Bristol to have its first Muslim lord mayor
A LABOUR councillor from Hotwells will become the first Muslim appointed as Lord Mayor.
Faruk Choudhury will also be the youngest person to hold the office at the age of 38 as well as being the first Asian and the first Bangladeshi.
Mr Choudhury, who is married with three young children, represents Easton ward which he has served for nearly six years.
He said: "I'm absolutely jubilant to have been selected.
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"I am jubilant not only for my family but for the multi-ethnic population in the city.
"Bristol is a wonderful place – the best city in Britain – and this is due in no small part because of its diversity and multi-cultural community."
He won his party's nomination to stand as Lord Mayor and he will not be opposed by the other political parties.
He will be installed at the council's annual meeting in May.
Mr Choudhury, who came to Britain as a student when he was 23, was planning to start a law degree at the University of the West of England in September.
But now he will delay the start of his course for a year.
He is a property businessman and previously owned a restaurant in Clifton called the Joy Raj. He is planning to open a deli in Clifton soon with his wife, Shilpi.
Mr Choudhury is hoping to use his year in office as Bristol's first citizen to encourage people, especially among ethnic minorities, to give blood and become organ donors.
He said: "Many people die every year as a result of donor deficiency.
"If I am Lord Mayor, then my wife, Shilpi and I will work across many organisations, encouraging blood donor sessions, especially among multi-ethnic communities as well as becoming an organ donor."
He also promised to ensure that full council meetings are effectively run and work with party leaders and whips to make sure the democratic process is fair and constructive.
One of his jobs will be to chair full council meetings which are held in the council chamber and attended by all of the city's 70 councillors.
But the role of Lord Mayor should not be confused with that of the city mayor, a post which is held by George Ferguson.
The Lord Mayor is a ceremonial post which dates back to 1216 and in which he represents the city at major events and must remain politically neutral.
Mr Choudhury said although he was a Muslim, he would have no problem attending events of other faiths.
He will find himself, for example, attending a number of events in Bristol Cathedral during his one-year term of office.
He said: "I visit churches, mosques and synagogues on many occasions as part of my work as a councillor – this is no problem to me at all."
Mr Choudhury said that the British influence in the Indian sub-continent meant that he had a thorough understanding of western politics before moving here.
He applied to become a member of the Labour Party within days of arriving in England and won the Easton seat for the first time in 2007 by 80 votes.
He successfully defended the seat in 2011 and pushed his majority to more than 400 despite his party's unpopularity at the time.
He has held a number of relatively minor posts on council committees but more recently he has been shadow cabinet member for arts, culture and leisure.
He said that when he first arrived in Bristol, he was inspired by a statue of the Indian humanitarian Rammohun Roy who died in Bristol and which brought home to him the rich diversity of the city.
Mr Choudhury, who always works six days a week, promised: "As Lord Mayor, I will continue working just as hard, engaging myself with as many opportunities as possible to raise the profile of our city."
He will succeed Lib Dem councillor Peter Main, Bristol's first openly gay Lord Mayor. Previously, the post was held by Tory councillor Geoff Gollop who is now a member of Mr Ferguson's cabinet.