British Asia News Network
London, April 16: “If you are determined and you want to do for the good of the people and you work for it then I don’t see any reason what so ever that you would not succeed”
Councillor Arshad Mahmood the Mayor of Brent in person, he is humble and down-to-earth, with a huge passion for doing more, helping more, interacting with his staff team at the Civic centre and his community in Brent. I had the chance to visit the Mayor’s Parlour at the Civic centre and get a snapshot of who this man is over afternoon coffee. Last year he was elected to be the Deputy Mayor of Brent which is a role he had for a year. Then May 2018 he became the Mayor of Brent “I was absolutely delighted to be the mayor because it’s a very prestigious and honourable job and I was very please”.
All London borough Mayors are chosen by their colleagues or elected, and the role of a Mayor has many folds. He promotes the Borough culturally, socially and economically. He chairs the full council meetings that take place every second month. At the same time he chooses two charities that he would support. “The two charities I have chosen are Sufra North West London and the READ Foundation. This provides free education and up keep children in the most remote parts of the world. They both are great charities and they are doing excellent job”. The Mayor Arshad tell us about his story to come to the place he stands in today being a British Muslim Mayor with a Pakistani heritage.
I was born in Pakistan a place called Jhelum I studied in the local primary and secondary school and a the age of 14 I came to the UK. My parents were here from 1961 and I joined them in 1967. Since being in the UK I joined the local secondary school called John Kelly at the time now called Crest Academy. I followed up with college in Brent, I did my GCSE’s at the time and I wasn’t able to excel beyond that unfortunately, I’ve lived in Brent since 1967 and in the ward that I represent, Dollis ward. He started working very early and although he didn’t succeed at first perseverance saw him through to the end, a strong personality trait of Asians who migrated here in the 60’s and 70’s. I started working as a social worker 30 years ago. I was doing what I could do in my capacity at the time I realised I could do a lot more and so then I decided to stand for council in 2010 unfortunately I didn’t make it and I lost by 200 votes at the time. In 2014 I stood again and I succeeded. The reason for standing for the council was because there are opportunities that you can work harder and help more people. As Mayor what prominent changes have you made to Brent? Having become Mayor last year I decided to have much more interaction not just with the public but also with staff at Brent Civic Centre. We have 2000 staff and all interaction is normally between emails and phones, we only talk electronically. So I decided to visit with the leader of Brent council Cllr Muhammed Butt and chief executive Caroline Downs every floor of our building and met every staff member, they were absolutely delighted that we made the effort to meet them.
The other thing we did was meeting the people of my borough; it’s on the top of my agenda. I have gone out there out in the borough out of the borough promoting theborough and meeting the people of Brent and it’s a wonderful experience. In our borough the average function attendance for a Mayor is anything between 5-700 engagements in a year at various events. As Mayor I’ve decided to invite people to my parlour, members of the public, businesses, organisations and community groups to meet us have a cup of tea and engage with us. People have taken it so enthusiastically. This is something different I wanted to do. We want to appreciate what people do.
Sitting and talking with the Mayor I learn quickly that Brent is a proactive borough they believe in engaging with the community. Theycall Brent as one borough and the Mayors badge says forward together and that moto the Mayor says “is very appropriate as we want to go forward together with the people of Brent”. Brent is the most diverse borough in the United Kingdom and “we are very proud of this” says the Mayor. Given the facts that there are 150 languages spoken in Brent, people from every country of the globe live in Brent, the borough has every religion and faith practiced. With a smile the Mayor says “this make us very proud we have everyone living in great harmony and we are proud of this and this makes us a very unique borough”.
How does one become a Mayor?
United Kingdom is a wonderful country, there are opportunities for everyone, people are treated equally fairly and the opportunities are for everyone, it is for the young people to take it, not be pessimistic but be optimistic. If you want to be someonein any field if you are determined to work hard you will succeed one day.
In the borough of Brent the opportunities are for everyone, we treat everybody fairly and we like to see all our communities progressing moving forward. Becoming a councillor is the first step of coming in to the political system, so I would say to the young people that it is a wonderful thing to do to help our communities and our people by becoming a councillor. Work with the people in the party and make your way forward, stand for councillor and help the people in your boroughs in your wards. In fact we encourage young people to take part in the political system and take part in the local government and as a councillor you can excel you can become MP’s lords etc. There are wonderful opportunities for all communities and within the Asian communities there are lots of mayors and councillors and we need more of them so they can represent the communitiesthat they belong to as well thecommunities that they live in.
