Geneticist warns of dangers of cousin marriage


by Rumbold
30th May, 2011 at 11:59 am    

Professor Steve Jones, a highly respected geneticist, has warned about the dangers of inbreeding. Using Bradford as an example, he pointed out that 75% of Pakistanis in Bradford marry their cousins:

‘There may be some evidence that cousins marrying one another can be harmful,’ he told an audience at the Hay Festival.

‘We should be concerned about that as there can be a lot of hidden genetic damage. Children are much more likely to get two copies of a damaged gene. ‘Bradford is very inbred. There is a huge amount of cousins marrying each other there.’

The problem occurs not as a result of a one off marriage between cousins, but rather through persistent inbreeding.

He was criticised by Mohammed Shafiq of the Ramadhan Foundation:

‘I know many Muslims who have married their cousins and none of them have had a problem with their children. ‘Obviously, we don’t want any children to be born disabled who don’t need to be born disabled, so I would advise genetic screening before first cousins marry.

‘But I find Steve Jones’s comments unworthy of a professor. Using language like “inbreeding” to describe cousins marrying is completely inappropriate and further demonises Muslims.’

Mr. Shafiq has often condemned practices such as forced marriages and ‘honour’ killings, so is no Anjem-Choudary-rent-a-quote, and he advocates screenings, but I think he is wrong about this. Not all cousin marriages lead to children with disabilities. Nor are the children somehow lesser as a result. Yet nobody wants children to be born with serious health conditions, and British Pakistanis were between nine and thirteen times more likely on average to have a children with recessive disorders than the rest of the populace. Given that 55% marry their cousins, it is not unreasonable to call that inbreeding, especially as people who marry their cousins tend to who have children who are more likely to do the same, thus perpetuating the problem.

Raising a serious public health issue is not demonising a community. Anyone who watched the Disptaches programme on this last year would have been struck by the refusal of many interviewed to even concede that there might have been a genetic issue, whilst others spoke of a culture of fear the last time this was subject to a big campaign in the 1990s.

Nor did Professor Jones just look at Pakistanis, talking about how there is more inbreeding throughout the country then in generally realised:

“We are all more incestuous than we realise.

“In Northern Ireland lots of people share the same surname which suggests a high level of inbreeding.

“There’s a lot of surname diversity in London but if you look at the Outer Herbrides there are rather fewer surnames in relation to the number of people.”


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  1. sunny hundal

    Blogged: : Geneticist warns of dangers of cousin marriage http://bit.ly/liQEoR


  2. Zubeda Mir

    RT @sunny_hundal: Blogged: : Geneticist warns of dangers of cousin marriage http://bit.ly/liQEoR


  3. Matt Cavanagh

    RT @sunny_hundal: Geneticist warns of dangers of cousin marriage http://t.co/XK1JG7L > An issue that needs a thorough but sensitive airing.


  4. takhalus

    Blogged: : Geneticist warns of dangers of cousin marriage http://bit.ly/liQEoR


  5. Hussain Ahmed

    RT @sunny_hundal: Geneticist warns of dangers of cousin marriage http://t.co/XK1JG7L > An issue that needs a thorough but sensitive airing.


  6. Endnu en advarsel imod fætter-kusineægteskab « Veritas Universalis

    [...] kilder: The Daily Mail, The Daily Star, The New Statesman, Pickled Politics, [...]


  7. :::

    @NabihaMeher http://bit.ly/liQEoR Prof Jones doesn't just look at desis, so perhaps desis can stop whining about racism.


  8. :::

    @NabihaMeher http://bit.ly/liQEoR Prof Jones doesn't just look at desis, so perhaps desis can stop whining about racism.


  9. :::

    @NabihaMeher http://bit.ly/liQEoR a post via Pickled Politics covering inbreeding findings.




  1. BenSix — on 30th May, 2011 at 12:05 pm  

    Using language like “inbreeding” to describe cousins marrying is completely inappropriate…

    If he’ll go to Google Scholar and type in “inbreeding” and “cousin” he’ll see that his fight is with the academic establishment. That’s precisely what “inbreeding” is.

  2. John — on 30th May, 2011 at 12:33 pm  

    He says he knows of many cases where cousins have married and there have been no consequences for the children, however the researcher suggests it is the grandchildren we should be worrying about.

    Incidentally I know only one Muslim who is from Bradford and he has a dodgy back and leg which he ascribes to “inbreeding”. His family were upset when he refused to marry a cousin.

