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'Poppy Hijab': A South Asian Diaspora Case Study

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Sam Cresswell

on 20 January 2017

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Transcript of 'Poppy Hijab': A South Asian Diaspora Case Study

The red poppy was taken up as a symbol of remembrance of the First World War. It was largely inspired by McCrae's poem, which you saw before.
Post-colonial attitudes

However, it can be argued that a lineage of colonised ‘otherness’ continues to be appropriated (Ali, Kalra & Sayyid, 2006: 17). This is because during the colonial period a hierarchy was created in which colonial subjects were inferior, seen as primitive and in need of Western transformation.

The poppy hijab can be seen as an example of the continuation of these colonial attitudes as Muslims are ‘othered’ for their religion which might seem in opposition to Western civilisation and therefore they create this hybrid as Muslims are seen to be in need of it.
Look out for these signs:

A word in
blue:
You can find the meaning of the word in the glossary.

: when you see this black book, click on the link to find out more!
The Poppy Hijab
Why some flowers and some head-wear are more interesting than you think.

This exhibit will explore the idea of the controversy around the Poppy Hijab and why it matters in contemporary Britain.

This exhibit will be able to teach you about:
a. The significance of the hijab and the Poppy
b. The history of South Asian migration to the UK
c. The issue of identity in contemporary Britain
d. The controversial issues around the Poppy Hijab
e. How does this all relate to South Asian diaspora in the Britain

We will be taking you around the world for an exciting trip to understand everything in the exhibit!
In Flanders fields the poppies blow...
This is the first line of Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae's poem, 'In Flanders Fields'. Maybe you've heard of it before.

But how does a poppy from Belgium have anything to do with a hijab?
What is a Hijab?

A hijab is a garment worn
on the head by women
from various cultures,
religions and
backgrounds. Some Muslim women wear it as
part of their religion as they believe that they
have been ordered to do so by the Qur’aan (Surah 7:26).
The most prevalent origin of UK hijab wearers is South Asia.

What's the significance of the poppy?
The Royal British Legion, which sells the poppies for its charity, has made this video to explain.
Based here in London, The Royal British Legion began selling and publicising a new poppy hijab in 2014, designed for hijab-wearing women to wear in remembrance of the death toll of WWI.
We begin in a field in Belgium...
In the UK, we first need to get to grips with some culture:
Let's visit London to find out what the Poppy and hijab have in common.
So now we've learned about this fusion of two symbols, we need to travel across the Atlantic. Someone from Jamaica can show us why we should be interested.
This is the late Stuart Hall. He was born here, in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1932. Hall did lots of work on how the symbols we use in our culture are represented, and what meanings they have.

A simple example he gives is a traffic light. Traffic lights are just machines, and the lights are just different colours. But in reality, they're much more than that. They symbolise whether we should stop or go, and actually the meaning we create using traffic lights is very important for keeping us all alive. Imagine a busy intersection with no traffic lights!
(Hall, 1997, p.28)

