Why I Choose Not To Wear a Poppy

It is that time of the year again when it seems like everyone is wearing a poppy; on the tube, on the bus, in the park. You cannot get away from them. Yet, like every year, I refuse to wear one. It is not because I am opposed to remembering those who died in WWI. In fact my great uncle Muhammad Shaban, of the 30th Punjabis, was killed in the First World War fighting for the British in Tanzania but I still cannot pin a poppy to my clothes.

It feels as though everyone that appears on TV has to wear a poppy. Asians, Muslims and black people wear extra big ones just to show their additional loyalty to, what has become, a nationalistic and a patriotic symbol.

Rather than wearing a poppy, if we really want to remember the dead, then why don’t we stop engaging in new wars? Why don’t we stop occupying other countries? Why don’t we stop bombing and killing children? It seems, however, the politicians are committed to repeating the mistakes of the past and sending other people’s children to fight their wars over resources, power and status.

I recently received a letter from the Royal British Legion, with images of soldiers that have suffered injuries. The images were accompanied with captions reading; “They are just boys. But they are our boys”. They are not my boys or ‘our’ boys. This may sound harsh to some, but they knew what they were signing up for, they went to fight in an occupation of a foreign land. If they get injured in the process it is the government’s responsibility to take care of them, not for them to rely on the charity of the public who are already paying for a war that has been going on longer than the second and first World Wars combined. I feel for the families who have lost their loved ones in politicians’ wars. A life is a life, British, Afghan or Iraqi; I wish our media saw it that way – but instead we get disproportionate coverage of some victims which means that we end up only caring about ‘our’ dead.

The poppy is used as a tool to promote current wars. It is not used to say ‘never again’ as it should be. Politicians use it to beat down opposition to war whilst questioning people’s loyalties and patriotism. The symbol of the poppy was never intended for peace or to stop war, it was a cry for others to take up arms and take revenge in a poem by John McCrae. The gentleman whose idea it was to start the poppy, General Earl Haig, was responsible for gross incompetence on the battlefield in which thousands perished.

Yet, we are blinded by this cry of ‘our boys’ and the fallacy that British troops are in Afghanistan defending Britain. On the back of the envelope there is a ‘send a message of support to an injured hero’ plastered next to a British flag. Hero? Really? Since when did we start calling paid soldiers, with Kevlar protection, air support, heavy machine guns, armoured vehicles and tanks heroes? In this narrative the farmer who is defending his country from the occupier is the bad guy. Who are the real heroes?

We have whole-heartedly bought into this premise that soldiers are sacred and their role should never be questioned. I for one cannot accept it and must see the world in a much wider context. Rich versus poor, ruling elites versus the proletariat, the politicians versus the people, big business versus the indigenous people, the well-armed Western soldiers versus the rag tag resistance of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Who will remember the children killed? Who will remember the victims of occupation? Who will remember the contribution of Muslim soldiers to the World Wars? Will they be remembered in the minute silences? Will their images be brandished on the news; will anyone even think of Ali Shan who fought in Burma for the British and now lives in Birmingham? Ali Shan does not wear a poppy and neither do his children or grandchildren. Then there is the case of my great uncle, who will remember him? We will, we do not need to wear a poppy to remember him.

I do not hold these opinions because I am a Muslim, although it helps. I can see the suffering of fellow Muslims at the hands of soldiers acting on orders of my government. What are my thoughts on the extreme minority of Muslims in the UK that burned poppies? They were idiots. Burning something that others hold sacred and dear is never right.

My act of not wearing a poppy when everyone else is, is in remembrance of all those men that were sent to their deaths, forced to go over the trenches to face machine guns. I remember all those that were sacrificed for the sake of power using disastrous tactics. I remember men like my great uncle, who were seen as cannon fodder because they were not white. I remember all those families that lost their loved ones and prayed for no more wars. Most of all, I don’t wear a poppy, hoping that people will move away from jingoism and realise that it is not a symbol of respect and honour for the dead, but by wearing it and accepting the current narrative, it does the opposite – it glorifies and promotes war.