    People need to be more widely educated on this issue.

  3. Helen — on 30th May, 2011 at 12:36 pm  

    If Mohammed Shafiq denies its true, why then would he advise genetic screening for first cousins? That’s called covering your own arse, when you either don’t know or don’t want to admit something is true.

    Leave them be and let evolution take its course.

  4. douglas clark — on 30th May, 2011 at 12:36 pm  

    The word ‘inbred’ is pretty offensive to anyone. Whatever the scientific view of it.

    But there seems to me to be an immediate circling of the wagons whenever this issue is raised. It is either true that there is an increased risk or that the increased risk is trivial. The very least that muslims in Bradford should expect is an honest, evidence based discussion.

    They do not get that, partly because racists link to this kind of research and add their own agenda to it. And, believe me, they – the racists – do. I have no intention of linking to it but it does explain the denialism.

  5. BenSix — on 30th May, 2011 at 12:44 pm  

    inbreed (third-person singular simple present inbreeds, present participle inbreeding, simple past and past participle inbred)

    To breed or reproduce with those that are related.
    To breed with those that share common traits or qualities.
    To produce or generate within.

  6. Trampolene — on 30th May, 2011 at 12:47 pm  

    Douglas,

    you are right that racists would seize on this, but the facts are not disputable, they are clear and alarming. As cited:

    “British Pakistanis were between nine and thirteen times more likely on average to have a children with recessive disorders than the rest of the populace. [...] 55% marry their cousins.”

    It is necessary that marrying one’s cousin should be discouraged. There is perhaps even a case for banning it. Not only will that give racists less to carp about, far more importantly it will save many British children from suffering recessive disorders.

  7. Kam — on 30th May, 2011 at 1:23 pm  

    What’s wrong with marrying your cousin?

    http://www.slate.com/id/2064227/

  8. zak — on 30th May, 2011 at 1:35 pm  

    genetic screening does not rule out genetic conditions, sadly..it is a horrible sight to see how some of these kids suffer.

    It is a difficult topic to address but could have been worded a bit more carefully

  9. douglas clark — on 30th May, 2011 at 1:55 pm  

    Trampoline,

    No, that doesn’t actually say as much as you want it to say. It neither deals with the degree of the disorder nor lets you place a number on those effected. Nine and thirteen times what? You’d need to know the numbers for the population at large before you can base an opinion on that figure.

    For instance, if the control population shows 1 per 100 and the debility is serious then you have a serious problem. If the control population shows 1 per 1,000,000 and the debility is not serious then the problem is far less of an issue.

    We, and more importantly the muslim community in Bradford, need a far higher quality of honest information to make a proper decision on.

  10. Derren — on 30th May, 2011 at 2:33 pm  

    “Nine and thirteen times what”

    He already told you, man, “more likely on average to have a children with recessive disorders than the rest of the populace.”

    Seems pretty obvious to me what it means. (It means there is a problem.)

  11. Boyo — on 30th May, 2011 at 2:37 pm  

    Glad to see we Londoners are less in bred than the rest of you.

    Using language like demonises Mulsims demonises Muslims, btw.

  12. douglas clark — on 30th May, 2011 at 3:03 pm  

    Derren @ 9,

    If you can’t understand my reservations @ 8 then the problem is yours mate, not mine.

  13. Kismet Hardy — on 30th May, 2011 at 3:09 pm  

    No one falls in love with their cousins. In almost every instance, these marriages are demanded by others to come into being. That in itself should lead to the practice being outlawed

  14. Don — on 30th May, 2011 at 3:51 pm  

    Kismet,

    I think outlawed is pushing it.We should push for education first and a screening programme. The idea that cousin marriages can lead to birth defects is fairly recent – Darwin was concerned about it but went ahead anyway. Because he had actually fallen in love with his cousin, so it can happen.

    It is legal and fine within most religious dogmas. It was pretty common in the UK until societal changes gave people access to a population outside of their local area, and of course the aristocracy excelled at limiting their gene pool. (Yeah, I know.)

    Now that we have clear information that this is a serious problem let’s not get into a moral panic. Education on the dangers will be difficult because it is not intuitive, people no doubt know many first cousin couples whose children are just fine. When asking for a fairly major cultural shift personal anecdotal evidence will probably carry more weight than gene theory and statistics. You and I may have a coolly rational approach to life, but we’re a minority.

