Northampton man given New Year's Honours list award for years of bringing communities together across UK

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'I'm really honoured and humbled'

Years of working to bring communities of different faiths together across the UK has resulted in an award from Her Majesty the Queen for a Northampton man.

Imran Chowdhury has been given a British Empire Medal (BEM) for services to community cohesion in Northampton as part of the New Years Honours list.

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The 60-year-old has gone from being a Bengali refugee as a boy in 1971 to becoming a vocal advocate of Bangladeshis, Muslims and social inclusion.

Imran ChowdhuryImran Chowdhury
Imran Chowdhury

"I'm really honoured and humbled. It was a pleasure to accept it as an award coming from the Queen is the most aspirational thing that anyone in my position could get," he said.

Imran has worked tirelessly for the Bangladeshi community across the country for more than a decade, according to his nomination.

His work covers community cohesion, integrating the Muslim youths to other faith groups, organising and supporting events for Muslim youths to join the armed forces and police and actively promoting integration.

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He delivers motivational speeches for young people within Northamptonshire and around the country as well as writing for national and international newspapers.

Imran regularly appears on chats-shows, interviews on ethnic television channels and on local and national radio shows.

He works closely with the interfaith forum that helps encourage youth and children to learn about different religions, cultures and beliefs.

Imran has been proactively promoting the ideas of importance of anti-extremism and inculcating a sense of how to de-radicalise.

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"I want to give my community the idea that this is their country, the UK is their country and we have to be involved and integrated with the culture," he said.

"We have our own culture but the integration will make Britain a stronger place to live. That's how I work and what drives me."

Imran believes his passion for charity comes from his experience as an 11-year-old child having to flee his home during the Bangladesh Liberation War to India.

"What I found in 1971 when the Muslim Pakistanis were killing Muslim Bengals, we went to the shores of India which was predominantly Hindu," he explained.

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"To my amazement, they embraced us with open arms and literally saved our lives so when religion was dividing us, it's the humanity that brought us together."

Imran and his family, without his brother who died as a Bengali freedom fighter after being tortured, returned to their homeland to restart their lives again from scratch after West Pakistan surrendered.

He moved to London in 1990 and married soon after before relocating to Northampton in 2003 as he wanted to leave the city and enjoy the countryside.

"I'm really into nature and Northamptonshire is very underrated I think, I find the landscape and rolling countryside absolutely fascinating," he said.

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All of the charitable work has been done in Imran's spare time as he has had a variety of jobs over the years, including sales and marketing manager for Tilda, restaurateur and journalist.

He has no plans to stop either: "I'm 60 but I think I've got another innings in me to keep providing a role model for Bengali youths and any youths as I never had one growing up.

"I want to give them a sense of belonging and give back to the community to make themselves formidable and take them away from gangs and knives and extremism."