Minimalist London

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As a North Londoner I am having to make a slight geographical adjustment, the South Bank is not South London. The Sarf, is a barely habitable hinterland populated by barbarians and connected by nonsensically curving roads. Horse and cart country in the space age. The South Bank is a vibrant enclave of architecture and culture, with odd artistic gestures thrown in.

The block in the above serves no purpose. It just is. Perhaps the South Bank does share some characteristics with South London after all.

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The mayor’s office is a lopsided little folly, and it is approached by way of this grey amphitheatre.

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And then of course, because I was wondering around on the 11th of the 11th I hopped over the bridge to look at some poppies.

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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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