The poppy is history in the making

Never has wearing a poppy been so controversial. The shocking aerosol attack on a 15-year-old poppy seller in Manchester has instigated fear while the apparent politicisation of the poppy by politicians who have been accused of using it to advocate current wars has divided opinions on wearing it.

The meaning of the poppy is history in the making which means the history it represents is being forgotten – or worse, rewritten. The true meaning of the poppy has been lost on a battlefield between politics and religion.

Red-coloured poppies are the predominant flower that grows wild in many fields in northern France and Belgium where some of the most fatal battles of World War One took place. Therefore, they are worn as an emblem to remember those who fought in the war. A war that saw various religions and races fighting for this country, its freedom, and for our freedom.

A white poppy signifies remembering those who fought in the war while placing emphasis on commitment to peace. A purple poppy is to remember the animals who were victims of war.

Jon Snow famously coined the term ‘poppy fascism’ for people that coerced others into wearing the poppy as he believed they were undermining its symbolism of freedom – including the freedom of choice.

However, it is no longer about freedom and choice but about who is wearing it, how it is worn and what it means in the present day. 

And now sparking more controversy is 24-year-old designer Tabinda-Kauser Ishaq, final year student at the University of Arts, with her poppy hijab. The Newstatesman states: ‘They [hijabs] become a politically correct way of airing a suspicion that all Muslims are “basically terrorist sympathisers”.’

Tabinda-Kauser’s reasons for the poppy hijab is to remember those who fought in WWI including Muslims that fought for Britain.

The significance of the poppy should not be lost on words such as ‘Islamophobia’, interpretations of why a certain religion or race is wearing it, or who is in Parliament right now and why they are wearing it. These are not the reasons thousands of men died for this country.

Instead of tainting history with present day conflicts, let us remember that the soldiers united and died for the United Kingdom and therefore we should unite in remembering them; whether we wear a poppy or not.

Watch my interview with Jon Snow who talks about the poppy here.