In the same way, we can use Hall's ideas to think about the poppy and the hijab. The poppy isn't just a flower, but a symbol of remembrance. The hijab isn't just an item of clothing, but a symbol of Islam. As we'll find out, these two objects symbolise lots more than just that...
References
Ballantyne, T. (2006), Between Colonialism and Diaspora: Sikh cultural formations in an Imperial World, Durham: Duke University Press.
Ballard, Roger, (2002), “The South Asian Presence in Britain and its Transnational Connections” and Singh, H. and Vertovec, S. (eds) Culture and Economy in the Indian Diaspora, London: Routledge.
Basham, V., (2016) 'Gender, race, militarism and remembrance: the everyday geopolitics of the poppy'. Gender, Place & Culture, 23:6. Pp. 883-896.
Cole & Maisuria, (2007), '‘Shut the f*** up’, ‘you have no rights here’: Critical Race Theory and Racialisation in post-7/7 racist Britain'. Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies, 5:1. E-Journal.
Dwyer, Claire, (2008) ‘the geographies of veiling: Muslim women in Britain’, in Geography Vol 93 (3)
Hall, Stuart, (1997), 'Introduction', in Stuart Hall, ed., Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices. Pp. 1-29.
Hall, Stuart, (1992), ‘The Question of Cultural Identity’, in Hall, Held and McGrew, eds., Modernity and its Futures. Cambridge: Polity. Pp. 27-68.
Knott and McLoughlin (2010), Diasporas: Concepts, Intersections, Identities, London: Zed. (Ch.5 & 10)
Tarlo, Emma, (2013), ‘Landscapes of Attraction and Rejection: South Asian Aesthetics in Islamic Fashion in London’. In Islamic Fashion and Anti-Fashion: New Perspectives from Europe and North America, edited by Emma Tarlo & Annelies Moors, London: Bloomsbury Academic.
Ali, N., V. S. Kalra and S. Sayyid [eds] (2006), A Postcolonial People: South Asians in Britain, London: Hurst
Jessica Jacobson (1997), Religion and ethnicity: Dual and alternative sources of identity among British Pakistanis, in Ethnic and Racial Studies. 20(2), pp. 238-256.
Tarlo, E. (2007), ‘Islamic cosmopolitanism: The sartorial biographies of three Muslim women in London’, Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body & Culture, 11(2-3), 143-143.
Let's visit a notorious site to think about what symbolism the hijab might have...
New York, September 11th, 2001.
On this date, a terrorist attack by al-Qaeda changed the meaning of the hijab. Al-Qaeda was a group claiming Islamic identity. Their leader declared a 'holy war' against the USA.

The association of terrorism with the religion of Islam meant that the hijab no longer just symbolised Islam, but also violence against America and, by cultural association, Europe.
And in London
London, July 7th, 2005.

4 bombs went off across London, taking 52 lives. Whilst it is unclear whether the perpetrators were acting as a small group or with al-Qaeda, the public perception was reinforced: Islam is a symbol of violence against American and European culture, and hijab is a symbol of Islam.

After the July attacks in London, the number of Asian and black people likely to be stopped and searched
without reasonable
suspicion in London
increased by more
than twelve times from
2004 (Cole & Maisuria,
2007, p. 105).
So what about the poppy? Does that mean more than just remembrance too?
Arguably yes! The poppy is the symbol representing the appeal of The Royal British
Legion, a charity who bill themselves as memorialising the fallen. What meaning
does this language create for
people?
'Designating soldiers as ‘the fallen’, and their deaths as sacrifices, enables mourning
and remembrance to be
separated out from military violence' (Basham, 2016, p. 885).

Basham is saying that the concepts of soldiers, war and sacrifice are separated from the concept of violence. This is done partly through the language the Royal British Legion use.
So what does this all mean for the poppy hijab?

Well, this means that the meaning behind the poppy hijab is not as straightforward as we might think.
It was designed by Tabinda Kauser and supported by the integration think tank British future and the Islamic Society of Britain. She stated that this is a way to show that 'we are proud to be British and Muslim'. (Daily Mail)
Going back to Stuart Hall and the idea of identity.

Stuart Hall states that identities are not fixed but are in transition (1992: 310) which means that individuals are influenced by various factors such as religion, ethnicity, social environment and more which helps inform the choices they make in creating new forms of identity.

Identity

The Poppy Hijab was aimed at a younger British Muslim population. This maybe because according to Jessica Jacobson (1997:239), religion is a more significant source of social identity than ethnicity for second-generation migrants.

For
diasporic
Muslims this means that they see their identity in a wider context that may stray away from forms of identity that their parents often associate with. This creates dual identities and alternative sources of identity which goes beyond the narrow definitions of Islam held by their parents (Jacobson, 1997: 245).

