A MUSLIM who was subjected to “daily harassment” growing up in the ‘70s has set up an exhibition to change people’s perception of South Asians.
Shahid Mahmood, 48, of Harrow Road in Leytonstone, said as a child being called the P-word became “part of our everyday life”.
The father-of-four who grew up in Brick Lane in Tower Hamlets has curated an exhibition titled ‘Far from the Western Front’.
Mr Mahmood, who moved to the UK from Pakistan when he was two, says the aim is to highlight his countrymen’s contribution to the British Army during the First World War.
He said: “I remember walking past the National Front newspaper stand and people would shout things at us. People would use the P-word.
Left to right, Asif Shakoor, Canning Town councillor Bryan Collier, Rafiq Patel and Shahid Mahmood at the exhibition.
“After school I would rush home so I wouldn’t get harassed. Maybe I was wrong for doing that and I should have gone out instead.
“If you ask most people what kind of a contribution people from South Asia made to the British Army in WWI they would say none and I think it’s important to educate people about this.
“If you do GCSEs or A Level history you are not taught about people from other countries contributing to the British Army. I remember taking O Level history and there were pictures of lots of white faces in the trenches.”
The exhibition features photos and stories about South Asian soldiers in the First World War. Over 1million Asians fought alongside British troops in the war.
The Western Front, an area covering Belgium, north-east France and western Germany, was the main theatre of war.
Mr Mahmood, who works as an employment specialist, said he was shocked to hear racist comments last summer after not hearing them for years.
He said: “Last year after the Brexit vote I went to Brentwood in Essex and I felt like I was back in the ‘70s because of the things people were saying. Discriminating against anyone is upsetting and I thought we had done lots of work to overcome that. It is quite painful.
“I feel a responsibility to educate people in this country about this because people say things like you are coming here taking our jobs.
“The whole point of the exhibition is to give people information because they are only reacting to what they know.
“I grew up here but I still love my homeland. When I go to Pakistan I am primarily a visitor but when I’m in Britain I feel at home.”
The exhibition will run until Monday, March 27, at Minhaj ul Quran Community, Education and Cultural Centre in Romford Road, Forest Gate. The official closing ceremony will be on Saturday, March 25, at 4pm.