Tassaduq Ahmed MBE

It was one thing to save the historic house and synagogue at 19 Princelet Street from the wreckers, as a group of Spitalfields enthusiasts managed to do 20 years ago. It was quite another to start it on its course towards becoming Europe's first museum of immigration.

The latter outcome would never have been a possibility without the wholehearted participation of Tassaduq Ahmed. Himself a migrant from Sylhet in Bangladesh, an earlier arrival than most of today's Spitalfields Bengali speakers, he fully associated himself, as a prominent community leader, with the proposed Centre for the Study of Minorities, the present charity's full title, and won the vitally needed support for it from the local community. Tassaduq was the essential link with the representatives of the first settlers in the area, the Huguenots, and of their yet more relevant, in today's world, Jewish successors.

At meeting after meeting the new character of 19 Princelet Street was hammered out - an amalgam of Huguenot master silk weaver's home and workshop, 19th century Jewish house and synagogue and now a place of study and education in the story of Britain's complex immigration-to-integration process. The next step was to win over local government, business leaders and schools, and Tassaduq and the late Rabbi Hugo Gryn performed a splendidly entertaining and inspiring 'double act' at numerous meetings and receptions.

Muslim and Jew, they became close friends as well as joint advocates of 19 Princelet Street's message of toleration. But the poor Jews of Eastern Europe who had lived near-by and worshipped in the beautiful little synagogue built over the garden had moved on and up, as long before had the Huguenots.

Tassaduq was the essential catalyst not only with the new Spitalfields but with people of the influence the infant project needed,like the late Ian Mikardo, then MP for Limehouse, the late Jack Wolkind CBE, then chief executive of Tower Hamlets, and the then Bishop of Stepney, Jim Thompson (now Bath and Wells).

The going has proved hard but Tassaduq's enduring loyalty helped keep the project alive and ensured its survival. It will, when all the hard work bears fruit, be a fitting memorial to his faith in its message, albeit one he will share with Hugo Gryn, the Huguenot benefactor Peter Minet, Audrey Sacher and others who formed the original team with him.

Randolph Vigne
14 December 2001