British Muslims are being urged to wear a new ‘poppy hijab‘ as a challenge to extremist groups who “spout hatred” towards the Armed Forces. The campaign is being backed by the Islamic Society of Britain (ISB), and profits from its sale will be donated to Poppy Appeal. Sughra Ahmed, President of ISB, said it’s a way for “ordinary Muslim citizens to take some attention away from extremists… This symbol of quiet remembrance is the face of everyday British Islam – not the angry minority who spout hatred and offend everyone.” There are some serious concerns regarding Ms Ahmed’s zealous statement. Firstly, she assumes that Muslims who criticise and don’t support the Armed Forces are an “angry minority”, and secondly, she added that “thousands of Muslims already wear the poppy” – clearly dismissing the thousands that choose not to wear it.
It’s laughable that in the space of a month, two of the country’s most right-wing anti-Muslim newspapers have spearheaded campaigns to promote ‘British Islam’. Earlier this month, The Sun newspaper had the United Against I.S. campaign, with a woman wearing a Union Jack hijab on its front page. Both campaigns are insulting to Muslims who once again feel pressured to have to prove their loyalty to this country and their commitment to ‘Britishness’.
Ironically, the poppy hijab is receiving support from the most unlikely of individuals. The same muscular liberals, who perceive the hijab and other Islamic attire for women as oppressive and backward are now promoting it on social media. I find it hypocritical that Muslim women who champion liberal and feminist ideas, and consider the hijab to be a pointless act of faith, are eager to wear the hijab just for Remembrance Day. Effectively, they are mocking this act of Islam by wearing this particular hijab to display patriotism, as opposed to an act of obedience to God. It’s nearly as ridiculous as Muslims starting to pray five-times a day if there was a prayer mat campaign with the Union Jack on it. Nevertheless, £22 for a hideous hijab is an expensive insult to be donning, for half the price you can buy six hijabs at Whitechapel market.
WW1 was the period when Britain fought the Ottoman Caliphate, caused discord between Arabs and Turks, which ultimately destroyed the last Islamic State. It was also the time when Colonel Mark Sykes and Francois Georges-Picot carved up the Muslim world between Britain and France, with a ruler in one hand, and a glass of brandy in the other. And how can Muslims forget the Balfour Declaration of 1917? Britain’s unreserved commitment to the Zionist cause at the expense of the Palestinians. It would be a gross mistake to unanimously assume that the 400,000 Muslims who fought for Britain during WW1 did so for the preservation of the Empire. Many were either coerced into fighting, unaware of the wider political agenda, were seeking a better life, or forced into conscription. Nevertheless, I do not deny that there were many genuine Muslims who proudly fought for the coloniser, but there were also those who refused to fight their co-religionists.
Moving on to the 21st century, Britain has been involved in two disastrous wars for the past 13 years. The Iraq war was illegal in every aspect of international law. Based on false intelligence on WMDs and the non-existence of Al Qaeda training camps, the UK participated in the invasion of a sovereign state. And what was the end result? Humiliated in Basra, defeated in Helmand, more angry Muslims, and the world has become a far more dangerous place. The blood of thousands of innocent men, women and children is on the hands of the British government and Armed Forces. Are Muslims expected to brush this under the carpet as collateral damage?
Taking all the above into consideration, and truly understanding historical and contemporary events, the poppy hijab campaign is an act of desperation by theMuslim designer who made it with the intention of being “proudly British and proudly Muslim.” The government is fully aware that Muslims have become more politicised, outspoken and critical of its crimes, here at home and abroad.
For many Muslim women, the hijab is an outward symbol of their religion- not a billboard to showcase their patriotism. 24-year-old Tabinda-Kauser Ishaq who masterminded this campaign has made a mockery of Islam, and to be absolutely honest, this is beyond the usual cringing tripe that Muslim apologists advocate. The hijacking of the hijab is not only demeaning a symbol of Islam but a ridiculous attempt to colonise it. Muslims don’t need a socially engineered ‘British Islam’ to demonstrate their loyalty to this country. It’s a sad reality when the default position of many politicians and media outlets towards Muslims is one of suspicion, manifested in a “with us or with them” attitude. Thousands of non-Muslims who subscribe to the anti-war organisation, Stop the War Coalition perceive the poppy to be a propaganda tool used by politicians to shore up support for their wars – why aren’t they labelled as “extremists” spouting “hate”, or is this privilege exclusively reserved for Muslims?
The poppy hijab is a counterproductive and patronising campaign, which singles out Muslims as being a suspect community whose allegiance lies elsewhere. Many British Muslims do put their religion before their nationality but that doesn’t make them any less integrated. What that means, is that there is a significant percentage of Muslims who practice Islam holistically as a comprehensive way of life, which includes speaking the truth, standing up for justice, speaking up for the oppressed and accounting their government. Some would argue these are also British values but I beg to differ.
The Sun’s Union Jack hijab campaign, today’s poppy hijab supported by the Daily Mail, and if the Telegraph decides to promote Santa Clause prayer mats this Christmas, all of these initiatives are #NotInMyName!