The very inspirational talk led us to take a minute to think about the world we live in and the sad injustice which happened in New Zealand a few weeks back.
The terrorist attack in New Zealand how has that affected your community and has Brent put in measures to make sure the community is not attacked
This was a tragic and a very sad event, 15 lives being loss through one person’sterrorist activity. It’s the one of the first one sin new Zealand history, we all condemn it, all fair minded people condemn this, at the same time such tragic events can bring out the worse in us however tempting we cannot lower our standards at all times, at all cost we must preserve our common sense and our composure, our empathy, and our compassion. By doing that we can spread the good word of being and living in harmony with each other. Our sympathies and our condolences to the families andpeople living in New Zealand. I also want to mention that the people of New Zealand have shown perfect humanity to victims’ families and Muslims generally. The people are around the world have been touched by the primeminister of New Zealand, she has gone out of her way to support the victims’ families an quick to take action about the gun crime. She’sbeen wonderful at her job as prime minister. Here in Brent we are very saddened by the event, we should show compassion and stand together at this time.
Generally the people of Britain are very tolerant very friendly caring and respectful to each other and that is what we must try to maintain. So the answer lies in standing united against racism andislamophobia against antisemitism and that is the way forward and I hope we always try to promote that. If we are together they cannot divide us. Communitieswant to live together and they are very tolerant of each other and live in harmony. What is your message for young people? Young people must feel optimistic especially the Asian youths, I sometimes find that they are pessimistic they would say oh look this can’t be done because I’m Asian or I am not white because people discriminate against us. Discrimination maybe there, however it is not that you cannot achieve something, you just choose a goal work hard for it be determined and go for it you’ll succeed look at people in front of you look at me, my educational background is not of a graduate however I worked hard and I tried to get to a place this was my ambition to become a councillor and serve the community then become a Mayor. I achieved it not because I was brilliant but because I worked hard and I was determined, with the help of my colleagues who accept if you are doing something well they appreciate it and reward you. I say to the youth be optimistic work hard be determined and you will achieve things.
What is your message for the community?
This is a wonderful country the indigenous population are verytolerant towards the immigrants, we have come here to make our lives better and the opportunities are there. I think Asians are very successful in this country because they are hardworking people, and in every walk of life either academically or in businesses people have excelled sowell. Its something to be proud of. It’s also our privilege to be here you are British nationals you have equal rights, which you don’t find in other countries. People think America is the land of opportunities I say there is no place better place than the UK. Everyone can excel here, live in peace andharmony and children can have a good education.
With the local people being so helpful and neighbourly my advice to ourAsian community is engage yourself with the local people, be part of this society, integrate, try to be social try to look after your neighbours regardless of who they maybe.Don’t stay in your cavy hole, come out of it, think out the box speak to other people, once you speak to people you break the barriers, by looking at you people don’t know what you are thinking about, what your belief is. Once you open up people you will give a positive response, so you need to integrate be positive and you will get positive reactions back.
At the time when people came to this country from other countries such as India, Africa Caribbean, no body spoke English and locals helped them get around, communicate but 50 years on, we should really be better than that and people expect us to be better than that as we are born and bred here. I think it’s about time we integrate ourselves.
What does the mayor of Brent do in his spare time?
Firstly there are so many engagements for a Mayor to attend events, normal procedure is whoever would likea Mayor to attend they write in to the Mayor’s office with a request, as long as I am free I will go. However we work seven days a week, there is no weekend when you are a Mayor. Whenever there are spare moments I love to spend it with my fourgrandchildren who live with me. I also I like to socialise with friends and go out for a meal when we can, I love watching TV and especially nature programs like Our Planet and when you watch them you need to wonder how beautiful nature and our planet is and that’s how we should keep it.
The Mayor Arshad was certainly an inspirational person; he touched on topics of peace and harmony, moving forward together as a community, respecting each other and integrating as an Asian and how to succeed in life through hard work and sheer determination. I hope our readers aspire to achieve their goals whatever they maybe.