Modern Warfare Map Removed After Muslims Complain

Over the last few days I have been receiving messages about Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.  Apparently the game shows a hadith (saying of the Prophet Muhammed) on the picture frame in the bathroom. This features in the multiplayer maps, Favela. 


The Arabic script said “Allah is beautiful and He loves beauty”.  Muslims deem it offensive to have religious text in a bathroom.   The paintings having been brought to Activision and Infinity Ward’s attention, the map has been removed until it can be edited.


Muslim gamers complained and spread the news via social media. 


An Activision representative told the gaming website Kotaku:
We apologize to anyone who found this image offensive. Please be assured we were unaware of this issue and that there was no intent to offend. We are working as quickly as possible to remove this image and any other similar ones we may find from our various game libraries.

We are urgently working to release a Title Update to remove the texture from Modern Warfare 3. We are also working to remove the texture from Modern Warfare 2 through a separate Title Update. Until the TU is ready, we have removed the Favella multiplayer map from online rotation.

Activision and our development studios are respectful of diverse cultures and religious beliefs, and sensitive to concerns raised by its loyal game players. We thank our fans for bringing this to our attention.

Extradition: A failure for us all

Babar Ahmad

Babar Ahmad

The decision to extradite Talha Ahsan and Babar Ahmad is only one in a long line of subservient decisions that the UK judiciary has taken to please the US.

These two men have languished in prison, without charge, without an end in sight, for 6 and 8 years respectively.

Their families going through a difficult and emotional time, to which the film ‘Extradition’ is testimony.

There are many people that will deride the British judiciary and politicians for allowing this to happen to Talha Ahsan and Babar Ahmad. The one-sided UK-US 2003 extradition treaty means that people who cannot be charged here can face incarceration in American Supermax prisons for at least four years as they await trial.

The question that has been asked is, if there is enough evidence to charge these men then why not put them on trial in the UK?

The answer is simple, there simply is not enough evidence.

Why then this debacle, and grotesque charade?

In the case of Babar Ahmad the Metropolitan police handed over evidence to the FBI whilst their own case was collapsing due to a lack of evidence.

Substantial responsibility also falls on Muslim ‘leaders’ and ‘notables’. For all their efforts in trying to please the establishment and pump out their one-sided ‘integration’ paradigm message, today’s decision has been a slap in the face for them all.

Muslim magazines, publications and media have depoliticised themselves.

Rather than awakening and increasing the Muslim consciousness they have been complicit in keeping them docile and compliant.  Flicking through Muslim magazine pages all I see is fashion tips, cooking instructions and the odd reference to some wishy washy Muslim individual that has managed to integrate to the extent that they can now wear their hijab in a pub and grow a beard like a biker- not at the same time of course.

For a community that has been under attack since 9/11 the response from the educated and former activists has been surprisingly muted.

Rather than assert themselves they have fallen over themselves to get government grants and funds to ‘de-radicalise’ their own communities without looking at the fine print.

De-radicalisation has meant de-politicisation.

Muslims are not supposed to protest, demonstrate, object or stand up. They are expected to tow the mainstream line and accept the labels handed down to them.

Now even they will be afraid that this injustice will spread wider and further having implications for all, not just Muslims.

Babar Ahmad, Talha Ahsan and even Abu Hamza have rights.

The demonization of Abu Hamza has clouded the entire extradition process in the media. Abu Hamza, although outspoken, vociferous and vilified by the media has been used to cover up the injustice that has taken place here. It is easy to hate a man with an eye patch and a hook, a man who does not fit the normal British ‘look’, whilst forgetting that he has rights just like any other citizen. To compromise on these rights just because we do not agree with his views, dislike him as an individual or because he does not fit our version of ‘British’ is to compromise our principles of justice and equality as a society and will lead us down a slippery road that will end in further injustices.

Those in the establishment that are always fearful of radicalisation in the Muslim community must realise that outcomes like this dreadful decision further alienate communities and makes Muslims feel like they do not have a voice in Britain – 150,000 people signed a petition asking for Babar Ahmad to be tried in the UK.

