By Grahame Anderson

Syed Jamal Miah will be remembered not just as a pillar of the Bangladeshi community, but as someone who contributed greatly to society as a whole in the city of Sunderland across the decades.

The businessman and community leader passed away following a stroke in late September at the age of 80. He does however, leave a legacy to follow on Wearside. He was in fact, one of the first Bangladeshi born people to move to the town – now a city of course. The vast majority of Sunderlands Bangladeshi community can trace their roots to the village of Syedpur. its people are descendants of a pious Muslim saint, who settled in the region 750 years ago.

Arriving With A Vision

Arriving from Kidderminster it wasn’t long before his vision for both business and the people in his locality began to shine through. Along with the late Mohammed Abdul Martin, he established the oldest existing curry house in Sunderland back in 1974. The Moti Raj restaurant quickly developed an outstanding reputation for quality, still enjoyed to this day.

A great believer in family and helping people he was also instrumental in the emergence of Sunderland’s first Mosque in the Chester Road area more than 40 years ago. It’s just as popular and important to the community as ever in the 21st century. What’s more his driven personality played a key part in establishing the city’s first Bangladeshi International Centre in 1999. It carries an outstanding reputation.

Clear Aims

It’s aim and clear purpose was to meet the needs of the local Bangladeshi community, also acting as a focal point for the Bangladesh community at source but open to everyone. In effect, it provided a safe, secure, well managed, attractive and convenient meeting place for the Bangladeshi and wider local community in the Hendon area to meet and engage in activities.

It’s manager Abu Shama explained: “I’ve known him for 47 years and he was always a strong pillar of the community as a whole.

Mr Jamal Miah was among the first people to realise we needed a centre for advice info and a platform. He was also the first Chairman of a steering group dedicated to its creation.”

The present Chairman of the centre Syed Khalid Miah was employed by Jamal at The melting Pot restaurant in Maritime terrace, after moving to Sunderland in 1973

Proud Of Wearside

Jamal Miah, who lived in High Barnes with his wife Syeda, was always very proud of being part of the Wearside community and the fact Bangladeshi children go to school in the city. He made a point of letting others know it was wonderful to see Bangladeshi families being raised and successful businesses being established on Wearside.

On his arrival there were just 50 individuals in Sunderland from a Bangladeshi background – there are now more than 7,000. Asian Sunday has learned he would always be available to offer advice and even employment to those new to the area. For many he’d be the first point of contact.

Hafizul Islam is one of his seven sons, currently working at the Moti Raj in Church Lane and also Secretary at the Bangladeshi centre. He said: “He was all anyone could ask for in a dad and enjoyed a fulfilling life in good health.

After he died we were all sat talking together about him and we all said we hope we can end up as good as my dad was. His is a legacy that will live on in the hearts of Wearsiders.”

As a father of nine and with 28 grandchildren this was a man well respected by everyone from all backgrounds. He’ll be sorely missed by the Bangladeshi community he loved so much.