Sunday, 20 February 2011

BFTF Interview with the Lord Mayor of Nottingham Mohammed Munir (2008).

Back in 2008, the BFTF Radio Show interviewed the then Lord Mayor of Nottingham Mohammed Munir. A volunteer (Joe Sharratt) recently transcribed the interview, which means that we can now post a summary of the good bits! 
BFTF has a policy of saying "thank you" to the volunteers who transcribe interviews with a batch of home made muffins. This seems only fair and BFTF would certainly encourage mosques, community centres and other social organisations to consider whether they show sufficient appreciation of the efforts of volunteers - and also whether they really listen to what volunteers tell them. . . 
So, without further ado:

Q : Lord Mayor of Nottingham, Councillor Mohammed Munir, to start with, perhaps you could give us just an outline on how you get to be the Mayor. I mean how does that work exactly?
A : You start with your own hard work, working within the community, working within the general public. Then you stand for election to be elected as a councillor, through any party or independent. . . . What happens normally is the majority group (in the council) decide whose name they are going to put forward and because they are in power, in a majority, when it goes to the full council automatically that party member becomes the Lord Mayor, so normally everyone votes for the Lord Mayor. No one, you know, abstains or votes against. So that’s how you become Lord Mayor, so you become a councillor first, then the council elects the Lord Mayor.

Q: Is the Mayor quite tied in to the political process of the council? 
A: The Lord Mayor controls the full council meeting with all the fifty-five councillors there and present, not necessarily all fifty-five but that’s the full council. All the major business is debated in there, and Lord Mayor controls and allows people to speak and gives them time to speak and things like that. When you get elected Lord Mayor you are supposed to be an independent person. You shouldn’t do favours to any party, it becomes a civic role, not a party political role and normally all Lord Mayors play fair to each party and give them equal.

Q: One of the roles of the Lord Mayor is to represent Nottingham in terms of diplomatic and economic interests. Can you give some examples?
A: In my year in office I’ve seen many many delegates from different countries and different cities, they come to visit the city like last week I had a delegate from India, from Jalandhar, India. They want to make an educational link with Nottingham and Jalandhar so they came to see New Colleges of Nottingham. Also we have had delegates from China, Germany, America, Canada. The Lord Mayor entertains them, and actually we sell the city to them.
(We used to have) Raleigh, we had John Player, we had Industrial and lace and we used to sell those things. Well what we’ve got left, if not in Nottingham, in England, to sell our brains. So we’ve got a service industry to sell now, so our young generation educating them to sell that to other countries and that’s what we’ve got at the moment, we’ve got Experian which is a big supplier in the city, we’ve got Capital One and their headquarters there, we’ve got the Inland Revenue here and many other service industries which we can provide to them. We’ve still got very highly qualified and experienced engineers in Nottingham, they go out and design things for other people and that sort of thing we can sell to them. The other big thing is education, New Colleges of Nottingham, Nottingham University, Trent University. Nottingham University has now got a campus in Malaysia, so that sort of thing.

Q: How can you help the Muslim Community?
A: Well how can I help the Muslim community? It’s the Muslim community that needs to help themselves, it’s not that I can help, which I’ve been crying time and time... We’ve got to forget our literal differences when the common purpose comes. We stand against each other, if I’m doing something positive and my brother says ‘Well why is he taking lead?’ and stops me doing it. We have to help ourselves, all the whole community together. As far as I’m concerned, I was the first Lord Mayor to celebrate Eid in the council house, nobody was celebrating before so I put my foot down and I said ‘we as a Muslim community, a Pakistani community, a Muslim community, we are the major contributor economically in the city and culturally’. Where our centres are concerned, if there is a little bit of funding I openly say we don’t get together and help this one this year and another one another year, everybody wants a share of the pot and what happens is it’s a little pot and it’s divided into five pieces so everybody gets a slice, but a little slice and no one gets nowhere. It suits those people who are giving you the funding because you get nowhere. There’s five thousand pounds, you get one, I get one and Peter and Iqbal get’s one, so everybody gets one thousand so you don’t get anywhere. Well if we decide OK, you can have five thousand this year, I’ll have five thousand next year, so you can do something...

Q: The final question is a question we ask all of our guests, we’ve put that in as a feature of the show, because of course if you look in the media or look in the press everything is negative negative negative, and of course it would be very easy for us to fill the whole show with terrible news and we try not to do that, so the question that we ask of our guests is what do they think the best thing about the UK, of living in the UK, about their experience of the UK, what is the best thing, and if you ask me I’m going to say the NHS and Radio 4, some people say the weather, and we’re very keen to hear your opinion.
A: Well it’s quite a few things actually. If you see these mass migrations and immigration coming from Eastern Europe or other side is they open for everybody, but why are more people wanting to come to the UK than anywhere else? Because the social life is a lot better than anywhere else in the world, the NHS yes is another thing and it’s very effective, people say no-no, but I’ll say it’s very effective the NHS, and freedom of speech is there for everybody. A prime example is myself, the ward I represent there is hardly any Asian people in that ward, the majority are British people and I’m representing them so you get the chance in each field, whichever field you choose, you do get a fair chance to develop yourself and go forward, so yeah that’s why.

Q: Now I’m conscious you’re a busy man, you’ve got a lot of engagements on your plate and also quite a heavy chain I can see around your neck. Now we talked about this a little earlier in the evening and I’m going to sneak in an extra tiny question, and I asked in front of some of the young children in the Quran class. What happens to the chain, do you want to tell the listeners because I was fascinated to hear this, what happens to the chain, you don’t get to wear it outside your pyjamas, where does it end up every night?
A: Well as soon as I leave here my driver is responsible for the chain, outside when I get to my final destination he takes it off me and takes it to the central police station, and they’ve got a big safe and it gets locked in that safe and it’s there.

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