They might be cowed into acquiescence through fear, or they may be repoliticised or radicalised in the good old fashioned way.

There may also be just a few who see all the avenues of legitimate protest, interaction and campaign, be they political or through the legal system, closed off and decide to take rather different action – the antithesis to everything this security discourse superficially claims to be tackling.

As for the fashion loving, docile and cup cake cooking Muslims; carry on flicking through your lifestyle magazine pages and picking out new colours for you headscarves and designer prayer beads- the rest of us will continue to speak out when people are taken away. Until, at least, they come for us.

Islamic film protests: a fundamental rift between the Muslim world and the West

A debate I was involved in on the Voice of Russia.

This studio discussion is on the protests that have spread across the Muslim world over a US made video insulting the prophet Muhammad.

Those protests have now been going on for 10 days. The first began in Cairo, then the unrest spread to Libya. That cost the US ambassador Christopher Stevens his life.

Protests engulfed Yemen, Sudan, Tunisia.

More violent scenes have been reported in Pakistan, the Philippines and Malaysia.

Exacerbating the anger is the publication in a French satirical magazine of cartoons mocking the prophet Muhammad.

So are we witnessing a fundamental rift between the West and its values, which says free speech is paramount, and the Islamic world which says insults against religion should not be tolerated?

VOR’s Daniel Cinna discusses this with Charlie Wolf, American broadcaster who blogs for the Daily Mail; Rodney Shakespeare, co-founder of the Global Justice Movement; Assed Baig, a freelance journalist and film maker; Dr Robert Barnidge, Professor of Law at the University of Reading.

Understanding Muslim Anger

USA flag
Demonstrations have spread around the world after an anti-Islam video, made by someone named Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, insulting the most revered figure of the Muslim world, the Prophet Muhammed was posted on youtube.

Why is it that this short video, apparently the work of one insignificant individual, can instigate such outrage?  While the filmmaker and his ilk may be a global minority, for Muslims, as well as for much of the rest of the world, they epitomise the ignorance, imperialism and arrogance of the West in its dealings with the Muslim world.

The origins of the film itself are very dubious, its production values are such, that it looks like it was made in a basement.   The insults to Islam or the Prophet Muhammed are obviously dubbed over the original soundtrack.   The film seems to have intended provocation based on some aspect of an apocalyptic ideology.

Today, as in the past, Muslims remain part of a global brotherhood that is unlike anything that exists in the West. This ‘Ummah’, the wider Muslim community, transcends political borders, artificial boundaries and international time zones.  Yet, what the West apparently finds so hard to understand is that Muslims continue to have a sense of the sacred along with a respect for the concept of community as well as brother and sisterhood.  For these Muslims the Prophet Muhammed is sacred.

As a result of the outrage caused by this video it is now possible to see even the simplest, poorest and non-political Muslim take to the streets, as they would rather see their families shamed by such public behaviour than have their religion, which they continue to hold sacred, insulted.  Even the corrupt, pro-Western, Muslim leaders recognise this, accepting that they have to speak out against any attacks on the sanctity of their religion, as their own seat of power would be in grave danger if they did not. It appears that the American establishment has been caught off guard, as is evident by its slow reaction to label the video ‘disgusting’ and ‘reprehensible’.

Middle-class Muslims and non-Muslims alike talk of how Muslims should rise above the prejudice.  It is not that simple since most Muslims do not come from the privileged positions necessary for such a stance. One look at the literacy rates for Afghanistan, as well as the rates at which literacy levels have fallen in Iraq since the US invasion, shows that Western intervention results in people having to choose between eating and sending their children to school.  The mass education that we receive in the West is not widely available to others around the world, while, in the West we are not usually confronted by an occupational force of foreign troops every time we leave our homes or the daily psychological trauma of imminent death.

