- Waseem Zaffar, 33, says he is committed to fighting gender inequality
- Councillor married teacher Ayesha Imdad last year in lavish ceremony
- But had not formally divorced Faraz Begum after walking out on her in 2010
- He only sent her an Islamic divorce document to end seven-year marriage
- This means that under English law Zaffar is still married to his first wife
Councillor Waseem Zaffar has said he is committed to fighting gender inequality and declared his opposition to sharia law in Britain.
But the politician and magistrate – once pictured with Labour leader Ed Miliband – married teacher Ayesha Imdad last year without having formally divorced his first wife.
Lavish ceremony: Labour rising star Waseem Zaffar and his second wife Ayesha at their wedding last year
Instead, Zaffar – who received an MBE in 2012 for his charity work – sent Faraz Begum an Islamic divorce document in the post after walking out on her in 2010.
He obtained the document from an imam who operates from a terraced house calling itself Raza mosque in Aston, Birmingham.
This means that under English law at least, Zaffar, 33, is still married to Miss Begum, whom he wed in Pakistan in 2003.
Meanwhile, in April last year, Zaffar married his second wife – who is now seven months pregnant – in a lavish Islamic ceremony. Among the hundreds of guests was shadow minister Jack Dromey, the husband of deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman.
MPs and campaigners last night called for Zaffar’s suspension from the Labour Party.
Some followers of sharia law believe divorces can be obtained by men without the knowledge or consent of their wives.
A man simply states ‘talaq’ – meaning ‘I divorce thee’ – three times and it is granted.
He is not required to give any kind of financial settlement to his wife.
However, this method is widely frowned upon and most imams require both parties to be present and commit to a three-month attempt at reconciliation before they grant a divorce.
Miss Begum, 36, a British national who is also Zaffar’s first cousin, received the divorce without warning, a friend said.
If British citizens marry abroad, it is automatically recognised in English law.
For this reason, for the marriage to end, the couple must obtain a divorce recognised by English courts.
Miss Begum is currently seeking such a divorce, understood to be in the process of going through the courts.
Councillor's first wife: Faraz Begum, who he married in Pakistan in 2003
The master’s student said she was unable to comment due to the ongoing legal proceedings.
In 2012, Zaffar, councillor for the Lozells and East Handsworth ward in Birmingham, declared on his website: ‘I have never and will never support sharia law in this country.’
He has also thrown his weight behind several women’s rights campaigns.
He spoke at an Asian women’s engagement event in 2013, saying: ‘I came to politics to ensure a fair and equal society.
’ The well-connected councillor often posts pictures of himself with celebrities and high-profile politicians online.
In January, he tweeted a photo taken outside No 10 Downing Street, saying: ‘Brilliant reception hosted by Sam Cameron discussing issues affecting disaffected children across UK.’
Family lawyer and Islamic marriage specialist Aina Khan said Zaffar’s actions are ‘unforgivable if true’.
‘It’s hypocrisy to accept English law and then use sharia law when it suits you better,’ she said. She explained that Zaffar’s Islamic marriage to his second wife may not be recognised in the UK, putting her at risk of ‘losing everything’.
The imam, Moulana Bostan Quadri, last night confirmed he gave Zaffar a sharia divorce.
He said in broken English: ‘Throughout the Muslim world, it is unanimously that way ... if some Muslim man want to give the divorce to his wife, he can.’
He denied being paid, but divorces of this kind usually cost around £50 to £200.
After repeated attempts to contact Zaffar, he declined to comment. Tory MP Dominic Raab called for Labour to investigate the councillor, adding: ‘It beggars belief that they are turning a blind eye.’