    For a start you are asking a lot of people to start seeing their marriages as a public health risk. Tainted. That’s a lot to ask.

    And suppose I want to marry my cousin? Are you going to ban that? My uncle took up the family tree as a hobby when he retired and I’m pretty sure there are no recorded cousin marriages in my lineage at least as far as the 1820′s. On what grounds would I be banned? Or if you are not going to ban my marriage, then what?

    It’s a serious problem, it’s complicated, it will take time. I hadn’t expected you take the authoritarian smack-down approach, Kismet.

  15. earwicga — on 30th May, 2011 at 4:04 pm  

    Anyone have a link to the original scientific evidence Professor Steve Jones refers to?

  16. Kismet Hardy — on 30th May, 2011 at 4:14 pm  

    “I hadn’t expected you take the authoritarian smack-down approach, Kismet.”

    Horrible personal experience of seeing the horrors the practice brings does that to a man sometimes :-(

  17. Boyo — on 30th May, 2011 at 4:27 pm  

    Actually, a pair of my great grandparents were first cousins, which probably explains the sixth toe…

  18. Roger — on 30th May, 2011 at 4:59 pm  

    It’s worth remembering that inbreeding may sometimes concentrate valuable traits as well as undesirable ones. The obvious example is the Wedgwood/Darwin/Keynes family which had- has?- a long history of inbreeding and produced several dozen geniuses, as well as a higher than average number of depressives and sufferers from other mental illnesses.

  19. Don — on 30th May, 2011 at 5:07 pm  

    earwicga,

    Can’t find a reference to a specific study. (If you Google ‘Steve Jones geneticist cousin marriage’ it’s best to exclude ‘outrage’)

    But PubMed has a lot of results.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=consanguinity%20marriage

    By the way, you owe Sarah an apology. You were appallingly rude on the other thread.

  20. Phil Hunt — on 30th May, 2011 at 5:58 pm  

    Mohammed Shafiq: “I know many Muslims who have married their cousins and none of them have had a problem with their children”

    How would he know? If someone is mentally retarded, it’s obvious something is wrong. But if someone is of average intelligence, when if not for inbreeding they’d be an Einstein-level genius, how could one tell? Obviously, one could not.

  21. Rumbold — on 30th May, 2011 at 6:36 pm  

    Thanks for the extra links Don.

    Cousin marriage is not the only cause of these recessive disorders. But it is a big contributor to a way of thinking where small groups repeatedly intermarry over hundreds of years.

  22. Derren — on 30th May, 2011 at 6:36 pm  

    Douglas @ 11,

    What is that you trying to express here? What exactly are you trying to convey?

    Most of us need to have said out loud so we in on the thought process.

  23. Phil Hunt — on 30th May, 2011 at 6:40 pm  

    @13 Don:

    It was pretty common in the UK until societal changes gave people access to a population outside of their local area

    Hence the phrase “normal for Norfolk”.

    Education on the dangers will be difficult because it is not intuitive, people no doubt know many first cousin couples whose children are just fine. When asking for a fairly major cultural shift personal anecdotal evidence will probably carry more weight than gene theory and statistics. You and I may have a coolly rational approach to life, but we’re a minority. For a start you are asking a lot of people to start seeing their marriages as a public health risk. Tainted. That’s a lot to ask.

    People are entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts.

    Britain is a much less deferential society now than it used to be, and in many ways that’s a good thing. Unfortunately, sometimes it goes to far and some people think they are entitled to their own facts. Normally I’d apply a live and let live approach to this as far as public policy is concerned, but this is serious as it involves large numbers of children being harmed.

    If someone doesn’t want to think about things rationally, if they don’t have a “coolly rational approach to life”, if perhaps even they are of low intelligence due to their parents being related, then it might be hard or impossible to persuade them by rational argument that inbreeding is bad. In those cases, it may be that the state has to get all authoritarian on them.

  24. Trofim — on 30th May, 2011 at 6:41 pm  

    re “inbreeding”:
    Coining euphemisms is a never-ending no-win game. No matter how many euphemisms you might think up, concepts will always colour them.

    The term “psychopath” was originally thought up as a neutral term to replace the highly pejorative victorian term “moral imbecile” at the beginning of the 20th century. Half a century later, “psychopath” had itself acquired negative colouring, so the neutral term “personality disorder” was coined to replace it. Within a few decades “personality disorder” acquired those same negative connotations. And so on.

