TORONTO – Don Baker, a member of the Woodbridge branch of the Royal Canadian Legion whose father is a D-Day veteran, watched quietly as hundreds of Ahmadiyya Muslims kneeled in prostration during afternoon prayer on Friday.
Each member of the congregation had a red poppy pinned to their lapel, given to them by young children dressed in maroon blazers who were busy outside the mosque’s front door, handing out poppies and collecting money.
Baker, 67, was at the Baitul Islam mosque in Maple, Ont. for the fourth annual poppy campaign by the Canadian Ahmadiyya Muslim community.
The group held the annual “Muslims for Remembrance Day” campaign after Friday prayers in mosques and community centres in nine major Canadian cities, to raise funds for veterans.
“It means a lot to us,” Baker said. He has attended every year since the campaign launched in 2011.
“Our purpose is to remember them, and to have more and more people signifying that they do remember means a lot to the legion and to the veterans who are still around,” he said.
A statement from the Ahmadiyya Muslim community notes that this year’s campaign holds particular significance: “With the recent attacks on our soldiers on Canadian soil, this year’s Remembrance Day takes on even deeper meaning.”
Dr. Aslam Daud, national vice-president of the community, says the poppy campaign is being promoted “more” to stress on loyalty to one’s country.
“One of the teachings of Islam is that we are there to guard our countries,” he said.
He also stressed that the recent deadly attack on Cpl. Nathan Cirillo in Ottawa was carried out by a “mad man” who was “Muslim for a very brief period.”
“His actions do not reflect the actions of Muslims, his actions do not reflect actions supported by Islam,” Daud said.
Baker pointed out every religion has extremists.
“We all pray to one God,” he said.
More than 19 million poppies have been distributed so far this year, a million more than in 2013.