Middlesbrough man 'reassured' by Queen's letter following 9/11 terror attacks

  • Video report by Kris Jepson.

A Middlesbrough man who sent the Queen a book about the experiences of the first Muslims to settle on Teesside was reassured by her response after he contacted her about his concerns about the impact on the community following the 9/11 terror attacks.

Rasub Afzal, who was a Teesside taxi driver at the time, decided to write to Queen after beginning to feel unwelcome in the UK.

He said: "I felt a bit intimated. I felt the spotlight was on us and we had to do something about it.

"I was disillusioned, feeling a bit low and I felt that these people had let us down and I was questioning myself.

"I’m a Muslim, that’s my faith, but my identity that is that I’m British. That’s my identity, and I felt that was being questioned. I felt that."

Letter from Buckingham Palace to Mr Afzal Credit: ITV News

He wrote a letter to the Queen, as the Head of State, to tell her and the country that Islam meant "submission and peace". He sent her gifts, including a book about Islam and a book about the first generation migrants who settled on Teesside.

He said: "So I got my book out and I started writing to our late Queen. She needs to know who we are, when we came here, our contribution and all the good things that we’ve done.

"We’ve done everything we can in this town and we are proud to live as Middlesbrough and the other word I will say is Boro people."

Shortly after the 7/7 terror attacks in London, Mr Afzal said he feared things were about to get even worse for his community, but he received a response to his letter from Buckingham Palace, which reassured him.

Mr Afzal was surprised to receive a response from the Queen Credit: ITV News

He said the letter stated: "Her Majesty does not normally accept gifts unless they are connected with one of her official duties or engagements.

"However, an exception has been made on this occasion and I am to convey the Queen’s thanks and good wishes to you."

He added that this changed the way he felt about his situation.

He said: "That was a sign that she was saying ‘I acknowledge what you’re saying. Yes, I’ll take the gifts, thank you’. She didn’t have to, but she did and I’m grateful to her for that and she acknowledged us, so that to me sends a message, harmony, and we mean well and she understood what I was saying.

"Now, I’m aware that the Queen cannot get involved politically in issues, but I felt that the Queen, what she was saying was that, ‘yes, I recognise your community and the hard work that you’re doing’ and it reassured me that ‘you don’t need to worry’."

Middlesbrough Mosque pays respects to the Queen Credit: ITV News

Muslims in Middlesbrough on Friday 9 September paid their respects to the Queen at the Waterloo Road Mosque.

Mr Afzal, who shared Her Majesty's letter with the town’s mosques back in 2007, said it is something he will treasure forever.

He added: "I’ll make sure I don’t lose this letter, it means reassurance from the head of state and it's a memory for me."