    Referring to a turd as a motion doesn’t stop it being what it is. A spade is a spade is a spade.

  25. Phil Hunt — on 30th May, 2011 at 6:45 pm  

    @8 Douglas clark:

    It neither deals with the degree of the disorder nor lets you place a number on those effected. Nine and thirteen times what? You’d need to know the numbers for the population at large before you can base an opinion on that figure.

    This is an entirely sensible question. According to this:

    A working party of the Royal College of Physicians has estimated that 2-3% of births result in babies with either congenital or genetically-determined abnormalities.

    This means that approximately 13 000 births a year in the UK are so affected. Some conditions manifest themselves later in life. 5.5% of the population will have developed a genetic condition by age 25. Later in life, this figure rises to approximately 60% if we include conditions in which genetics plays some role.

    Taking averages, 8 * 2.5% would mean an extra 20% (22.5% compared with 2.5%) of congenital problems in babies of cousin marriages; this is clearly a significant number.

  26. Don — on 30th May, 2011 at 8:15 pm  

    …it may be that the state has to get all authoritarian on them.

    How? What are you specifically proposing, other than a general wish to get all authoritarian? What are you guys on about?

    We all know it’s a problem. For the people on whom this has a personal impact it’s a very new and difficult concept. I do not underestimate the seriousness of this problem. It’s the field I work in.

    But you don’t get information into people’s heads by kicking it in.

  27. earwicga — on 30th May, 2011 at 9:55 pm  

    Thanks Don.

    (And no can do. The woman is a dirty two-faced dog. What I wrote wasn’t anywhere near her level of deception. I know she is normal for HP types, but that doesn’t mean it’s normal.)

  28. Don — on 30th May, 2011 at 10:25 pm  

    I seriously question your standing as as a moderator.

  29. Don — on 30th May, 2011 at 10:35 pm  

    Or, to put another way, where the hell do you get off?

  30. persephone — on 30th May, 2011 at 10:39 pm  

    I agree that rational arguments or evidence may not sway where there is deep seated thinking based on faith, culture or indeed financial incentives. As to the latter it was discussed on PP some time ago that part of the rational for cousin marriage was to keep money in the same family – perhaps the financial drivers outweigh the fear/recognition of the risk of genetic disorders

  31. douglas clark — on 30th May, 2011 at 11:10 pm  

    earwicga,

    Why don’t you just leave? You are becoming a running sore around here.

    This site is about allowing people of all sorts of viewpoints to come together and discuss things. You think it is about you and your agenda.

    Well, it just isn’t.

    It is your prejudices that have made this less of a site than it was before you arrived.

    Most of the folk that comment here are adults. They do not require you to referee. In fact, they’d be just as glad if you gave up your whistle and your cards because you use them indiscriminately and are a complete utter tosser when it comes to us trying to have a sensible debate. You add nothing and take away a lot.

    I think you’ve lost your audience. And that is the end of it.

    No matter who you might have by your side.

    No-one respects you.

  32. joe90 — on 30th May, 2011 at 11:42 pm  

    I am not sure why the nutty professor targeted muslim’s rather than particular asian communities? There is nothing in islamic texts promoting this marrying your cousin hullabaloo.

    Specific texts promote the opposite of marrying your cousin:

    “We have created you of a male and a female, and then We made you into races and tribes so that you may know each other.” (49:13)

    If asian community marry their cousins and it has proven serious health issues, then have a go at the cultural practice not the religion because it is not to blame.

  33. Catkins — on 31st May, 2011 at 1:15 am  

    I was actually at the lecture by Steve Jones at Hay and what he said has been completely taken out of context by the newspapers. The talk was titled “Incest and Folk Dancing – Why Sex Survives” and argued that inbreeding is pretty much universal as we all share recent ancestors. eg there are only 900 people with the surname Attenborough in the UK for example, and research has shown that nearly every single one has a recent relative in common.

    There was no ‘targeting of Muslims’ as the comments on Bradford took up less than a minute of an hour long lecture. He did state that Asians in Bradford had double the risk of inbreeding complications compared with the non-Asian population. What he was at pains to point out was that the risk was 2% not the usual 1%. He spent more time on inbreeding in Iceland and Finland, lots on intermarriage between European royalty, and quite a lot on the possibility that the Welsh got to America first. The bulk of the talk was on universal inbreeding coming to an end with the invention of the bike and genetic diversity being greater in Africa than other areas because of the small numbers who migrated and colonised other areas of the globe.

