Shah Abdul Majid Qureshi

Shah Abdul Majid Qureshi (Bengali: শাহ আবদুল মজিদ কোরেশী, also known as Moina Meah (Bengali: ময়না মিঞা, was an early British Bangladeshi restaurateur and social reformer.[1] He is notable for being involved in the early politics of British Asians and pioneering social welfare work for the working-class diaspora in the United Kingdom.[2] He was the first ever Sylheti to open up a restaurant in the United Kingdom, and his restaurants were one of the earliest Indian restaurants at the time.[3] Another one of his restaurants, India Centre, often provided facilities and was a location where important meetings were held by the India League attracting the likes of Subhas Chandra Bose and V. K. Krishna Menon.

Haji Shah

Abdul Majid Qureshi
শাহ আবদুল মজিদ কোরেশী
Born(1915-09-25)25 September 1915
Died2003 (aged 87–88)
NationalityBritish Bangladeshi
Other namesMoina Meah
CitizenshipUnited Kingdom, Bangladesh
OccupationBusinessman, social worker
OrganizationIndian Seamen's Welfare League
Known forOne of the early founders of the British Bangladeshi community
Home townEast London
Parents
  • Abu Abdul Majid (father)
  • Umm Abdul Majid (mother)
FamilyQureshis of Patli

Early lifeEdit

Qureshi came from a traditional Bengali Muslim family claiming descent from the Arab tribe of Quraysh.[4] He was born in the Patli village of Jagannathpur in the Sylhet District of the British Raj's Assam Province on the 25th of September 1915. He was the eldest child and had two brothers and a sister. The family residence in Patli was known as Quresh Bari and his father owned some land. However, his father's main goal was to educate his children which was extremely expensive leading to him sell nearly all his land. This led to Qureshi being well educated during his youth. Qureshi decided to become a lascar after being inspired by many other Sylheti men and moved to Calcutta in 1934. He believed that seafaring was a historical inheritance of Sylhetis due to many Sylhetis being descendants of foreign traders and businessmen.[4] During his stay in the port city, he attempted to jump on ships going to the United States. In 1936, at his early 20s, Qureshi successfully attempted to jump on a ship on its way to New York City.[5] However, he failed but ended up at the Tilbury Docks in Essex.[6]

CareerEdit

Qureshi's first job in the United Kingdom consisted of selling chocolates. After getting into contact with other British Asians, he began working in South Asian cuisine restaurants such as Bengal Restaurant in Percy Street. After two years of living in the United Kingdom, Qureshi opened his first restaurant, Dilkush, which was located in Soho's Windmill Street.[7] This was the first restaurant to be opened by a Sylheti person.[3] The restaurant, located near Tottenham Court Road, was destroyed by a bomb in 1940.[8]

On 9 May 1943, Qureshi founded the Indian Seamen's Union with a purpose of promoting social welfare of working-class British Asians alongside his acquaintance Ayub Ali Master.[9][10] Based in Christian Street, the organisation ensured the rights of Asians and made it easier for them to communicate to their family abroad.[11] On 14 July 1943, the first meeting took place, in King's Hall, Commercial Street, London.[12] The meeting attracted mostly Bengali Muslims but dozens of Europeans were also present. Later, the organisation was renamed to the Indian Seamen's Welfare League to sound less political and Qureshi was made president of the welfare league.[13]

The following year, Qureshi opened another restaurant off Charlotte Street which came to be known as the India Centre. The India Centre was frequently visited by British Asians, in particular politicians, who held important communal and political meetings there. Qureshi also assisted and attended V. K. Krishna Menon's India League and Surat Alley's Hindustani Social Club meetings.[2] He was also involved with the Indian National Congress and was in contact with the likes of Subhas Chandra Bose.[8] Later on, he became a member of the London Muslim League.

In 1946, Qureshi returned to Sylhet, where he got married and lived there for over two decades before returning to the United Kingdom with his family in the 1970s.[14]

LegacyEdit

His sons continue to own South Asian cuisine restaurants in the United Kingdom.[15]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "Shah Abdul Majid Qureshi - Making Britain". Open University.
  2. ^ a b Ahmed, Faruque (2008). Bengali Journals and Journalism in Britain (1916-2007). p. 33.
  3. ^ a b Adams, Caroline (1987). Across Seven Seas and Thirteen Rivers. London.
  4. ^ a b Fidler, Ceri-Anne (2011). Lascars, c.1850 - 1950: The Lives and Identities of Indian Seafarers in Imperial Britain and India (Thesis). Cardiff University.
  5. ^ Ansar Ahmed Ullah (2010). Bengalis in London's East End (PDF).
  6. ^ Bald, Vivek (2013). Bengali Harlem and the Lost Histories of South Asian America.
  7. ^ India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras
  8. ^ a b Glynn, Sarah (2015). Class, Ethnicity and Religion in the Bengali East End: A Political History.
  9. ^ Glynn, Sarah (2015). Class, Ethnicity and Religion in the Bengali East End: A Political History.
  10. ^ Ahmed, Faruque. Bengal Politics in Britain. p. 35.
  11. ^ Visram, Rozina (2002). Asians in Britain: 400 Years of History. London.
  12. ^ Ahmed, Faruque (2018). বিলাতে বাংলা সংবাদপত্র ও সাংবাদিকতা (১৯১৬ -২০১৬) (in Bengali).
  13. ^ Sumita Mukherjee; Rehana Ahmed (eds.). South Asian Resistances in Britain, 1858 - 1947. p. 79.
  14. ^ Reuven Kahane; Shalvah Vail (1999). Roots and Routes: Ethnicity and Migration in Global Perspective.
  15. ^ Oral History. 18-20. University of Essex, Sociology Department.