Nadiya Hussain, winner of 'The Great British Bake Off 2015' showing her support by wearing the Poppy Hijab.
Conclusion
We have learned that the Poppy Hijab is a very debatable topic. On the one hand it can be viewed as a positive form of
hybridity
,
merging religious belief and nationalism to form a british Muslim identity. This is to help combat the perceived issues of lack of integration. Also, it can be seen as
Cosmopolitan
in the way that the poppies are a symbol that do not belong to a specific community, they can be accepted by all.

On the other hand, it can be that the hijab, which is usually a religious symbol has become politicised. People who fear and are misinformed about religious symbols, take away the religous aspects of it and therefore a piece of diasporic identity. Also, some see the poppy hijab as a forced attempt at assimilation. Negative stereotypes of Muslims and trying to prove Britishness.
So let's look at some reasons as to why.
Now, let's look at why the Poppy hijab may not be such a good idea

The creation of the poppy hijab can be seen as a step towards creating
homogenous

cultural identities and unifying national identity (Hall, 1992: 311-312). Therefore it can be seen how this may be a divisive strategy towards
nationalism
also.

This critique of identity also crosses to ideas that this is an attempt for Muslims to prove they are moderates and that they belong (Basham & Vaughan-Williams 2013). Therefore this push towards an identity grounded in ‘belonging’ in the host nation creates tension as there is a divide of us and them. This seems to be only removed through wearing one’s identity ‘on their sleeve’.



Ideas about identity are not always a good thing.
"young Muslims are negotiating identities with a charged and contested social and political environment where what it means to be both British and Muslim is subject to critique from both ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders"
(Dwyer, 2008)
Image References
British Muslim Magazine (http://britishmuslim-magazine.com/2014/11/02/poppy-hijab-marks-muslim-soldiers/)
Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Stuarthall.jpg)
Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:UA_Flight_175_hits_WTC_south_tower_9-11_edit.jpeg)
ITV News (http://www.itv.com/news/2015-07-07/t-happened-an7-7-bombings-timeline-whad-when/)
Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Royal_British_Legion%27s_Paper_Poppy_-_white_background.jpg)
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/11988184/Armistice-Day-2015-Great-British-Bake-Off-winner-Nadiya-Hussain-wears-poppy-hijab.html
Daily Bruin (https://dailybruin.com/2016/05/24/muslim-students-to-unveil-truth-behind-stigmas-at-the-hijab-monologues/)
http://www.queen-victorias-scrapbook.org/images/large-images/5-6b.jpg

Glossary
Assimilation
: Fusion of ethnic minorities into the dominant group
Cosmopolitanism
: The idea that everyone regardless of backgrounds and origins, coexist in a shared single community
Diaspora theory
: The exploration of dispersal of people from one place another
Homogenous
: The idea of everyone being a whole, near-identical group
Nationalism
: Patriotism about ones country
Hybridity
: Two different things merged together that form something new
Integration
: The act of combining into a society or group
Sojourners
: Someone who is a temporary resident at a place, usually aiming to go back to where they are from
Chain Migration:
Used to describe when immigrants follow one another to a particular place

These
cosmopolitanism

ideas of Islamic fashion has also helped project Islamic fashion into the mainstream and allowed British Muslim women to use their religion and
diasporic
identity
to navigate through popular culture. One example is of the women wearing a hijab who was used in a H&M ad campaign.
Therefore this fusion of the hijab and poppy can be seen as
hybridity

as what takes place here is 2 cultures merging together to create a new concept that is valuable to the British Muslim
diaspora
. This is because Muslims are learning to inhabit two identities (Hall, 1992: 310). This allows the South Asian
diaspora
to display a
hybrid
form of visible identity where they do not lose their own identities which are valuable to them and without
assimilating
either (Hall, 1992: 310).
If you want to read the poem, click on the link:
http://www.greatwar.co.uk/poems/john-mccrae-in-flanders-fields.htm
Follow the link to learn more about The Royal British Legion:
http://www.britishlegion.org.uk/
Follow the link to learn about this:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-34402568
Number crunch!
Direct Migration
This shows the pattern of direct migrants from South Asia to the UK.