    What’s been reported in the press bears little relation to what was actually said. The event was filmed and it would be worth the festival making it available online to demonstrate this.

  34. Boyo — on 31st May, 2011 at 6:30 am  

    @26 Sarah AB may sometimes be wrong. She may, in your opinion, even be deceiving herself, but she is plainly not out to deceive anyone else.

    You compound your paranoia by further offensiveness. I fear that anyone who disagrees with you is HP “trash”. All this would be fair enough were you a Munir/Blah or some other nasty troll, but you are a member of the “PP family” and your attitude seems intended to stifle debate – at least outside the narrow parameters you find acceptable.

    I also wonder “where you get off”? Is it that you consider yourself intellectually superior to everyone else? Is it that you think that anyone not in your self-selected circle is basically “trash” and out to get you? Well hey – you’re not, and they’re not. Sorry to burst your balloon.

    Practice being nicer, it may make you happier.

  35. Rumbold — on 31st May, 2011 at 8:32 am  

    Earwicga:

    The woman is a dirty two-faced dog.

    You owe her an apology. By all means disagree with her, but there is no need to be abusive.

  36. Don — on 31st May, 2011 at 10:10 am  

    Catkins,

    Thank you. That provides a context. As usual, some elements of the press has selective hearing.

  37. AbuF — on 31st May, 2011 at 1:25 pm  

    I’m not sure what is “HP trash”. Especially given that there are quite a few regulars on HP who have either given up posting there entirely, or are cutting back on their posts there, as a result of the perceived hard Right drift of some of the OPs and the strong indications that the site has become overwhelmed with racists, bigots and assorted Neanderthal trolls.

    On the other hand, we have only the views expressed by earwicga on this site to go by – her own blog being a private, password-protected site these days.

  38. AbuF — on 31st May, 2011 at 1:28 pm  

    Perhaps tellingly, one of the goads with which the trolls over on HP have been lashing the eminently balanced and fair Sarah AB has been *exactly the complaint levelled against her by earwicga*: that Sarah AB sits on the fence. Funny that.

  39. AbuF — on 31st May, 2011 at 1:28 pm  

    I would be grateful if some of the other moderators might prevail on earwicga not to automatically delete my comments above. Thanks.

  40. Leon — on 31st May, 2011 at 3:34 pm  

    I think Rumbold said it best above, can we please, commenters and PP writers alike, please focus on the arguments and leave the snide remarks and character assassinations alone??

  41. Katy Newton — on 31st May, 2011 at 6:29 pm  

    I like Sarah AB AND Earwicga AND KB Player. And I read Harry’s Place as well as Pickled Politics and Devil’s Kitchen and Ministry of Truth. All of these things can be done at the same time. Fact.

  42. jamal — on 31st May, 2011 at 6:45 pm  

    children children calm down this he said she said keyboard vigilante stuff making you guys look bit silly!

  43. earwicga — on 31st May, 2011 at 8:11 pm  

    Katy, there’s always an exception and you’re it :)

  44. Phil Hunt — on 31st May, 2011 at 8:56 pm  

    @25 Don: “What are you specifically proposing, other than a general wish to get all authoritarian?”

    For example, banning all future cousin marriages, and for existing ones telling them that if they want more kids they should use sperm/egg donation.

    @29 persephone: “As to the latter it was discussed on PP some time ago that part of the rational for cousin marriage was to keep money in the same family – perhaps the financial drivers outweigh the fear/recognition of the risk of genetic disorders”

    I suspect the extent to which people consciously make the decision to possibly harm their children for money is slight — most parents genuinely care about their children.

  45. Katy Newton — on 31st May, 2011 at 9:53 pm  

    @earwicga Soul of calm and restraint on the internet, me.

  46. Katy Newton — on 31st May, 2011 at 10:06 pm  

    I am sure that at least some of the motivation is to keep wealth and status within a particular family. Consanguinous marriage was pretty popular here for quite a long time; in fact the way in which property was bequeathed to descendants positively encouraged it, as illustrated by some of the funnier bits of Pride and Prejudice. But I don’t think it’s a matter of setting out to positively harm people. This wikipedia article, if it is accurate, suggests that even where there is a double first cousin marriage that itself is the product of generations of previous consanguinous marriage, the risk of birth defects peaks at just under 13% in the population. That’s horribly high by comparison to our 3% risk in the population, but I imagine that to people who actually live in societies with this sort of matrimonial tradition, it just looks as if the vast majority of children are born without birth defects. I reckon the answer is not to ban cousin marriage, but to enforce screening and to educate generally across communities about the increased risk of birth defects if you marry a close relative.

