Poppies: To wear or Not to Wear?

By ANISAH ARIF

As Remembrance Day approaches us, people gather in silence to commemorate the end of the First World War.

The war in the Far East was also an example of many religions working together. Nearly two-million Indians, Sikhs and Muslims participated in the war for this country. The contribution of these men and women is vital to acknowledge.

Local man, based in Keighley,  Abdul Rehman is one of the latest war veterans to pass away earlier on this year. He enlisted in the British Army in 1941 and served with the Rajputana Rifles in Burma. Along with others, Fazal Ahmed, Noor Dad, Sahib Dad, all served in the World War for the British Army.

Another way that is used to remember the soldiers, is through poppies.

In 1921, the British Legion released red pins to recognize and remember the casualties of the first world war and to be sold to raise money for veterans. Millions of poppies are given out by thousands of volunteers.

The history behind these red flowers are that they grew on the battlefields in Flanders, a region in Belgium. This is described in a famous world poem called In Flanders Field.

In recent years, the poppy has grown far beyond the lapel. What started as a simple symbol of remembrance and hope, has now recently turned into controversial national headlines.

The decision to wear a poppy is divisive, with tensions for those who support it, and those who don’t. But for those who decide not to wear one, causes more debate than others. Recently, football player, Nemanja Matic resulted not to wear a poppy in fear of reminding him of Serbia being bombed when he was 12. In 2016, England and Scotland landed in trouble for wearing poppies during a football match, to which FIFA has now recently changed its stance.

Blogger, Otto English wrote an article on the Independent headlining ‘The poppy has lost its original meaning- time to ditch it’ explaining how the poppy is not used to remember veterans anymore. However, his comments were not taken lightly and was then followed by death threats.

Jon Keighren, British Legion North Officer told the Asian Sunday: “We take the view that the poppy represents the sacrifices our Armed Forces community have made in the defence of freedom; and so the decision to wear it must be a matter of personal choice. If the poppy became compulsory it would lose its meaning and significance.

“We are thankful for every poppy worn, every shop that allows poppy collections, and every employer that permits the poppy to be displayed – but we never insist upon these things or claim as our right. To do otherwise would be contrary to the spirit of Remembrance and all that the poppy stands for”.

While the red poppies are worn specifically to honor the armed forces, The Peace Pledge Union, a pacifist organisation, offered an alternative, white poppies. Dating back to 1933, the white poppies are intended to remember all the victims of war and also demonstrated a commitment to peace and to challenge any attempt to celebrate war. Even though white poppy sales have soared up by 30 per cent this year, Conservative MP Johnny Mercer deemed white poppies as “attention-seeking rubbish”.

“The Legion defends the right to wear different poppies. However, the Legion’s red poppy is a symbol of peace inclusive of all regardless of race, belief, origin, or sexual/gender identity. Importantly, the red poppy raises funds to support our Armed Forces, veterans and their families in their time of need. We see no contradiction in wearing other emblems alongside the red poppy, and recognise the right of any group or individual to express their views within the law.

Over the years, the concept of the red poppy has shifted. The idea of remembering the soldiers lives lost has been forgotten and replaced with a doorway for political debate between two opposing sides. However, Jon says: “Sales of poppies continue to increase year on year – in 2017 the Poppy Appeal raised £46.6million and our target for 2018 is £50million – our biggest target ever. During the Appeal over 40million poppies will be distributed by 100,000 volunteers.”

Whether one wears a red poppy, a white poppy or none at all. It can’t be argued that the attitude towards war has shifted.

 

 

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