First Muslim mayor in Barking and Dagenham ‘proud’ to serve community
PUBLISHED: 17:00 22 May 2017
The borough’s first Muslim mayor will focus on “making people happy” in his year in office.
Cllr Abdul Aziz enjoyed a packed mayor-making ceremony on Friday as he took on the figurehead role for Barking and Dagenham from his predecessor, Cllr Eileen Keller.
“It was an excellent day for me, all my friends came,” he said. “It was like a wedding with Pakistani and English food,” added the 64-year-old, a councillor for Barking’s Gascoigne ward since 2010.
The father-of-five was born in 1953 in Kuthiala Sheikan, a small town halfway between Islamabad and Lahore in north-east Pakistan. He was raised by his sister after losing his mother at the age of four, and grew up in a family of land owners.
In search of adventure he headed to Denmark in his mid-twenties, where he set up a number of businesses and met his wife Najma, now 54. The family then moved to Barking and Dagenham in 1997 to get the best education for their children.
“Barking and Dagenham has changed a lot since then, there’s been a lot of development,” reflected the St Ann’s, Barking resident.
Cllr Aziz says his main focus as Mayor will be supporting the British Heart Foundation and DABD UK as his charities of choice.
“My hobby is making people happy,” he explained. “I feel I’ll be the best mayor I can be if I can do more social work and charity work and help people.”
The polyglot, who speaks eight languages including Danish, German, Punjabi and Urdu, also hopes to hold a festival for Eid-al-Fitr – celebrating the end of Ramadan – for the whole community, regardless of religion.
“I want it to be for everyone,” he said. About fasting in his first month as mayor, he added: “I’m used to fasting so it’s fine. The main thing is it gives us more opportunity to understand the experience of people who are poor, who don’t have any food.”
Cllr Aziz is supported in his role by two mayoress daughters, Iqqra and Hinna Abdul, and his consort son Shoaeb.
“All my family want to support me, I wouldn’t be mayor without my family,” he said, adding: ”I’m proud of representing the best borough in London.”