The name Altab Ali has become a widely known symbol of resistance against racism generally and is associated with the struggle for human rights specifically in defence of the Bangladeshis in the UK after the community mobilised in May 1978 to defend itself against racist attacks that were represented in the murder of Altab Ali.
The very future of the Bangladeshi community in the UK was at stake when widespread fear gripped people following Altab Ali’s murder. Within a few weeks, another Bangladeshi in the East End of London was also murdered.
Ishaque Ali died in a racist attack in Hackney, the inner city borough next to Tower Hamlets where Altab Ali had been murdered. Just under a decade earlier, in Tower Hamlets, a Bangladeshi called Tosir Ali had become the first known and recorded Bangladeshi victim of racism in the last half of the 20th century.
It was the murder of Altab Ali that was the trigger for the first significant political organisation against racism. That organisation soon became a movement against racism around the East End of London.
That was the first such movement since the 1930s when the Jewish people had been targeted by the fascists in Britain. Because of the 1978-79 political movement, historic consequences followed and a number of institutional changes took place to weaken the racist hold on certain parts of public and community life in Britain..
Today’s phenomenal identification and association of the collective social and community image of the UK Bangladeshis with Tower Hamlets the East End of London Borough has everything to do with the campaign against racism that took place after Altab Ali’s murder.
It is a universal message of human rights and tolerance that that movement gave out and it will be a fitting recognition of that to rename the Aldgate East station the Altab Ali station.
Along side the campaign to rename Aldgate East after Altab Ali, there are community actions to have a prominent and distinctive memorial after Altab Aki established in the Altab Ali Park. Other memorial and educational symbols and activities to remember Blair Peach and Ishaque Ali and Tosir Ali are also afoot.
Altab Ali station