White Poppies, Poppy Hijabs and the Essex County School Board can all go to hell.


I was very fortunate in life. My father was born in 1931 so he was too young to fight in WW 2 and my 2 grandfathers were born in the early`1900’s so were too young and too old to fight in in both wars. I did however have an uncle my father’s sister’s husband who was part of the disastrous British Expeditionary Force that was driven out of Europe by the Germans via the Dunkirk evacuation. My uncle Herbie had to swim a half mile out to a waiting fishing boat in his underwear. Hoping not to get hit by the constant bombing of Stuka dive-bombers or the strafing of German machine gun fire from the beach head. He arrived in Dover in his underwear and nothing else no shoes no socks just his underwear and a stinky blanket from the fishing boat.

After a period in Britain he was shipped off to fight the Japanese in the South East Asian Theatre. He fought alongside his a comrades from Bombay all the way down to Burma. His exploits during the war are a story for another Remembrance Day. But I have a Nepalese (Gurka) Kukri knife that Herb was given by a Gurka officer at the end of the war. He gave it to my father when he returned home and my father gave it to me a year or two before he died. It is one of my most prized possessions.

The reason I give you this little bit of my family background, today the day after Remembrance Day. Is in the lead up to yesterday, I was perusing through Twitter, Facebook and the internet news sites and I saw a few things that really disturbed me. The first was the sudden appearance of white poppy’s. In case you had not seen them they are the peaceniks answer to the red poppy. It first appeared in the UK in the 1930’s. The first that I personally heard of it was in the late 80’s when Margaret Thatcher was asked about it in question period in the House of Commons and she expressed her “deep distaste” for the symbol. Which pretty much sums up how I feel about it. It goes without saying that most of us want peace. I am pretty sure when my uncle Herb was swimming towards that fishing boat he wanted nothing more than peace in his life, but unfortunately the Germans on the business end of the machine guns had a different idea. To me the red poppy is sacred. It is a symbol of the sacrifice every person makes that puts on a uniform and goes and fights in our name and in the name of keeping us free to live in peace. So go celebrate peace with some other symbol at some other time, but leave the red poppy alone.

The next thing that really annoyed me was a story in of all places over the weekend in the Daily Mail. It was supposedly a feel good story about a British clothes designer that came up with a novel idea on how to help Britain’s Muslim ladies pay respect on Remembrance Sunday (in Britain they pay respect on the Sunday before 11th November). It was called the poppy hijab different types of headwear that had a white background with a multitude of poppies all over it. Apparently these Hijabs are backed by mainstream Muslim groups including the Islamic Society of Britain and profits from its sale are donated to the Poppy Appeal.
Mark Steyn did a column on it in his excellent Steyn on line blog he stated:

“Well, that’s very nice of them, I’m sure, and the ladies look very charming in them. But, if they wished to reject “extremist groups” and support the armed forces, why couldn’t they just wear the same poppies that everybody else wears? Why does a communal ritual observed by the Queen’s subjects in every corner of the earth – Canadian, Bermudian, Tuvaluan, black, white, Protestant, Hindu – have to be Islamified to accommodate them?“

Which pretty much sums up how I feel about it.

Last but not least; the Essex County (Ontario down near Windsor) School Board put out a memo last week that any Muslim children were exempt if they wished from taking part in Remembrance Day ceremonies at all the schools within its jurisdiction if they felt uncomfortable about it. At the risk of being accused of being Islam-a-phobic I will refrain from giving my usual in depth analysis of this. But I will say one thing: All of us from many parts of the world, white, black, Asian, Christian, Jews, Hindus and yes even Muslims enjoy the benefits of a free society. Because many before us put on a uniform bared arms and fought for it and died for it.

As I said quietly to myself yesterday at 11 am and as I say every year at the same time – “Thanks Uncle Herbie”.

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4 thoughts on “White Poppies, Poppy Hijabs and the Essex County School Board can all go to hell.

  1. Here is the text of the school board memo. You will note it doesn’t say anything about Muslim kids. Apparently the person who wrote it was thinking that some parents might not want their kids to attend because of safety concerns (bearing in mind recent attacks). Never let the truth get in the way of a good story eh?

    Tuesday, November 11, 2014 is Remembrance Day. Remembrance Day (also known as Poppy Day or Armistice Day) is a memorial day observed in Commonwealth countries since the end of World War I to remember those who have served and sacrificed as a member of the armed forces. The 11 day of November recalls the end of hostilities of World War I on that date in 1918 “at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month”.

    The red remembrance poppy has become a familiar symbol of Remembrance Day due to the poem “In Flanders Fields”. Poppies bloomed across some of the worst battlefields of Flanders in World War I; their brilliant red colour an appropriate symbol for the blood spilled in the war. Veterans Affairs Canada states that the date is of “remembrance for the men and women who have served, and continue to serve our country during times of war, conflict and peace”; specifically, the First and Second World Wars, the Korean War, and all conflicts since then in which members of the Canadian Forces have participated, including international peace-keeping missions.

    Some schools may have their own school assemblies while others may choose to participate in the ceremonies of their local municipalities such as the Windsor Cenotaph. Please be mindful that some families may be reluctant to have their children attend your location municipality’s ceremonies. Please note that meaningful alternate activities should be provided at the schools for those families who do not wish their children to participate in any Remembrance Day ceremonies.

    Please find attached some images that reflect Canada’s diverse military and to honour those families who are, and have been our allies in conflicts that we as a nation, have participated.

    There is also a DVD created by Mary Catherine Langlois that was sent out last week for your consideration.

    • Come on Bill you can do better than that. That memo above was back peddling by ECSB in response to the original story by Sun News Network here:
      http://www.sunnewsnetwork.ca/sunnews/straighttalk/archives/2014/11/20141111-071855.html
      and here is the follow up interview with Sharon Pyke a rep from ECSB by Jerry Agar:
      http://www.sunnewsnetwork.ca/sunnews/canada/archives/2014/11/20141111-165252.html
      I stand by my post. It’s too bad Bill your comment is all that you got out of my post rather than the constant attempts to chip away at Remembrance Day.

      • I’m not sure how that memo from the school board can be “backpedalling” when it pre-dates the events. It seems to me that Sun may be doing the backpedalling.
        The memo doesn’t make clear whether the writer had safety considerations in mind or religious sensitivities. Certainly it doesn’t mention Muslims, so I’m not sure where Sun picked that up from. I think I recall some kids opting out of these events on religious grounds when I was a kid, but I think they were Quakers or something (ie pacifists).
        As for the poppy hijab; its fine with me. Lots of people from all cultural and religious backgrounds don’t wear a poppy at all. Why not moan about them?

      • Fair comment as always Bill. I guess I was picking on Muslims a little in my post. But I do find that this particular religious group does seem to be continually given and expects special treatment in our society. In hind site I wish I had scoured the Internet and personal experience a little more and found one other non Muslim story instead of the ECSB to underline what I was trying to get at which is the continual chipping away at what is important to me in my culture. Also the service to his country by Gunner Herbert Hanley. Thanks for keeping me honest Bill 🙂

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