Tributes paid to 'pioneering' Muslim councillor who served Barking for 20 years
PUBLISHED: 15:00 25 November 2019
Tributes have been paid to a "pioneering" and "much-loved" former councillor who served for more than 20 years.
Mohammad Fani, who died in September at the age of 80, represented Abbey ward until 2010 following election in 1989.
Members of Barking and Dagenham Council stood for a minute's silence in Barking Town Hall's chamber on Wednesday, November 20, as a mark of respect for their former colleague.
Cllr Darren Rodwell said: "Back in the day this was not a tolerant and respectful society for people who were new comers of different faiths and backgrounds.
"But there are a handful of people, and ex-Councillor Fani was one of those, who pioneered the change that had to happen not only in the borough and community, but also in this organisation."
Mr Fani gained a 634 majority from 1,158 votes when first elected on June 8, 1989. He went on to serve Abbey ward for 21 years besides becoming deputy chairman of the planning committee and the safer and stronger community select committee.
In 2010, he was made an honorary freeman of the borough in recognition of his outstanding service to the community.
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Cllr Cameron Geddes, recalling the period when Mr Fani was first elected, said: "Gradually, there was a realisation here and elsewhere that if you don't stand ethnic minority candidates because some people might be racist, then you are just handing over victory to racists."
Cllr Tony Ramsay described Mr Fani as an "amazing father" who as a widower raised "the most beautiful family".
The councillor recalled one of his "profound statements": "I am a Labour councillor who is a Muslim, and not the other way round".
Members heard how Mr Fani was one of the few people who had worked with previous Barking MPs including Tom Driberg, Jo Richardson and the current Labour Party candidate, Dame Margaret Hodge.
"Mohammad Fani was a great colleague, friend and father. We will always remember him," Cllr Ramsay said
Cllr Muhammad Saleem remembered "a much-loved figure" who was highly respected and always wanted to do his best for the community.
"Mohammad Fani was warm, generous and a caring person who will be missed sorely by his family, friends and the community," Cllr Saleem said.
Mr Fani died on September 13. More than 600 people attended his funeral at the Al Madina Mosque in Barking.