While American and British troops continue fighting a war in Afghanistan, which, along with the war in Iraq and the occupation of Palestine, encourages a feeling of helplessness across the Islamic world, many Muslims ask, ‘how can we help each other and unite the Ummah?’  These are the Muslims who feel they are being globally humiliated by the policies of western governments and, with the aid of 24-hour ‘impartial’ news, their humiliation is beamed un-sanitised into homes around the world 24/7, for all to see and none to escape.

Now with Muslim lands not to mention hearts and minds being occupied, along with constant attacks in the press, a perceived loss of Islamic self identity has taken hold. Is it any surprise that Muslims who see the central figure of their religion being insulted and mocked should feel dehumanised even further?

Many of these Muslims feel that they have no option but to take to the streets in order to express their anger and frustration.  They are fighting for what they feel is right, for what they believe in and are taking it out on any symbol of Western imperialism – embassies being the primary targets.

These are the same Muslims who felt helpless when images of prisoner abuse emerged from the void of Abu Ghuraib.  They are the ones who felt helpless when half a million people, or more, were killed in Iraq with millions more displaced.  Helpless as Israel bombed Lebanon and Gaza and their Arab leaders belly danced around the West. Their sense of helplessness compounded as drone attacks plague Pakistan and the international blight of Guantanamo stays open for business.  Helpless as the infamous Danish cartoons printed in the name of freedom of expression spread around the world like a virus. Helpless in the face of Kashmir’s continued occupation.   Helpless as Bosnian women, violated and brutalised in rape camps, are denied an international forum to voice their anguish.   Helpless as a flattened Grozny struggles to its feet. Helpless as America carries out drone attacks, breaching the national sovereignty of independent countries with impunity.  Helpless as Switzerland, home to 400,000 Muslims, bans the building of minarets.  Helpless as France bans the hijab from schools.  These are the Muslims who feel helpless in every way imaginable.  Is it any wonder that there is so much anger and frustration across the Islamic world? Is it wrong for humiliated and insulted Muslims to react so passionately? As the most revered figure of their religion is insulted and their lands are stolen. Or should we bring up the United States anti-terrorism,interrogation techniques such as water boarding or the many other forms of state sanctioned torture for good measure?

With the media’s shouts of ‘revolution’ still ringing in our ears when Muslims recently demonstrated against their own oppressive governments, the media now shouts something different as these same Muslims protest.  When these Muslims react the media cries ‘barbaric’ and ‘savage’;  Eurocentric and orientalist terms that were strangely absent from public discourse during America’s ‘shock and awe’ campaign in Iraq.

Imperialistic wars have seen the Muslim lands divided as arbitrary lines were drawn on maps by the Western powers with no consideration for the local people, while their religious institutions were dismantled and their cultures destroyed.  Tyrannical leaders were then imposed on the population with an American or Western seal of approval.  History has continually demonstrated that there is only one objective of imperialism, the exploitation of the lands natural resources which is usually facilitated by the facade of stability, democracy and freedom.

The humiliation of the contemporary Muslim world, as some see it, has taken place, largely in the last century. What the imperialistic governments in the West must realise is that occupying countries and killing civilians is one thing, but to attack the religion, the sacred text and the Prophet, will bring out the masses onto the streets to fight. It will ignite the Islamic concept of ‘ghayra’, the idea that Muslims love something so much that they are willing to fight and die for it.

It remains the arrogance of the West, where there is nothing really sacred anymore, to demand that everyone in the world abandon their religious beliefs in the name of civilisation and progress.  While it has long been ‘funny’ to joke and mock the Christian prophet and disrespect the holy texts of Christianity, this idea is completely foreign and abhorrent to Muslims. Mocking what is held sacred has not been legitimised and integrated into the culture of the Islamic world.

This video has not come out of nowhere; it is a manifestation of the environment created by the so-called ‘war on terror’. The Islamaphobia used by Western leaders to justify their wars has sparked the flames of this fire. That is why Muslims across the world will find it hard to differentiate between one crazy filmmaker and the American government as a whole. This film is a product of the environment created by America, and maybe the fire, the venom, and intolerance has become uncontrollable.