  47. Don — on 31st May, 2011 at 10:52 pm  

    @Phil #43

    ‘Should’ or ‘Must’? Just want to be clear.

    earwicga,

    A Seth Blatter response. Stop abusing your position.

  48. KJB — on 31st May, 2011 at 11:57 pm  

    Thanks, Catkins!

    Earwicga: Speaking of exceptions to the rule, please can we keep PP as a uniquely polite and machismo-low zone? I appreciate your anger and passion, but your comments to Sarah achieved nothing other than to get you called a bitch. You are in a position of privilege and power as a moderator and so, whether you like it or not, you are that much more responsible for your words. We have had our differences but I know you are broadly pro-woman and it is in that spirit that I am addressing you.

    As for the OP…

    Using language like “inbreeding” to describe cousins marrying is completely inappropriate and further demonises Muslims.’

    This is disingenuous. The professor is talking about the outcome of cousin marriages – i.e., people procreating with their blood relatives.Obviously, if it was just the marrying that was the problem, then he would use the term ‘cousin marriage’! Mr. Shafiq’s wording is directing the issue back to the ‘right’ of people to marry their blood relatives, when what is really the focus here is the ‘right’ of a child to as healthy a life as possible.

    To balance out the animosity on this thread, I am going to declare my admiration for Katy Newton. Katy, you clever-clogs! I was just about to (kind of) go where you’ve gone – I see lots of libertarian arguments here on this thread (people have fallen hook, line and sinker for Mr. Shafiq’s trick) and those arguing the fact that repeated cousin marriage has undesirable genetic consequences.

    What we really should be doing is asking: Why are people living in a first-world country in the 21st-century marrying their cousins at a rate of 75%? I have heard the biradari argument before.

  49. douglas clark — on 1st June, 2011 at 12:09 am  

    Katy Newton @ 45,

    Thanks for the Wiki link. I think you are on the right track as far as education and screening being the way forward.

    Slightly off topic, I suppose, but I had a friend that married a chap who had the same surname (although they were not related in any way whatsoever). She said that they had to provide a trail of birth certificates to authenticate their, what, degree of separation?

  50. Phil Hunt — on 1st June, 2011 at 1:08 am  

    @46,

    Like I said, “should”.

  51. Niels Christensen — on 1st June, 2011 at 12:25 pm  

    It’s worth mentioning that the Gulf states has programs with screening
    regarding consanguineous marriage (even Saudi Arabia).
    The expansion of health care in this area has of course also opened up for a discussion not only of the high personal cost, but also of the burden on society.
    Shafiq’s comment:
    “I know many Muslims who have married their cousins and none of them have had a problem wi th their children”
    is simply stupid.
    Who would use an argument like : I do know smokers who don’t suffer from cancer.

  52. Katy Newton — on 1st June, 2011 at 2:45 pm  

    “I know many Muslims who have married their cousins and none of them have had a problem wi th their children”
    is simply stupid.

    It’s not stupid, it’s an observation. It’s probably true. The relative risk of having a child with birth defects is higher between two cousins than between parents who are not related, but they (the two cousins) are still far more likely to have a baby without birth defects than with.

    How do you define “birth defect”, anyway? What about sickle cell anaemia, or disabled people who fall in love with someone who has the same disability as them? That happens quite a lot and where the disability is hereditary the parents risk passing it on to their children. What about women who decide to have children later, whose risk of having a child with a birth defect is also higher? What about relationships where one parent has a hereditary condition and the other doesn’t? They have an elevated risk of having a child with a disability too. If you start banning particular people from parenting with particular other people on the basis that there’s a risk of a birth defect or congenital disability, where are you going to stop?

    (Disclaimer: I do not fancy any of my cousins)

  53. Katy Newton — on 1st June, 2011 at 2:46 pm  

    @KJB ooh, thank you very much!

  54. refresh — on 1st June, 2011 at 11:01 pm  

    the problem is the media and the desire to isolate issues into muslim and non-muslim. Catkins is to be applauded for bringing facts to the fore, as is douglas clark for pointing out the political context. There are a number of areas the media needs to held accountable. In particular murdoch’s desire to label muslims to be intellectually inferior because of there types of marriages.

