Altab Ali Day marked to oppose hatred and intolerance in East London

Ansar Ahmed Ullah : Residents, community leaders, voluntary and anti-racist organisations came together at Altab Ali Park on Saturday 4 May to commemorate the death of Altab Ali in 1978.

Tower Hamlets council hosted the ceremonial event, which included wreath laying and speeches by community leaders.

Altab Ali, a 25-year old leather garments worker had recently arrived in the UK from Bangladesh prior to his death. He was returning home from work in nearby Brick Lane when he was fatally stabbed near the park in Whitechapel that now bears his name. His racially motivated killing mobilised communities in Tower Hamlets to take a united stand against hatred and intolerance and marked a significant turning point in East London’s race relations.

The event started with floral wreath laying on Martyrs monument by representatives from Tower Hamlets that included Mayor of Tower Hamlets, Speaker of the Council & other Cllrs, Altab Ali Foundation, Altab Ali Trust, Bangladesh High Commission and actors from The Altab Ali Story.

A one minute silence was observed for Altab Ali and other victims of racist attacks followed by a short performance by actors from the Altab Ali Story in front of the Shahid Minar.

Speeches were given by a young woman who grew up in East London, Tanha Quadi, Ansar Ahmed Ullah, Secretary of Altab Ali Foundation, Rafique Ullah, Chairman of Altab Ali Trust, Counsellor S M Jakaria Huq from of Bangladesh High Commission and Mayor of Tower Hamlets, John Biggs.

The speakers stated that Altab Ali’s senseless murder forty years ago was the catalyst for a mass anti-racist movement in the community. Altab Ali has left a legacy of hope, unity and harmony, which all people in Tower Hamlets and beyond can live up to.

John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets Council, said, “The 41st anniversary of Altab Ali’s terrible murder, is a poignant reminder of how important it is to take a stand against all forms of hate and intolerance and the need for our communities to come together to oppose racism.”

Other events on the day included the staging of the heart-breaking story of the death of Altab Ali at the Brady Centre. The play oscillated between a village in Sylhet, Bangladesh and a flat in East London and dramatized the historic moment when Altab Ali’s mother was given the devastating news. The airmail letters to his family back home with descriptions of life in a foreign land were keenly anticipated but everything changed with the arrival of an ominous envelope from one of Altab Ali’s friends. Following the performance playwriter Julie Begum of Swadhinata Trust took part in a question and answer session.

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