ONE of the first Pakistanis to set up shop in Southall became Ealing’s first Muslim mayor this week.
Councillor Mohammad Aslam was hailed by colleagues across the political spectrum in a rare show of unity at Ealing Town Hall on Tuesday night.
The Southall businessman and Norwood Green councillor said he always dreamed of becoming mayor and was ‘excited’ to finally take up his robes and chains.
Starting life in a small village in Pakistan, Mr Aslam was forced to give up his studies despite being top of his class to help support his family. He said living in Pakistan ‘was tough’, and when he was just 19 years old departed for the UK.
Mr Aslam said: “I reassured my parents and teachers I would be back soon to complete my education. I came to Heathrow with £5 in my back pocket, but was told this was not enough to reach my final destination of Glasgow and in Southall I ended up, which became my new home.
“The UK is my home and my children’s home and I feel honoured to represent the people of Ealing.”
The grandfather says he was the first Pakistani to open a shop in Southall in the 1960s, a greengrocer’s in Beaconsfield Road. A cash and carry followed in King Street and his company quickly expanded with shops opening in Leicester Square and Marble Arch. He continues to own the largest white goods company in west London.
Besides business, Mr Aslam was the founding member of one of Southall’s first mosques, has helped organise Eid celebrations in the area for several years, has been a governor at Beaconsfield Primary School for 15 years and raised money for numerous charities including building a new school in his home village.
Ealing Council leader Julian Bell said it was a ‘privilege’ to nominate the new mayor, but joked how his Labour colleague first entered politics as a Conservative before defecting to his current party 14 years ago.
He added: “Councillor Aslam is universally popular among his colleagues in this council because of his personal qualities and his willingness to serve and the humble way he serves.”
The outgoing mayor, Councillor John Gallagher, thanked his mayoress, good friend Pauline Melson, and the outgoing youth mayor, Jahanara Chaudhry, for her hard work after the riots.
“It has been like an enjoyable holiday I would not like to leave, but it would be lovely to go home,” he said. “The high points were the opening of Acton Carnival, Her Majesty’s lunch, receiving black poplars from David Attenborough and receiving the Irish president. I think I did my best to promote the community after the riots.”
Mr Gallagher raised more than £15,000 for the Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI), Epilepsy Action and Community Activities Project Ealing (CAPE).
Samaritans and Dementia Society will be two of the mayor’s charities this year, with a third to be decided in the coming weeks. The new deputy mayor is North Greenford Councillor Shahbaz Ahmed.