  55. refresh — on 1st June, 2011 at 11:12 pm  

    douglas also is right to demand the numbers and statistics are handled correctly. It would not take much to show sections of the press thrive on statistics to push their agenda.
    On statistics and screening it would also be pertinent to determine the effects of terminations in the general population. Only then can we have a reasoned debate.

  56. joe90 — on 1st June, 2011 at 11:19 pm  

    post #32

    Some of the newspapers quoted him as saying “islamic communities”.

    If that is incorrect then it wouldn’t be surprise me, they have a habit of exaggerating what was actually said as you pointed out.

    But if it really is a problem health wise, it should be investigated i don’t have a problem with that regardless if it involves muslim, asian, irish or any community.

  57. refresh — on 2nd June, 2011 at 10:21 am  

    earwicga
    I understand your doubts about sarah ab. Or Anyone else who tries to steer the hares and feeds the hounds.
    The language we have descended into is not suitable.
    My response would have been an explanation as to why hp still remains on the blogroll. I think i know but i am not sure.

  58. Catkins — on 2nd June, 2011 at 2:08 pm  

    @56 Joe90

    I honestly can’t recall if Jones used the actual phrase “islamic communities”. He said that in Bradford cousin marriage was common in the Muslim community. What’s important is that the Mail story has manipulated the quotes, running separate bits of the speech together and taking them out of context.

    The Mail story runs as follows “There may be some evidence that cousins marrying one another can be harmful,’ he told an audience at the Hay Festival.‘We should be concerned about that as there can be a lot of hidden genetic damage. Children are much more likely to get two copies of a damaged gene. Bradford is very inbred. There is a huge amount of cousins marrying each other there.”

    That’s actually three different bits of the talk, made to look like a single continuous quote.

    What I recall Jones saying was that there is some evidence that cousins marrying can be harmful – but it’s a far lower risk than politicans and the media have made out. The risk of harm is upped to 2% from 1%. The first and last sentence of the quote take two lines from separte parts of the talk and edit out the context.

    I think the ‘we should be concerned about’ bit in the middle of the ‘quote’ relates to a later part of the speech when he talked about inherited diseases like cystic fibrosis. If you are a carrier, then marrying a cousin really does inrease the risk of your child suffering the disease. Jones’ semi-serious solution for a woman with the cystic fibrosis gene was to marry a Nigerian as that genetic fault doesn’t appear in that community. Funny how the Mail doesn’t print his advice to have a mixed-race marriage :)

  59. nonestar — on 8th June, 2011 at 8:56 pm  

    I think statistics are being twisted and other factors influencing health are not being examined, in lieu of an overall agenda to further malign the Pakistani muslim community and our traditions. Saying that Pakistanis are 9 to 13x more likely to produce children with genetic disorders says nothing about the extent to which such cousin marriages are dangerous, because we are not given information on how likely ANY child in general is to be born with a genetic disorder nor the extent of damage these disorders cause. For example, if the overall probability is less than 0.1%, is it then really that huge of a concern f the average Pakistan probability is 0.9 to 1.3%?

    I’m “inbred” and so is much of my Pakistani family which hails from the Potohar region of the Punjab (close to Mirpur, so we have a similar culture to the Mirpuris). Somehow I ended up being over 6′ tall, healthy and fit, university educated, working professional in spite of this. My parents are second cousins once removed on both of their respective father’s sides. I know I have a limited sample size when using my family/braderi as an example, but I have over 100 first cousins altogether and only 1 of them has a physical disability (he was born deaf, yet otherwise he is also just fine). We have been practicing cousin marriages for generations (as well as out-marriages here and there) and we are still here, just as capable as any other group of humans. We are not a bunch of fumbling, foaming at the mouth mentally or physically handicapped people like those who are using this news to denigrate us want us to appear. I am counting my lucky stars when I compare my family to my peers here in Canada of varying ethnicities and backgrounds, we are generally among the healthiest. Both of my grandfathers for instance, and one grandmother lived well into their 90s (the grandmother that died early was due to child birth in a era when health services in rural pakistan were nil). My brother’s children are the product of a first cousin marriage too and when I compare them to their non-Pakistani Canadian peers, they too, are healthy and bright with absolutely no problems. Again, I agree that I have a small sample size, but I’d really like to take a deep look at these studies before swallowing the conclusions made by others whole about the seriousness of the problem. I don’t believe the hype without some more meat.

