New mayor Jilani Chowdhury with mayoress Nilu and children Isdhani, Ijtihad and Nuzhat
Published: 11 May, 2012
by PETER GRUNER
TWENTY years ago Jilani Chowdhury was a newly-arrived poor immigrant living above an Indian restaurant in Holloway Road, Archway.
This week, at a glittering event at the town hall, Jilani and his wife Nilu were crowned Islington’s first Bangladeshi Mayor and Mayoress.
A councillor in Barnsbury ward for six years and a school governor, Jilani, 47, who lives in Tufnell Park, is a father of three children, including 13-year-old Ijtihad, who plans to become Britain’s first Asian Prime Minister.
Prior to coming to Britain in 1992, Jilani was involved in the Bangladeshi student movement, campaigning for the removal of the military dictatorship and the restoration of democracy.
Today, he is an older people project manager in Camden, where he has worked for 10 years.
Speaking last night (Thursday) at the mayor-making ceremony, he said: “I want to support old people during my year.
"They represent a section of the community who have made great sacrifices to society during their lives.
"Many suffer from the breakdown of the family and are isolated. They deserve our respect.”
There are an estimated 6,000 Bangladeshis living in Islington and Jilani sees himself as a role model.
“I want to see more people from the ethnic communities involved in politics. It is the only way to bring about change,” he said.
Both his parents are now dead but when he and Nilu first arrived in the borough they stayed with her father above an Indian restaurant in Holloway Road.
That restaurant is now called The Red Rose and a regular meeting place for Labour supporters.
His chosen charity, for which he will raise money during the year, is Holloway-based Manor Gardens Welfare Trust, which celebrates its 100th anniversary next year.
The trust provides facilities for all ages, including a pre-school group, a mental health centre and a stroke support group.
“They do some wonderful work,” Jilani said, “and we don’t often hear about it."
Jilani became involved in local politics when he arrived in Islington, joining the Labour party and supporting MP Jeremy Corbyn as a translator.
“I’m always concerned about the low levels of participation in elections and have a passion for democracy and representation,” he added.