UK

Anjem Choudary's Threats Will Not Stop One MIllion British Muslims Wearing A Poppy, Figures Suggest

07/11/2013 07:35 GMT | Updated 23/01/2014 15:53 GMT
PA
A dedication to those who died in Iraq stands in a group of remembrance poppies as the Duke of Edinburgh inspects the Field of Rememberence at Westminster Abbey, London. The Field of Remembrance hosts thousands of little Remembrance Crosses, Stars of David, and Muslim Crescents, bearing a scarlet poppy in tribute to those who lost their lives in the service of their country. (AP Photo/Pool/John D McHugh)

More than a million British Muslims support wearing a poppy to mark Remembrance Day, new figures have claimed, as a think-tank arged anti-poppy extremists like radical preacher Anjem Choudary hold "marginal" views.

Choudary earlier this week said all Islamic leaders who encourage Muslims to wear or sell poppies would "burn in hell-fire".

But figures from the latest Ethnic Minority British Election Survey (EMBES), in an Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC) study published by the Oxford University Press, show more than half or 53% of Pakistanis and 46% of Bangladeshis in Britain say they wear the poppy.

According to think-tank British Future, this equates to around 800,000 poppy-wearers from these two communities alone, who make up two-thirds of Britain's 2.7 million Muslims. This figure grows to more than a million once the remainder of Britain's Muslim community is considered.

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 said.

"British Muslims should be wearing poppies, not burning them," she said.

"How can you question a whole community's loyalty to a country when thousands [of their forefathers] died serving this country?" Siddiqi said.

Speaking today, British Future director Sunder Katwala slammed Choudary's threats.

"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.

"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."

Protests in the past by radical groups, including those linked to Choudary, have seen fanatics set fire to paper poppies, fuelling a perception among some that Muslims are unpatriotic or disloyal.

In November 2010 a group called Muslims Against Crusades set fire to a giant paper poppy outside the Albert Hall, while last year a man was arrested for posting a picture of a burning poppy on Facebook.

Dilwar Hussein, chair of charity New Horizons in British Islam, said: "These figures show that most ordinary British men and women of Muslim background are just like the rest of us when it comes to Remembrance Day.

"As they go about their daily business as British citizens we should acknowledge this quiet yet profound form of integration.

"My grandfather served in the British army and was a Prisoner of War in Asia. Like a million other British Muslims, I feel it is important to remember and honour the sacrifice of those who fell while defending us. That's why I wear my poppy with pride."

A statement on the Islamic Society of Britain website said it urged Muslims to become involved by participating in Remembrance Day activities around the country.

"Our main messaging is around highlighting the contributions that Muslims made and sacrifices especially during World War 1 and WW2.

"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."

The EMBES figures show significant support for Remembrance Day among ethnic minorities more generally, with 62% of all minorities saying they wear a poppy for Remembrance Day.

Wearing a poppy has proved to be a contentious issue in recent years.

Muslim journalist Assed Baig wrote last year of his opposition to wearing a poppy, because he believed it "glorifies and promotes war".

Writing for the Huffington Post UK, journalist Madeleine Fry said as a Christian and a pacifist, she did not want to wear a poppy.