CAIRO – British Muslim women have been urged to wear a new “Poppy Hijab” as a way to declare their pride in being British and Muslim, to mark 100 years since the first Muslim soldier was awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery during World War One.
“Thousands of British Muslims already wear a poppy in November. This is just another way for them to show they remember those who gave their lives for their country,” Sughra Ahmed, President of the Islamic Society of Great Britain, told Daily Mail on Thursday, October 30.
“It’s also a way for ordinary Muslim citizens to take some attention away from extremists who seem to grab the headlines.”
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The scarf, which costs £22, will be launched tomorrow to mark 100 years since the first Muslim soldier was awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery during the WW1.
Khudadad Khan, a machine gunner in an Indian colonial regiment, fought on the Western front during WW1 in support of the British Expeditionary Force.
Backed by mainstream Muslim groups including the Islamic Society of Britain, profits from the scarf sale will be donated to the Poppy Appeal.
“This symbol of quiet remembrance is the face of everyday British Islam – not the angry minority who spout hatred and offend everyone,” Ahmed said.
“We’re launching this today as it’s exactly 100 years since the first Muslim soldier was awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery – Khudadad Khan from Pakistan, who was fighting for Britain on the Western Front in the First World War,” he added.
Khan was a member of the 129th Baluchis regiment fighting near in Belgium.
On 31st October, 1914, at Hollebeke, Sepoy Khudadad carried on firing the gun on his own, after the five other men of his gun detachment were killed.
Despite having been wounded, he fought on long enough to hold off an enemy advance until Indian and British reinforcements arrived. He was awarded the highest military award for gallantry by King George V in December that year.
More than 400,000 Muslim soldiers fought for Britain in World War 1.
The new scarf has been promoted by think tank British Future as part of efforts to remind the public about the role of Commonwealth soldiers in British military history.
“Remembrance brings Britain together each November – and has a special resonance as we all mark the centenary of the First World War,” Sunder Katwala, the British Future’s Director of Integration, said.
“The armies that fought a century ago look more like the Britain of 2014 than that of 1914. Yet few people realize that 400,000 Muslims fought for Britain in the First World War.
“Many British Muslims won’t know this, while most Britons are surprised at the scale of the Muslim contribution to the Commonwealth effort,” she added.
Each year on November 11th, the British people and the Commonwealth people stand still for two minutes; in recognition of all those who sacrificed their lives during WWI.
Just like soldiers of other faith groups, Muslims paid with their blood for the freedom Great Britain enjoys and cherishes today.
The red remembrance poppy has become a familiar emblem of Remembrance Day due to the poem “In Flanders Fields”.
These poppies bloomed across some of the worst battlefields of Flanders in World War I, their brilliant red color an appropriate symbol for the blood spilled in the war.
The scarf was designed by a Muslim fashion designer, Tabinda-Kauser Ishaq, a 24-year-old student at the University of the Arts in London.
“I hope the poppy headscarf gives Muslim women a new way to mark Remembrance Day and to help raise money for the Poppy Appeal,” Ishaq said.
“It’s a simple way to say you’re proudly British and proudly Muslim.”