Having come to Glasgow in 1953 to study as a self-supporting student, I joined evening classes at the Royal Technical College (later the University of Strathclyde), and to earn a living began peddling like most other Asians in Scotland at the time. Soon after my arrival I met Yaqub Ali, who had come a few months earlier. We became friends and often went out together on our peddling rounds in the villages surrounding Glasgow.
Yaqub was very generous even when he was poor, like most early migrants. In later years, as he became a millionaire, his generosity grew with his wealth and he has donated many thousands of pounds to good causes in Glasgow. His two recent major donations have been to promote education, £500,000 to set up a scholarship fund at the University of Strathclyde and £250,000 for deserving students in Pakistan.
Many Pakistanis who had come to Glasgow before the Second World War had built up modest businesses by the 1950s. Some, such as A M Ashraf (1903-1999), N M Tanda (1891-1976) and F M Sharif (1910-1988) extended much-needed financial and moral support to the increasing numbers of newcomers from the Indian Subcontinent.
Most Glasgow Asians lived in the Gorbals, and in order to help them I developed contacts with local politicians, particularly Councillor Jerry O'Sullivan and Alice Cullen (1891-1969) MP. After Mrs Cullen's death in 1969, Frank McElhone, her successor, became a good friend. Sadly, he died suddenly in1982 of a heart attack during an unemployment demonstration. Teddy Taylor, Bruce Millan and James White, and from the1980s David Marshall, Maria Fyfe, George Galloway, Mike Watson and Muhammad Sarwar were also prominent in helping their Asian constituents.
In the early 1960s I helped form the Campaign against Racial Discrimination (CARD) to combat racism. Rev John Harvey of the lona Community, Neil Carmichael MP and his wife Kay, Pat Lally, Susan Singerman, an Auschwitz survivor, and Bob Gillespie, a Trade Union official, joined with Abu Tariq Almadhi, F M Sharif (1910-1988), S S Kohli and Bob Sharma to raise awareness of racism and to campaign against racial discrimination. It worked very effectively until 1971, when it was replaced by Glasgow Community Relations Council, headed by Walter Fyfe.
In 1966, Rev John Harvey asked me to write an "Indian and Pakistani" column for his Gorbals View, to introduce Glaswegians to the culture and customs of their new neighbours. It was this experience, with encouragement from John Harvey, that introduced me to journalistic writing.
In 1964 I had joined the Labour Party at the encouragement of Councillor Tom McMillan (1919-1980), later MP for Glasgow Central. A few years later David Marshall, also subsequently an MP, persuaded me to stand as a Councillor at the 1970 council elections for the Kingston Ward. No one gave me a chance of winning the seat from the sitting Tory. My election agent, the hard-core socialist Harry Selby (1913-1988), who also became an MP in 1974, told me I had been selected because I was neither a Catholic nor a Protestant. Despite this somewhat negative endorsement I gave it my best shot and the voters of Kingston ward gave me the majority.
Once in the City Chambers Bill Gray (1928-2000), whom I had known through my business, gave me a lot of encouragement and advice. I learned from him what being a good councillor requires. He became Lord Provost, 1972-1975, and was knighted for his services to the city.
I served Glasgow Corporation and Glasgow District Council till 1984, then returned to public life as a City Councillor in 1995. During that time Glasgow became a truly multi-cultural and international city. Michael Kelly, Bob Gray and Susan Baird as successive Lord Provosts, and Jean Mcfadden and Pat Lally as Leaders of the Council, did a great job in enhancing the image of the city, culminating in Glasgow's reign as European Capital of Culture in 1990.
My two main public interests over the past thirty years have been the Community Relations Council, which I chaired from 1986, and the Police Service. I chaired the Glasgow Police Committee from 1974 to 1975 and the Strathclyde Police Board since 1999. I have tried to use my cultural background and knowledge of the black and ethnic communities to help the police become more aware of issues of racism and discrimination. In my work I have been privileged to work with Chief Constable David McNee, afterwards Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, the highest police office in the UK. He was one of the finest police officers I have ever met.
Subsequently I have enjoyed working with Sir John Orr who was the Chief Constable of Strathclyde Police from 1995 to 2001. He is a man of great energy and enthusiasm and a police officer of highest calibre. During his tenure the crime rate in Glasgow decreased significantly and Strathclyde Police reached new heights of efficiency and effectiveness.
My community relation work gave me the privilege of working with Rev John Langdon, Walter Fyfe, Maggie Chetty, Jean Mckechnie, Bushra Iqbal, Judith Tankel, Harry Criven, S L Gajree, Matin Khan, Bob Chadha, Hanzala Malik and Mrs Tasneem Karim to name but a few. On the basis of this experience I was encouraged by Dr Robert Miles of the University of Glasgow to write my book The New Scots, launched by Lord Provost Bob Innes (1926-1994) in 1992.
During the Gulf Crisis of 1990, 1 joined with a group of important Christian and Muslim leaders to form the very effective Gulf Reconciliation Group to oppose the invasion of Iraq and promote reconciliation in the Middle East. Prominent among them were Canon Kenyon Wright, Rev John Harvey, Imam Tufail Hussain Shah and Rev Alistair Hulbert.
I always wanted my own community to play a full part in the life of our city, and I was so proud when the project to give the city a splendid purpose-build mosque reached completion in 1984. It cost us £2,750,000. Lord Provost (1975-1977) Peter McCann took a keen interest in the project and helped collect a considerable sum of money from Saudi Arabia. From the Muslim community F M Sharif, M T Shaheen, Yaqub Ali and Rafiq Sher (1938-1997) were particularly active during the construction period, collecting funds to help complete the project.
The dismantling of the Regional Council in 1995, coupled with an unprecedented financial crisis in local government, caused the new city council a lot of problems. Pat Lally's Provostship (1996-1999) was a stormy experience, but we are thankfully now in calmer waters. Alex Mosson has been a great ambassador for the city as Lord Provost and under Charlie Gordon as Leader the council is winning nation-wide respect for developing innovative policies for Glasgow's social and economic regeneration.
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