More than one million Muslims will be sporting poppies this weekend to mark Remembrance Sunday despite the bitter opposition of Islamist hardliners, research disclosed tonight.
Some radical voices argue that poppy-wearing, ceremonies to commemorate the fallen dead and the one minute’s silence on Armistice Day are all forbidden to devout Muslims.
But a new survey shows large numbers of people from Pakistani and Bangladeshi backgrounds, who comprise about two-thirds of the Muslim population, support the sale of poppies.
The think-tank British Future said the findings equated to some 800,000 poppy-wearers from these two groups alone and calculated the overall figure for the Muslim community to be well over one million.
It released the research in an effort to counter charges that British Muslims are unpatriotic because of protests against UK troops returning from war zones.
Although they acknowledge many Muslims are uncomfortable about military action in Afghanistan and Iraq, several major mosques have set up poppy stalls this week. They argue that thousands of Muslims were killed in the First World War serving in the British Indian army.
The radical Islamist Anjem Choudray retaliated this week by denouncing supporters of Remembrance Sunday as hypocrites, bootlickers and sycophants and said Muslims who sell poppies today will “burn in hellfire tomorrow”.
Sunder Katwala, the director of British Future, said the survey findings showed Mr Choudray’s views were regarded as nonsense by ordinary Muslims.
He described the results as a “crushing blow to anti-poppy extremists”.
Mr Katwala said: “As they quietly join in our solemn national acts of remembrance, how sick and tired British Muslims must be of the divisive image that the noisy extremists present of their faith.”
The survey found 62 per cent of ethnic minority Britons said they would wear a poppy on Sunday. That included 69 per cent of people of Indian heritage, 53 per cent from Pakistani backgrounds, 46 per cent of Bangladeshi heritage, 74 per cent of Black Caribbeans and 55 per cent from Black African background.
There are no figures for white Britons although researchers believe they would not be significantly higher than for other groups.
Dilwar Hussein, Chair of the charity New Horizons in British Islam, said: “These figures show most ordinary British men and women of Muslim background are just like the rest of us when it comes to Remembrance Day. As they go about their daily business as British citizens we should acknowledge this quiet yet profound form of integration.
“My grandfather served in the British army and was a prisoner of war in Asia. Like a million other British Muslims, I feel it is important to remember and honour the sacrifice of those who fell while defending us.”
The figures emerged as the Islamic Society of Britain (ISB) joined imams and the London Faith Forum this week to urge more British Muslims to wear poppies and support tributes to the war dead.
The ISB says on its website: “Remembrance Day will be taking place throughout the country with many different approaches of appreciation. We urge and encourage you to become involved by participating in your local areas.”
It says: “It is easy to forget that millions of Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and people of other minority faiths have served in the British Armed Forces across two World Wars, facing down the hatred of Nazism and helping keep Britain safe in its direst hours of need.”