personnel and their families.
Poppies grew freely in war torn Flanders, even among graves, which inspired John McRae’s words in 1915:
In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That marks our place, and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below
A lot is made these days about the conflict between Islam and country and every year around Armistice Day, this is highlighted. Some far right extremist groups like to claim that Muslims don’t support the poppy appeal or the armed forces. In addition some Muslims have not helped matters in the past by acts such as burning poppies or protesting at the funerals of servicemen.
But what is the reality? The reality is that 400,000 Muslims fought for Britain in World War I; a fact which is often overlooked. As Muslims we remember these and all servicemen and women who fought for their country. Islam requires loyalty to the country in which you live so what could be more natural than honouring those that fought for it?
On numerous occasions Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, spiritual head of the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim community has emphasised loyalty and in an address in October 2011 he stated: “As citizens of any country, we Ahmadi Muslims, will always show absolute love and loyalty to the State. … Whenever a country requires its citizens to make sacrifices the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at will always be ready to bear such sacrifices for the sake of the nation”
The Ahmadiyya Muslim community has for many years shown their loyalty to country and honoured service personnel by participating in the annual Poppy Appeal, a fact recognised by the Royal British Legion with a ‘commendation’ award. Teams are out in all weather selling poppies in shopping centres, football stadiums and railway stations.
The women’s auxiliary also holds fundraising poppy mornings, a recent one of which raised £1,500. Individual members can be seen wearing their poppy with pride; and this is not a new fad but something I have grown up seeing my father do every year.
Remembrance is not limited to Britain; Ahmadi Muslims in other countries also take part, for example U.S. and Canadian Ahmadis amongst others are taking part in Muslims for Remembrance campaigns.
On Remembrance Day this year, in addition to the fundraising, representatives of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community joined political and wider community leaders in laying wreathes at ceremonies around the country.
The Great War ended on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 but each year these acts of remembrance remind us never to forget the devastating sacrifices made in the Great war and, indeed, in all wars.
Sameea Jonnud was born and educated in London. She enjoys writing on a range of issues, in particular from A British Muslim perspective. She tweets at @Zoya_o1