Sunday, May 28, 2006

Bangladeshis in London

I lived in London from 1975 to 1977. Those were dark days for Bangladeshis (indeed, all immigrants) in London. Racism was rampant and economically the Bangladeshis inhabited the bottom of the food chain.

Two weeks ago I visited London as part of a business delegation. I had some meetings in Brick Lane and got to re-visit some of the "slums" I remembered from earlier days. Boy have things changed!

Bangladeshis (specially 2nd and 3rd generation) are now an upwardly-mobile group in the UK. Brick Lane thrives with rushing young people running their own businesses.

Not only do Bangladeshis own over 20000 restaurants in the UK, they sometimes co-opt other cuisine and give it a Bangladeshi taste. Eg, "Perfect Fried Chicken", a Bangladeshi-owned chain, takes the traditional Doner Kabab (Gyros) and fries it with chilis and Bengali spices to turn out a Bangladeshi Doner Kabab. I thought a good Doner Kabab could not be improved but these guys proved me wrong.

Bangladeshis hold many high-profile positions in the UK. For example, Irene Khan, the chief of Amnesty International, is from Bangladesh. So is the new mayor of Tower Hamlet Borough. The Qureshi family is probably a record-breaker in having three elected officials, called "Councillors", in London. And of course, Anwar Choudhury, the British High Commissioner in Dhaka.

In the (rather fat) book "Probashir Katha", Nurul Islam chronicles how the Bangladeshis - most of them from Sylhet - arrived in the UK. For example, Bangladeshi sailors fought alongside the British in the First world war and are mentioned in War Memorials in London. During the 1970s, several Bangladeshis were killed in racist violence.

But the persistence of this community - particularly in educating their younger generations - has paid off. I congratulate them on their success.

A signpost on Tower Bridge pointing to Banglatown:




A park in memory of Altab Ali, killed by racists in 1978:

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

With the recent call by the US & UK governments to ban Bangladeshis in their countries, I guess the only place for Bangladeshis is " BACK TO BANGLADESH " ... happy trip back

OneBlood said...

yes, anonymous. that time of the month is it? How can you ban a people. It's like Ireland and Scotland banning English people for the things that were done to them. Grow up and stop stirring racism like them or is that the only thing you know. Where ever Brits like you go on holiday, you leave a bad impression. Like in Dubai, Germany, Spain, etc etc etc.

Anonymous said...

Why dont u give ur Name u shit head.

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