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Honorary Fellowships awarded to local politician and businessman

Two leading figures in East End business and politics will be made Honorary Fellows of Queen Mary, University of London at graduation ceremonies to be held later this month.

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Muquim Ahmed
Muquim Ahmed

John Biggs, elected member of the London Assembly for City and East London, and former Labour councillor for Tower Hamlets, will become a Fellow on Monday 13 July, in recognition of his strong support for many of the College’s activities and projects.

On Wednesday 15 July, Muquim Ud-din Ahmed, one of the UK’s top Asian business entrepreneurs, will be presented with his Honorary Fellowship. He was the driving force behind the regeneration of London’s Brick Lane in the 1990’s and remains heavily involved in many community and charitable initiatives and projects in the Tower Hamlets area.

Now in his third term as Assembly Member for City and East London, John Biggs represents some 650,000 people across the City, Tower Hamlets, Newham and Barking & Dagenham.

He will be presented at the ceremony by Vice-Principal of Humanities, Social Sciences and Law, Professor Trevor Dadson, who says: “John has been an extremely active friend to Queen Mary, supporting many of the College’s activities and projects. He has been instrumental in facilitating good relations with the London Development Agency (of which he is Vice Chair) and with the Mayor’s office.

“John understands Queen Mary’s role in east London and the Thames Gateway and is a great enthusiast of the College. His commitment to the interests of those communities living, working and studying in his east London and City constituencies deserves this recognition.”

John Biggs was born in London and grew up in Hampshire. He studied for a BSc honours degree in Chemistry at the University of Bristol, a postgraduate diploma in Computer Science at Birkbeck College, University of London and postgraduate diplomas in Law and Legal Practice at the University of Westminster. He had a varied career before entering politics in local government in the late 1980s.

He lists his interests as transport, equalities, health, local regeneration (especially developing the Thames Gateway and the 2012 Olympics), constitutional reform and the empowerment of regional government.

Over the past 25 years, Muquim Ahmed has garnered success across a range of enterprises, including banking, travel, publishing, catering and property development.

At the age of 26 he became the first UK Bangladeshi millionaire and has been on the ‘Asian Rich List’ ever since.

On receiving his Fellowship, Mr Ahmed said: “I feel deeply honoured to receive such an accolade, this recognition by Queen Mary University proves beyond doubt that the College acknowledges ordinary people in the community who strive hard to achieve in the field of business and other social enterprises. If one has determination and the will to succeed then success is inevitable; perseverance and ingenuity will prevail always."

During the final year of a Physics (Honours) degree in Bangladesh, Muquim Ahmed came to Britain in 1974 to study Production Engineering, but quickly moved into the electrical distribution and wholesaling business.

Following success in his initial ventures, Ahmed switched to the travel business and then into music production, importing Bangladeshi artists and marketing them to the growing Bangladeshi population in the UK.

During the 1990s, he was one of the first to see the potential of Brick Lane as an entertainment hub in the heart of Tower Hamlets’ Bangladeshi community. Brick Lane was the location of Ahmed’s first restaurant, the iconic Café Naz, the first of the ‘modern’ Bangladeshi restaurants. This has been followed by award-winning Café Naz branches in Cambridge, Cardiff, Horsham, Chelmsford and elsewhere. The chain continues to expand.

He has been Chairman of the Bangladesh British Chamber of Commerce for two consecutive terms (2000-2005). Under his leadership, the Chamber became a major force and delivered the much acclaimed Bangladesh Expo 2005.

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