Cross Cultural Living and the Poppy

I was born in London, and apart from university and a year working away, I have lived my whole life there. My parents were born in India, and moved to Pakistan. If you trace my roots back far enough you will find yourself on the eastern shore of the Arabian Peninsula. I am a Muslim, I am a Shia. I wear a poppy on and around Remembrance Day, and it has never been a dilemma.

I have seen the armed forces of this country, my country; go to war against people who share my faith and my ethnicity. And yet every year I wear a badge proclaiming solidarity with those soldiers, sympathy for their suffering, financial support for their welfare, and it has never been a dilemma.

I bought poppies for my kids because I think they should learn to be part of this tradition.

There is a difference between the execution and accountability for public policy. The boys and girls who go to war are not accountable for the policy, they merely execute it, and whether that is hostile action in Helmand or distributing aid in a disaster zone, they are required to follow their orders. The accountability lies with the politicians who choose to send them.

I believe Tony Blair to be a war criminal, and I would support lawful action that sees him brought on charges to The Hague. But that does not criminalise the people he sent to war, nor does it diminish their courage. Nor does recognising that courage diminish the injustice and the suffering of the people of Iraq and Afghanistan.

With a longer historical lens it is worth remembering that soldiers from the subcontinent were present in both the great wars. They fought and died with as much courage and determination as any other race, creed or colour, and yet their actions are rarely remembered or lauded. I wear the poppy in part for them, because it is shameful for them to be forgotten.

So don’t be surprised that there are two badges on my coat, one proclaiming my Shia Muslim faith, and one my wholesale participation in British life, for I am both.

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3 thoughts on “Cross Cultural Living and the Poppy

  1. Yes, the contributions of all the different people who fought for the Allies in WWI are not mentioned enough. There was a program a while ago talking about the use of the Brighton Pavilion to treat wounded WWI soldiers from the subcontinent. The authorities then had no trouble catering for both the dietary and the religious needs of the different groups, they saw it as a duty to these brave men. We need more reminders like this. And yes, it is the politicians who should answer for the errors of war, not the soldiers.

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