Making it to British mainstream life

Once known for their restaurant business in London, British-Bangladeshis are increasingly carving out a place for themselves in mainstream British society.

Published : 3 Feb 2015, 06:13 PM
Updated : 3 Feb 2015, 07:03 PM

The British Bangladeshi Power and Inspiration (BBPI) publication highlights people who have transformed their lives and made their presence felt in the UK.

The 2015 list was launched in Dhaka on Tuesday after the BBPI’s first launch in London.

“There are a lot of success stories to share. Our intention is to let Bangladeshi people know about those successes,” journalist Syed Nahas Pasha, who was among the panel of judges, said at the launch at a Dhaka hotel.

Pasha has been living in the UK for 40 years and edits influential London-based Bangla-language weekly Janomot.
The list highlighted talents in 20 categories including business and enterprise, innovation, public intellectuals, media, art and culture, celebrities, civil and public service, and sport.
This year, they awarded the first Bangladeshi “full-time” judge in Britain, Khatun Sapnara, as the “person of the year”.
“This is to recognise her hard work,” Abdal Ullah, founder of the BBPI, said.
Ullah and Ayesha Qureshi founded the initiative with the publication of the first list of the 100 most influential and inspirational British Bangladeshis in January 2012.
Ullah has extensive experience of working with London’s strategic bodies and communities while Ayesha is a lawyer with a leading international law firm.
“It is an opportunity to educate people with the inspirational stories of British Bangladeshis,” he said.
“If our effort inspires at least one, we’ll feel that we have achieved something,” he said.
Ullah said their aim was to acknowledge and celebrate the hard work and efforts of the pioneers, leaders and role models who helped to change the perception of Bangladeshis in the UK.
Acting British High Commissioner Mark Clayton recalled his memories of working with many of the British Bangladeshis in the foreign office.
He said he knew some of those featured in the list. “I went to the same school as Mockbul Ali, a good friend. And I’ve worked closely with Anwar Choudhury (former British High Commissioner in Dhaka) too”.
“Every story is truly inspirational. I can think of no better testament to the strength of the ties that bound our two nations,” Clayton said.
He cited political ties and people-to-people contacts between the two countries and said the UK had been “a strong supporter” of Bangladesh from the beginning.
After his release from prison in 1972, independence architect Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman flew first to London.
He then arrived in Dhaka on a Royal Air Force plane arranged for him by the British government.
“Our strong political ties with Bangladesh have continued ever since,” the diplomat said.
“It’s good to see that political figures from the Bangladeshi community feature heavily in this year’s list,” he said.
The list featured the British Bangladeshi Westminster hopefuls Tulip Siddiq, Rupa Huq, Anawar Babul Miah, Sadik Chaudhury and Marina Ahmad.
“Either, as aspiring UK parliamentarian candidates, or established politicians, their engagement in UK politics means we can be assured of close political ties between Bangladesh and the UK for many years to come,” the acting high commissioner said.
It is estimated that about half a million British-Bangladeshis live in the UK now, some of whose ancestors went to the UK before World War I.
Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher