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‘A pioneer of our time’: Abdul Momen, Camden community campaigner and anti-discrimination activist, dies aged 81

PUBLISHED: 10:14 13 February 2020 | UPDATED: 10:20 13 February 2020

Abdul Momen would recite lines of the poet William Blake, who was the subject of the activist's unfinished PHD. Picture: Ansar Ahmed Ullah

Abdul Momen would recite lines of the poet William Blake, who was the subject of the activist's unfinished PHD. Picture: Ansar Ahmed Ullah

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A Camden grassroots activist who spent his life fighting racial discrimination and supporting under-represented communities has died aged 81.

The father-of-three fought for the rights of Bengali residents in Camden. Picture: Ansar Ahmed UllahThe father-of-three fought for the rights of Bengali residents in Camden. Picture: Ansar Ahmed Ullah

Professor Abdul Momen was born in Bangladesh in 1938 - then part of the British Empire - and tirelessly campaigned for the rights of the borough's marginalised after he moved to the UK.

While in King's Cross in the 1970s and working for the Camden Committee for Community Relations Council, the father-of-three helped hundreds of people, in particular Bengalis, rally against racist violence and ensure their rights to welfare payments were respected.

At that time, Bangladeshi workers in the catering industry often suffered deprivation without recognition or support, and Momen argued forcefully and successfully for remedial action by the local authorities.

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He worked tirelessly with Camden Council to ensure better access to housing and in 1984, following the death of a Bengali woman and her two children from a fire in a bed and breakfast, he organised an occupation of Camden Town Hall in protest.

His enthusiasm for activism and desire to fight for the marginalised knew no limits.

Momen initiated one of the first Indian restaurant cooperatives, the 'Last Days of the Raj', and helped set up the Bengali Workers Action Group in 1976 which led to the establishment of Surma Community Centre in Robert Street. He worked with lawyers over families' immigration issues and lobbied the Inner London Education Authority to find school places for children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Momen went on to live in Kentish Town and teach youth and community work at Avery Hill College, Greenwich University, and London Metropolitan University, where he studied.

Ansar Ahmed Ullah, Altab Ali Foundation secretary, paid tribute: "He will be missed for his humour, his gentleness, his intellect, his commitment to social and racial justice and his humanity."

Momen died on January 31 from dementia, with his funeral held on February 4. He is survived by his wife, son, two daughters and two grandchildren.


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