Afzal in Parliament, Pakistan and Bangladesh
Afzal in Parliament, Pakistan and Bangladesh

Salam, Namaste, Sat Shri Akaal, Kuzu Zangpo La.

This South Asian Heritage Month, which runs from 18th July – 17th August, seeks to commemorate, mark and celebrate South Asian cultures, histories particularly the intertwined histories of the UK and South Asian communities and how South Asian cultures are present throughout the UK.

As a British Asian, with ties to both Pakistan and Kashmir, I am proud of my rich heritage and culture, which has helped shape British society as we know it today.

This month is an opportunity to celebrate all things South Asian. As an MP for Manchester, I have the privilege of representing one of the most diverse cities, where over 200 languages are spoken. Our sizeable South Asian diasporas add to our vibrant city and local institutions such as the Manchester Museum have been a fantastic advocate and friend in celebrating South Asian culture and arts.

I was humbled to become the first Asian Lord Mayor of Manchester in 2005, an accomplishment which I hope inspired others in the community.

Last year I took my Parliamentary oath in Urdu to honour my father, who served in the British Indian army. The significant sacrifice made by South Asians in the World Wars is under documented and deserves to be included in school curriculums.

When I look back at my journey, I feel fortunate that I had the opportunities to embrace my heritage at every turn, which has been a great source of inspiration and strength.

The contribution of South Asians in the UK has been colossal. From informing takeaway choices (!) to being on the frontline during this pandemic, South Asians have continued to contribute in important ways to British culture and public life.

Whilst the history of South Asia has its painful episodes, I hope the community can learn from it and recognise that our similarities outweigh our differences.

Happy South Asian Heritage Month to all!

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