There are various reasons as to why they migrated to the UK but among those migrants were a large number of Muslims.
After World War II, labour shortages opened up opportunities which
sojourners
took advantage of. They took up newly available jobs for themselves and also went out of their way to help their family and fellow villagers to bring them to Britain. The result was an ever-expanding process of
chain migration
.

As we're talking about South Asia, let's look at some facts about South Asian migration to Britain.
Many South Asians had left their home to go to other countries that were occupied by the British Empire. These were countries such as Africa, Jamaica, Fiji etc. They first moved there to work as:
indenture labourers on plantations set up by the British
later many South Asians became contract labourers, using their skilful work to earn money(e.g. craftsmanship)
also starting their own businesses, traders and merchants, choosing free movement

Twice Migration
Islamic
Cosmopolitanism

Emma Tarlo (2007:144) states that this is an example of Islamic
cosmopolitanism
where fashion, religion and politics are interwoven which is used to remove stereotypes and negative images of Islam.

Advocates of the poppy hijab are putting forward this as a way to be
cosmopolitan
by showing progressive thinking through displaying a willingness to engage and use appropriate cultural knowledge provoked by the political situations (Knott & McLoughlin, 2010) that they find themselves in.
Islamic Fashion

With the arrival of South Asian migrants to Britain, their Asian clothes became a definition of their identity which meant that some South Asians downplayed elements of their dress and modified their appearance to suit the West (Tarlo, 2013: 77). A change over time of Islamic and South Asian clothing has helped create an alternative
diasporic
identity and heritage (Tarlo, 2013: 74) which is what we see in the poppy hijab.
Assimilation & Integration

Some may see the poppy hijab as a forced attempt at
assimilation
and
integration
which has been a focal point of government policies post 7/7. Lack of
integration
has been blamed for fundamentalism and segregation in Britain. This can explain why the poppy hijab was backed by the British Future as it is an
integration
think tank. As Steve Ballinger (BBC) states, ‘it is a strong symbol of Muslim
integration
in Britain’. The poppy hijab seems to reflect another policy in which either you are integrated or ‘othered’.
BUT...
Post-colonial attitudes

However, it can be argued that a lineage of colonised ‘otherness’ continues to be appropriated (Ali, Kalra & Sayyid, 2006: 17). This is because during the colonial period a hierarchy was created in which colonial subjects were inferior, seen as primitive and in need of Western transformation.

The poppy hijab can be seen as an example of the continuation of these colonial attitudes as Muslims are ‘othered’ for their religion which might seem opposite to Western civilisation and therefore they create this
hybrid
as Muslims are seen to be in need of it.

There are 2.7 million Muslims living in England and Wales (that is 4.8% of the overall population)

South Asian (Pakistani, Indian, Bangladeshi, other) ‘groups’ make up 4.9 per cent of the population.

That doesn't sound like a lot, does it? But South Asian culture can have a huge impact in Britain, as we are about to discover!
Here's a map looking at some patterns of migration from South Asia to Britain. Don't worry if it looks a bit complicated - let's explore some types of migration, and the facts behind it.
Why not learn more about the history of Colonialism in South Asia: https://15minutehistory.org/2013/01/23/episode-9-the-end-of-colonialism-in-south-asia/
Mass migration only occurred in the late 20th century.

However, there were a few South Asians who arrived in Britain long before this.
For example, Abdul Karim who was an Indian Muslim was adviser to Queen Victoria.
This led to a lot of
sojourners
from South Asia becoming permanent residents in the UK.
However, after these countries had gained independence in the 1960s, rather than taking up the citizenship of the countries they were living in, many South Asians decided to move to another country. For some this was Britain as they saw themselves as British subjects. This is known as twice migration.
Full transcript