Stamford Hill mosque trustee Eusoof Amerat shares story of his journey from Burma to Britain with $3 to his name
PUBLISHED: 18:10 21 March 2017 | UPDATED: 17:02 22 March 2017
Eusoof Amerat, a veteran trustee of the Masjid-e-Quba mosque, tells Emma Bartholomew about his journey from Burma to Hackney
"It’s easy to start despising people for being different. For saying look at the way they eat, the way they talk and dress"
“When I look at my hand and my five fingers, none of them are the same, but we need them all,” says Eusoof Amerat.
“Each one of our fingers is unique but they are all important and they all work together. It’s the same with our community – we need to show solidarity.
“It’s easy to start despising people for being different, saying: ‘Look at the way they eat, the way they talk. They don’t dress like us. They don’t walk like us.’ That creates hatred. We all need to be able to live and work together, and support each other.” As a trustee of the Masjid-e-Quba mosque in Cazenove Road, 70-year-old Eusoof sits on the Muslim-Jewish Forum and promotes cohesion between faiths through the friendships he has built with local rabbis and vicars.
He was born in Burma, then part of the British Empire. At 21, he fled the military junta there to come to the UK with his parents and siblings. He only had $3 to his name.
Back in Burma, uni places were being withdrawn from people whose parents weren’t born in the country. When Eusoof lost his place to study medicine, his father – whose was not Burmese by birth – said that was the final straw.
Eusoof remembers: “After 1965 it became very scary, in the sense that you never knew what was going to happen next. Some of our relatives there were sent to prison and we didn’t even know which prison they were taken into. No one dared open their mouth.”
It was a “great relief” to be in Bolton, where they moved to be near friends, and he started work in a factory. But plans changed when other friends came to visit.
“They said: ‘Come to London – this is where you should be living,’” he said. “My mum and dad went to Southall and stayed for a few days. The sun was shining and there wasn’t much rain, so they said we had to prepare and go to Southall.”
Soon they moved to Hackney to be closer to where a small Burmese community lived.
Eusoof, who has one son and four grandchildren, became chair of the Masjid-e-Quba mosque in 1986, running it in his spare time while working as a BT engineer.
Now retired, he spends his spare time volunteering not only at the mosque but for various community organisations and is a governor at the Tayyibah Girls School.