|A field of common poppy (Papaver rhoeas)
........ to this.
|Royal British Legion paper poppy
Each year, when I was in Pasir Panjang English School (1951-1957), around November, we were so delighted to be given the above paper poppy - in exchange for a donation placed into a tin. In those days the poppy had four petals, but no leaf. It was one of those so-called freebies which kids loved to get. It was just like those cake and drink coupons you get on Sports Day. Mind you, even the smallest donation of five cents meant a lot to us because a plate of mee siam cost fifteen cents at the school tuckshop. Did we care, or were we told about the significance of that poppy? No. But it marked the beginning of my love for the poppy. My whim of running across a field of common poppy has yet to be realised although my dream of my favourite kampung flower, the bunga tahi ayam ( lantana camara) blooming in my garden did come true.
After the Napoleonic Wars of the early 19th century, fields which had been trashed during very fierce fighting - between the French on the one hand and the English and various other European countries on the other - were transformed into fields of red poppies growing around the bodies of the dead soldiers. This was seen again in the fields of Flanders and Northern France during the 1914 First World War, a bitter bloody battle that was described as "a war fought by lions and led by donkeys." Almost 37 million perished. However no lesson was learnt as the Second World War (1939-1945) followed, not much later.
These two "World Wars" which started in Europe were basically tribal wars between rich, powerful, imperialist European nation states ( and Americans) , no different from the "civil wars" raging in the continent of Africa and in the Middle East today. The underlying causes and the nature of these wars were very similar except that the two "World Wars" dragged in the rest of the non-European world. It's not to say that the "civil wars" during the late 20th and early 21st century developed in isolation. This time it also involved the Western world in terms of their " interferences", the gains they could make from selling weapons of destruction and profiting from playing one side against the other. However, there are no poppies growing in the fields of Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Rwanda, the Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Somalia, Libya, Egypt and most recently Syria, - to mark the bloodshed! (As for the opium poppies grown in Afghanistan and parts of Southeast Asia, they are of the Papaver somniferum variety)
This Poppy Appeal in November has however brought criticisms from those who feel that the occasion has been used to justify wars of aggression by Great Britain against other nations - where there was no threat of an actual invasion like during the First and Second World Wars. The most telling view was expressed by a 90 year old survivor of the Wars, Harry Leslie Smith. On wearing the poppy, he wrote ......
"...... it will be the last time that I bear witness to those soldiers, airmen and sailors who are no more, at my local cenotaph. From now on, I will lament their passing in private because my despair is for those who live in this present world. I will no longer allow my obligation as a veteran to remember those who died in the great wars to be co-opted by current or former politicians to justify our folly in Iraq, our morally dubious war on terror and our elimination of one's right to privacy. "
Read : http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/08/poppy-last-time-remembrance-harry-leslie-smith
This year about one million Muslims will be wearing (and donating ) Remembrance Poppies to demonstrate their patriotism to Britain, their country of adoption.
Read : http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/one-million-muslims-will-wear-remembrance-poppies-despite-extremists-opposition-say-researchers-8924933.html
The community had been castigated (and threatened) for not participating in the Poppy Appeal, for mocking Remembrance Day and Armistice Day because some amongst them refused to support the establishment and the soldiers who had invaded and caused so much bloodshed in Muslim countries like Iraq and Afghanistan. By the way, for many years, Irish Catholics also boycotted the Poppy Day Appeal because of the British Army's involvement in the 'Troubles' in Northern Ireland but understandably they were not pariah-rised like the Muslims.
So, as far as Muslims are concerned, all's well that ends well for Remembrance Day - at least in Great Britain. Their loyalty and patriotism is unquestionable.
What about Malaysia? Will we have a Bunga Raya Appeal to remember the sacrifices of our soldiers during the Second World War, the Emergency, Confrontation and Lahad Datu? There was no question that they died defending their country - their multi-cultural country! Should we remind our children by asking them to wear the paper or plastic bunga raya each year and make a little donation to support the veterans and the family of those who died? We, the schoolchildren of the 1950s, did it when we were ruled by the British Empire.
Just 10 cents from each student for each year will go a long way. It's not too much to ask, is it - from all Malaysian children and all Malaysian adults? If Malaysians are committed enough to various causes by buying and wearing pink and red and green ribbons, surely pinning a little bunga raya on your shirt is no great sacrifice. It would truly be a wonderful demonstration of patriotism, integration and unity if all our religious organisations, political parties, NGOs, Media and other concerned Pressure Groups will participate in a one-minute-silence to remember "our glorious dead" in the centre of Kuala Lumpur, Georgetown, Kota Kinabalu, Kucing and every city and town up and down the country.
Pardon? Did I hear someone say, " Forget it, this is Malaysia. This is not the UNITED Kingdom or GREAT Britain!!!" Oh well! One can dream, can't one?
|Operation Daulat -Lahad Datu : Bearing the body of fallen soldier Ahmad Farhan Ruslan in Kota Baru, 13 March 2013. (Image from New Straits Times)