Saturday, 4 June 2011


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
"Asian Mr Leicester" dies
One of the first Asians to settle in Leicester has died at the age of 93.
Abdul Haq arrived from India in the 1930s, decades before the big influx of the 1970s.
He was a co-founder of Leicester's first mosque, in Sutherland Street.Mr Haq died of heart failure and pneumonia on Wednesday.
His son, Zuffar, said: "He was very much an Asian Mr Leicester. We are very proud of him."
Zuffar said his dad had followed in the footsteps of his own father, Ali Mohammed, who came to the city in 1919 to find work in the emerging centre of the textile industry.
However, it wasn't until 1938, aged 20, that Abdul joined a community of about half-a-dozen Indians. He worked as a door-to-door salesman.
Zuffar said: "He was one of the few Asian faces in the city and people regarded him as a bit of a curiosity.
"People didn't know anything about India. He was a source of information about a far-off place – a window on the world.
"People were always stopping him in the street, shaking his hand and inviting him to dinner."
During the Second World War, Mr Haq worked in a munitions factory, in Tudor Road. He was also an air-raid warden.
He returned to Punjab in 1958 to visit his mother, who told him to stay and find a wife.
He married Kishwar Sultana and they had their first child, Adbada, before returning to Leicester in 1959.
At that time, the city's small Muslim community had to travel to Birmingham to worship.
So, in 1965, Mr Haq and his friends bought a house in Sutherland Street and turned it into the city's first mosque.
He became a traffic warden in 1972 but quit after six months.
Zuffar said: "That didn't suit him because he had to give tickets to a lot of his friends.
"In one case, he ended up paying half the fine because he liked the chap so much."
Mr Haq went on to become a security guard at Marks & Spencers, in Gallowtree Gate, where he spent the last 20 years of his working life.
Kishwar died 17 years ago and Mr Haq leaves four children and eight grandchildren.
Malik Salim, chairman of the Sutherland Street mosque, said: "I got to know him very well. He was very active in the community."

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