EVERY year since 1919, we British have observed a two-minute silence at 11am on November 11, originally to pay homage to the dead of the Great War. It marks the date and time when the 1918 Armistice which ended the conflict came into force.
In 1939, the official commemoration ceremony was moved to the second Sunday in November – the Sunday nearest November 11 – which is now called Remembrance Sunday. On that occasion, a two-minute silence is also observed, now remembering the dead of all our nation’s wars.
The remembrance ceremony is one of our most sacrosanct traditions, a rare occasion when we can come together as a nation. The silence is a uniquely powerful gesture, at once meaningful, moving and humbling. Anyone who has stood, head bowed, among the crowds at the Cenotaph in Whitehall, or joined their own community at a memorial on a village green, will attest to that. In an age when so many of our once-cherished traditions and values have been eroded or trashed, the silence still holds a special, revered place. Who would dare dishonour or defile it?
I fear those disturbing questions may now arise following a message posted on X (formerly Twitter) by a Muslim activist called Dilly Hussain, who describes himself as a journalist and ‘a British-born Bangladeshi’.
In it, he convolutedly tries to relate Remembrance Sunday to the current Israel-Gaza conflict, saying: ‘We are expected to observe 2 minute silence on Remembrance Day. The defeat of the Ottomans in WW1, the colonisation of Palestine by the British Mandate and the 1917 Balfour Declaration is when the idea of Israel was actualised. There will be a resounding rejection of this silence this year and for many years to come.’
Notice the careful wording and phrasing. There will be ‘a resounding rejection’ of the silence, he tells us. Does that mean it will be interrupted? By whom? Where? Hussain does not elaborate, although I’m sure he personally has no intention of participating in any such reprehensible action.
His rant was superbly rebutted by Laurence Fox on X. He told him: ‘You are not expected to do anything. You are expected to be tolerant of those who do. These are the traditions of our nation and our remembrance. If you don’t like them. Leave.’
Well said, Laurence. But Hussain seems unlikely to take that advice and move somewhere more in tune with his beliefs. Of late, he has been too busy making inflammatory remarks. On October 29, he posted a video on X of an airport in Russia’s Dagestan region being stormed by pro-Palestinian protesters looking to attack people coming off a flight from Israel. ‘This is the kind of welcome ALL Israelis should be receiving at the airports of Muslim-majority countries,’ he wrote.
Okay, we may dismiss Hussain as a stirrer and a loudmouth with what seems to be an angry, confused take on the world. Maybe he should seek guidance of some sort. As far as I’m concerned, he can take a running jump. But how incredible, how bloody infuriating, it is that we should possibly have to fear for the integrity of one of the most solemn moments in our national life. However, this is the lamentable pass we have come to in this country, thanks to supine politicians and useless police.
Next weekend, like millions of Britons, I’ll be attending my local remembrance service. Woe betide anyone who tries to interrupt the two-minute silence in our neck of the woods. They’ll get a ‘resounding rejection’, to use Hussain’s words. And it won’t just be verbal.