Woodmansterne fete's Help For Heroes donations under fire
12:14pm Thursday 17th May 2012 in News
Organisers of a village May Queen fete have come under attack for choosing to support a charity that helps wounded soldiers.
Woodmansterne May Queen Fete has been a tradition since 1966, but the decision this year to choose Help for Heroes as the main recipient of their fundraising on the village green on May 7 has prompted an angry protest.
Mohammad Siddique condemned the charity for helping soldiers get back to the front line and said he was contacting local MP Crispin Blunt to inform him a number of Muslim groups are now considering an online petition designed to force a Commons debate on withdrawing its charitable status.
He said: "My family and our local Muslim community were disappointed to see that the Woodmansterne May Queen committee have seen fit to publicise their Bank Holiday fete by adopting the Help for Heroes as their nominated charity.
"It is, of course, cynical and absurd to claim that Help for Heroes is 'non-political' and 'simply wants to help'."
"It is a straightforward fundraising device designed to rehabilitate injured British soldiers and, wherever possible, return them to the front line.
"It is equally misleading for Help for Heroes to describe these men and women as ‘volunteers’ - they are uniformed soldiers contracted for wages to do the bidding of their government.
"Writing before the event, we hope that the children of Woodmansterne enjoy their day. At least unlike the children of my own home town - they will not face the possibility of shelling or cluster bombing by ‘heroes’ to whose country they have never posed a threat."
Help for Heroes was launched in 2007 to provide better facilities for British servicemen and women wounded since September 11, 2001 and has so far raised £135m.
In June 2010, Prince William opened an £8million Help for Heroes Rehabilitation Centre at Headley Court, near Leatherhead, which plays a vital role in helping badly injured servicemen recover.
Sharon Cousins, of the Woodmansterne May Queen Committee, whose daughter was crowned this year, said the choice of charity had nothing to do with politics.
She said: "Help for Heroes is not the only charity, every year we agree a national charity as a group.
"In the past we have chosen cystic fibrosis and Macmillan.
"We have a member of our family who served in the forces in Afghanistan.
"It wasn’t a political decision; we look at all the charities.
"It was an amazing day where we made a significant amount for charity.
"The last thing we’d want to do is offend - it’s about a good event for charity."
Just over £2,000 was raised at the event, with half going to Help for Heroes and the rest going to local charities.
Help for Heroes refused to respond to Mr Siddique's points, claiming they were "too political".
But a senior British Legion organiser, who wanted to remain anonymous, rejected Mr Mohammad's attack on the charity.
He said: "It’s not political - service charities collect every day.
"They are above politics. We’ve got a number of Muslims serving in the British army.
"When a soldier signs-up they are not making a political stand they are doing it for freedom and democracy."
Mr Blunt said his office had not received the letter from Mr Siddique, which he described as “nonsense”.
He strongly backed the work of Help for Heroes and said: “This is not representative of the views of the Muslim community and I have never met a constituent who has raised these views.”
But a spokesman for Kingston Mosque said: "This is a very difficult and emotive issue.
"In terms of charitable-giving, our humanity extends to all human beings who suffer loss and injuries for whatever reason, without exception.
"Muslims give lots of money in charity and charity is an important part of the Muslim faith.
"The use of the term 'hero' or 'villain' is unnecessarily problematic in this context because it is a value-judgement. What makes someone a 'hero' or a 'villain' is very much dependent on your politics.
"Such terms venture into those difficult areas where charities should not go.
"This is hugely problematic for those who wish to donate money to help their fellow human beings on the one hand but do not want to be supporting British foreign policy on the other, which they see as highly questionable to put it mildly."
What do you think? Should Help For Heroes be considered a charity, or is it a political organisation?
Whatever your view, use the form below to let us know...