SCARBOROUGH restaurateur Alkas Ali talks about his life - his family, religion, work, sport and admiration for U2 frontman Bono. Reporter Dave Barry recognises a kindred spirit.
ONE of the most memorable moments in Alkas Ali’s life was sharing a stage with U2.
As a supporter of Bono’s charity one.org, which fights poverty around the world, Alkas tells fans about it at U2 shows.
Instead of asking for money, he solicits support for online campaigns, petitions, etc.
“We walk round the audience before the show and ask people to sign up and take email addresses on a laptop,” says Alkas, who first saw U2 at Band Aid in 1985. Since then, he has seen them in Spain, Italy, Ireland and Scotland.
“It’s amazing what pressure can do; it’s one of the reasons why I like U2,” he says.
At the Glasgow show, Bono invited Alkas and about 20 other volunteers on stage. They each held a mask of Aung San Suu Kyi on a stick, walking around the stage in front of 100,000 people while U2 played Walk On, dedicated to the Burmese democracy campaigner. They were then allowed to watch the rest of the show from backstage.
Alkas is a humble, compassionate, unassuming and broad-minded humanitarian with a well-balanced view of the world and its problems. He has travelled widely, although not as widely as he would like, and hopes to visit Australia and America when he has more time. He is going to a wedding in Poland next month.
He identifies closely with Bono’s CoeXisT campaign, advocating religious tolerance. CoeXisT is written with the C shaped like an Islamic crescent moon, the X like a Jewish star and the T like the Christian cross.
“Because I was born in Bangladesh and brought up in this country I can see both worlds and help charities in both countries,” says Alkas, who speaks English, Bengali, Hindi and a little Arabic.
Alkas can talk to anyone, which is a useful attribute for a restaurateur, and one which springs from his friendly, altruistic disposition. “I can communicate with European, western people, and I can understand people in Asia. I respect people from different backgrounds and religions.
“I feel privileged to be able to understand; it enhances my life as a human being. I can co-exist with anybody; I like to think I can get on with most people.”
As a practising Muslim, Alkas prays every day and has taken his family to Mecca in Saudi Arabia on an Umrah pilgrimage; they will go again in April. He feels the time is not yet right for him to undertake the Hajj, the world’s largest pilgrimage, and one which every able-bodied Muslim should do at least once, if they can afford it. “You have to make sacrifices. It teaches you to be a better human being. Emotionally, I’m not ready yet; I need to be more aware. I have a lot more to learn.