British Muslim student Tabinda-Kauser Ishaq (24) has created a new headscarf decorated with poppies for Remembrance Day. She tells Radhika Sanghani why and about the 400,000 Muslim soldiers who fought alongside UK troops
Three Muslim models wear the poppy hijab Photo: ROOFUL ALI/ALIWAY.CO.UK
By:Radhika Sanghani/UK Telegraph
Poppies have become the symbol of Remembrance Day. Anyone who wants to commemorate the lives of those who died for Britain in the war simply has to buy a poppy and proudly wear it on their lapel.
But Muslim women will now be able to go one step further, by wearing a ‘poppy hijab.’
The headscarf is patterned with poppies, and has been created specifically for Remembrance Day this year. , 24, a student at the London College of Fashion and a British Muslim, designed the hijab.
“The idea to do a headscarf came from knowing that many Muslims generally mark Remembrance Day,” she explains. “We felt it wasn’t that widely known. The number of Muslim soldiers who fought in World War One was even less known. We wanted to create something that illustrated this history.”
More than a million Indian soldiers and 400,000 Muslims fought alongside British troops in 1914, but it is a fact that is little known or talked about. It’s why the and integration think tank British Future, which is selling the hijab online, approached Tabinda to help them find a symbol of Remembrance that would appeal to British Muslims.
It’s also where the idea of the poppy hijab came from.
“I thought it was a really simple and clean way of saying that I’m very proud of being British and Muslim without it being in anyone’s face,” she says. “The poppy is what we associate with Remembrance Day so people would have to relate to it quite instinctively.
“We did it with the hijab because it’s become what we automatically associate with Muslims. We thought it really played into the message we were trying to get out there.”
Each headscarf will cost £22 with all proceeds going straight to the Poppy Appeal. The idea behind it is to allow Muslims to have a unique way to commemorate all the soldiers lost in the war, but why is it needed in the first place? Surely all faith groups can simply wear a poppy badge?
Why do Muslims need the poppy hijab?
“We’re very open for Muslim people to carry on wearing the poppy,” says Tabinda. “It’s just another way to commemorate the soldiers. It’s not to replace the way that’s already being conducted. I feel very proud of wearing it.”
But it isn’t just to give Muslims a new way to celebrate Remembrance Day – the goal is for it to help educate the wider public about the role of Muslims during WW1, and to quash anti-Muslim prejudice.
Only three years ago, a group calling itself ‘Muslims Against Crusades’ burned a poppy on Remembrance Sunday and shouted ‘British soldiers burn in hell.’ It caused national outrage, and it’s acts like these that Tabinda wants the public to be able to distinguish as extremist, and not the views of most British Muslims.
“A lot of Muslims are very positive and it’s a very small number of people who have such extreme views,” stresses Tabinda. “It’s a real shame that someone steps out of line and does something extreme. Any negative or bad act generally creates negative perception of people. I think it’s really about going out there and trying to find out what the masses believe.
“I think many Muslims celebrate Remembrance Day, I think yes there’s a handful that don’t, but that’s across the spectrum. There are many non-Muslims who don’t mark Remembrance Day with a poppy. There are many that really commemorate all the soldiers we lost, regardless of their faith.”
It’s to take attention away from extremists
Sughra Ahmed, President of the Islamic Society of Britain, agrees: “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. It’s also a way for ordinary Muslim citizens to take some attention away from extremists who seem to grab the headlines.
“This symbol of quiet remembrance is the face of everyday British Islam – not the angry minority who spout hatred and offend everyone.”
The poppy hijab is being launched today, 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.
It was Tabinda’s desire to spread this message to as many people as possible that led her to focus on the hijab – a headscarf worn solely by women- and not a male item of clothing, or even a gender-neutral one: “The male equivalent would be the hat. Not many people wear the hat regularly unless they’re going to the mosque. It wouldn’t generate the same exposure as a hijab. We had to be strategic.
A model wearing the poppy hijab
It’s all a matter of opinion
“It’s a strong message we’re trying to put out there so people really need to see it and build curiosity and ask questions.”
She hopes that the poppy hijab will create an open dialogue, where non-Muslims will approach women wearing the scarf, and ask them questions about it, and build relationships. But is she worried that it will backfire, and perhaps lead to more prejudice, or be rejected by other Muslims?
“We’re hoping not, but it’s only natural,” she says. “It all comes down to matter of opinion. Over time people have become very experimental with the hijab. As far as I can remember, people have been wearing patterned ones. We feel more comfortable in trying different things. As a nation we’re very fashionable now. We like to keep on trend.
“[During a photo shoot] passers-by stopped to say we really like [it]… All the models that we used were Muslims and they absolutely loved it and said they’re looking forward to purchasing it. My friends and family, they’re all really eager to buy one and wear it.”
Tabinda, too, is personally glad to wear the scarf. “I have been wearing [a hijab] since I was very young. So it holds a very special place in my life. It helps me keep connected. Apart from my headscarf I’m very modern. It keeps me rooted and grounded.
“I felt very proud wearing [the poppy hijab]. It’s a way to say I’m proudly British and Muslim.”
It’s educational all round
Although the hijab is marketed directly at Muslim women, she also hopes that non-Muslims will feel comfortable buying the scarves and wearing them in different ways: “It doesn’t have to be worn on the heard. We expect people to be creative with it.”
As a budding fashion designer, she hopes that the poppy hijab will now give her a head start on the rest of her career, and help her achieve her dream of working in sustainable fashion. Designing more Muslim clothing isn’t a path she feels strongly about.
“I know I’m Muslim but it’s something that’s never appealed to me, my designs are mainly mainstream fashion. This is the first project I have designed that’s specifically for Muslims. It’s not something I really hope to delve into.
“I really want to revolutionise the fashion industry, to make sure we always conduct ethically.”
But in the meantime, her goal is for British Muslims to embrace the poppy hijab, and use it as a way to commemorate the 1.6 million Indian and Muslim soldiers who fought in the war: “I hope the headscarf gives British Muslims a new way to mark Remembrance Day, and also raise money for the Poppy Appeal. It’s quite educational all around really.”