By: Daniel Holland
NEWCASTLE’S first non-white lord mayor made an impassioned plea on Friday (22) for the North East to take a stand against the evils of racism.
Habib Rahman told other civic leaders from across the region that “people like me have suffered far too much”, during an event to mark charity Show Racism the Red Card’s annual Wear Red day of action.
The Labour councillor became the first black, Asian, or minority ethnic (BAME) person to take on the city’s highest ceremonial post earlier this year, having moved to Tyneside from Bangladesh in 1985 at the age of 12.
Just last month, Coun Rahman was subjected to “sickening” abuse outside a mosque in the West End.
His father, Azizur, was brutally killed in a racist attack in 1977, stabbed by a customer in the Wallsend takeaway where he worked.
In a forceful and emotional speech at Newcastle Civic Centre on Friday, before a Show Racism the Red Card flag was raised outside the council headquarters, Coun Rahman said: “For far too long, people like me have suffered far too much – verbal abuse, physical attacks, experienced injustices and inequalities, and lost nearest and dearest loved ones.”
Speaking to a crowd that included former Newcastle United players John Beresford, Olivier Bernard, and John Anderson, other mayors from around the North East, and Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Kim McGuinness, he added that racism is “the biggest act of terrorism”.
He added: “A form of terrorism that has haunted and terrorised communities, divided communities and nations, created ‘us and them’ among us, deprived and stripped off basic human rights and liberties for many of us, alienated and ostracised us, prevented many hundreds of thousands and millions of us from living lives as fellow human beings with equal access and equal human rights.
“For centuries and decades it has destroyed too many lives and literally killed far too many of us in the individual and collective act of terrorism. This terrorism must stop now.”
Coun Rahman said afterwards that he was “truly moved” by the support he had received since speaking about the incident outside his mosque in September, in which youths hurled verbal abuse and aimed fireworks at worshippers.
He added: “That confirms how the North East is, or rather can be, in stamping out racism. The problem still remains, sadly, but I am still very positive about how individuals and organisations are working together to eliminate racism and stop the perpetration of it in the first place.
“The brutal reality is that racism remains, it is lurking about, and it should not be.”
Bishop of Newcastle Christine Hardman, who also spoke at the event, said that the North East can take “proper pride” in the way it has combated racism but “we cannot be complacent”.
The lord mayor announced that Wear Red Day would be marked each year in Newcastle with an event to bring together the region’s leaders to stand against racism.
(Local Democracy Reporting Service)