Man denies whirlwind marriage ‘convenient’

Bedford Central Library where Zahid Iqbal and his wife met PNL-140218-172102001
Bedford Central Library where Zahid Iqbal and his wife met PNL-140218-172102001

A Bedford Muslim student facing deportation to Pakistan, denied he had taken part in a marriage of convenience by insisting he married a Bulgarian Christian two weeks after meeting her in the town’s Central Library.

Mr Zahid Iqbal of Shortstown, Bedford and his wife, who has since been converted to the Muslim faith, now have a baby.

The Home Office told an Immigration and Asylum Tribunal at Birmingham, where Mr Iqbal appealed against the deportation proposal, that he was due to be sent back to Pakistan because he had not been able to take part in a course at his local college and had no independent means of support.

Mr Tajul Islam, representing Mr Iqbal, said that the appellant had got married and should be allowed to stay in this country to look after his wife and baby.

“It would be unreasonable to send him to Pakistan and part the family in the circumstances,” said Mr Islam who denied a marriage of convenience had taken place.

He added: “The marriage took place because of true love.”

Mr Iqbal, who is 30, said he met his Bulgarian wife in Bedford Central Library and that they got married two weeks later in 2013.

The Home Office representative who did not want his name published, raised questions about a marriage of convenience, “or even if there had been a marriage in the first place.”

He said neither Mr Iqbal nor his wife wore wedding rings, there was no evidence of letters of congratulations from their parents in Pakistan and Bulgaria, no evidence about Mr Iqbal’s cousins attending the wedding and no evidence from witnesses.

“Normally Muslim weddings are big affairs,” said the Home Office representative.

“We have even been sent a letter from one of Mr Iqbal’s cousins to say he was unmarried.”

The representative asked Mr Iqbal what the rush was to get married.

He pointed out that his wife had gone back to Bulgaria to have the baby and had stayed with her parents for months.

“You were not even be at the birth and there was no English birth certificate,” said the representative.

Mr Iqbal said he and his wife did not want a big wedding and that he didn’t bother about wedding rings because ”everything was in his heart.”

“I did not go to Bulgaria for the birth because I can’t speak the language,” replied Mr Iqbal.

“My wife converted to Islam from Christianity because we used to discuss the Muslim religion until 3am sometimes,” he said.

Asked how he was surviving financially, Mr Iqbal said cousins and friends sent him money. He denied claiming benefits.

Mr Islam pointed out that the Muslim marriage had not been recognised by British Law.

Tribunal judge Mr Sydney Lloyd later threatened to adjourn the hearing at one stage after complaining about a conflict of evidence from Mrs Iqbal due to her limited knowledge of English.

He decided to carry on when the couple declined to have an interpreter.

Mr Lloyd said he would make a decision at a later date.