My arranged marriage is no sham, says restaurateur

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Indy Politics

Iqbal Uddin met Nasima three months before their arranged marriage took place in Bangladesh. While he had emigrated to England with his family from Bangladesh as a teenager and felt fully integrated in his adopted country, he chose to opt for a traditional, arranged marriage in keeping with his Muslim religion and strong family culture.

Mr Uddin, 43, travelled to Bangladesh at the age of 30 to meet prospective partners his family had vetted and he chose Nasima, 33, the fourth woman to whom he was introduced. They married in Chittagong before she joined him in England.

According to the British Muslim Council, Mr Uddin is among the majority of Britain's two million Asians who have arranged marriages and he feels outrage at Mr Blunkett's suggestion that his marriage to Nasima is a "sham" or anything other than genuine.

The decision to have an arranged marriage with a woman from his home town was not purely out of deference to his cultural roots. He also believed it consolidated his identity as a first-generation Asian living in Britain.

"I wanted this kind of marriage, not just because it was expected of me in the community, but because it felt natural. I was given full control of the outcome and I felt that having your family find a suitable person has a lot of safeguards. I was happy to marry someone from the same region as my family is originally from because I felt that brought us closer together in our marriage. We share the same customs and we have a lot in common, the same linguistic dialect, the same style of food and mutual friends," said Mr Uddin, who owns a restaurant on Teesside.

Having been happily married for 13 years, the couple have an assortment of Bangladeshi, Pakistani and English friends and resent the idea that they are existing in an insular Asian community. "My wife and I have lots of English friends who we see regularly and it is wrong to say that just because my wife came to Britain after she married me, that she conned the system or that she is unable to integrate," he said.

While Mrs Uddin communicates in Bangladeshi to her two children, Nazia, aged 10, and Ikra, four, she has always endeavoured to participate in society and attends various language and college courses.

Mr Uddin is open-minded on the issue of marriage for his children and says he cannot subscribe to the traditional Asian marriage for them.

"Ultimately, it will be their choice. It is not just about what I want, but I think they should be allowed to choose a partner from their country of origin if they want to," he said.

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