    Also for the record why is this the biggest health related issue to be brought to the forefront for British Pakistanis? I can guarantee that more health problems in our community are caused by the adoption of a sedentary lifestyle, an unhealthy diet, and living at a latitude where we have low exposure to UV light than whatever hereditary ailments are the result of cousin marriage. But those aren’t unique to Pakistanis and don’t allow for the white population to point their finger at us so I understand those aren’t worth discussing as much.

  60. Refresh — on 8th June, 2011 at 10:02 pm  

    ‘Also for the record why is this the biggest health related issue to be brought to the forefront for British Pakistanis?’

    Because it has absolutely nothing to do with health..

  61. Don — on 8th June, 2011 at 10:29 pm  

    nonestar,

    I think statistics are being twisted…

    Yes, of course they are, by elements of the media who just won’t stop. Jones gave a talk on the genetic implications of normalised and long term co-sanguinity, which is his field. Most of his studies have been on isolated European communities. He spent a few minutes on Bradford and everybody’s agenda kicks in.

    As for details, I agree a useful statistical analysis would be helpful. The best I can suggest is the link I made at #50

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=consanguinity%20marriage

  62. damon — on 8th June, 2011 at 10:37 pm  

    Because it has absolutely nothing to do with health..

    That might be so. Maybe some people see cousin marriage of British people with cousins from Pakistan breaking ”the contract” of what the original workers who came to work in the northern mill towns had signed up for when they were invited here.
    They come to live and work here, and help out with a labour shortage. No one back then had really thought through what the consequences of this would be.
    Chain migration and continuous cousin marriage doubling the size of the community every generation.
    And turning Britain into a multi-cultural country in a way it hadn’t been before.

    That’s putting it very crudely of course. But there must be some resentment of Brits marrying cousins from Pakistan. If it has the practice of slowing integration, if people who are born and raised here regularly take partners who bring things back to square one again – with the kind of issues raised in the Monica Ali book Brick Lane.

    So raising the health angle might just be a way of having a dig at the custom in general.

  63. douglas clark — on 8th June, 2011 at 10:49 pm  

    damon,

    It is either a health issue or it isn’t. It has damn all to do with having a ‘dig’ at a custom in general.

    Get a grip.

  64. damon — on 8th June, 2011 at 11:11 pm  

    It is either a health issue or it isn’t.

    Sigh. Douglas (CU Jimmy?)
    The ”it” I was talking about was the using of this supposed health issue as a stick to beat the Pakistani community who practice cousin marriage with.
    I am not the only one to think that this might lie behind the public concern.

  65. Refresh — on 9th June, 2011 at 1:43 am  

    ‘I am not the only one to think that this might lie behind the public concern.’

    Surely you mean the an opportunity for some with a particular political agenda. I don’t recall the public airing this in particular, but can predict that some people may if stoked enough.

  66. Refresh — on 9th June, 2011 at 2:28 am  

    A pretty interesting discussion here:

    http://www.tinyrevolution.com/mt/archives/003143.html

    There are even quotes from essays telling us cousin marriages underlies the War on Terror. But notably Rupert Murdoch:

    “he was propounding the genetic theory that the basic problem of the Muslim people was that they married their cousins.”

    But even more noteworthy is a reference to a study: “according to Robin Fox, a professor of anthropology at Rutgers University, it’s likely that 80 percent of all marriages in history have been between second cousins or closer.”

    And in Rupert Murdoch’s case, I would like to suggest considerably closer.

  67. damon — on 9th June, 2011 at 10:26 am  

    Surely you mean the an opportunity for some with a particular political agenda. I don’t recall the public airing this in particular…

    Yes, that’s what I did mean Refresh.
    The thing is though, to know if someone has a particular political agenda. Ann Cryer for example, made a programme for TV where she criticised several aspects of the Pakistani population of her local area. Not just the cousin marriage.
    She suggested that there were too many local muslim young men who hang around together and made a nuisance of themselves. I particularly remember she said that one small group thought it funny to harrass elderly (white) people playing bowls at a Keighley bowling club.
    It’s the sort of thing that any teenagers could do. Throwing something onto the lawn when people were playing bowls and running away laughing, but she highlighted that on a TV programme about muslims, and I wondered why?
    It wasn’t just cousins she had a problem with either. But taking spouses from the Subcontinent in general.
    So you could ask whether she has a negative ”agenda” with British muslims. It’s not always obvious.

  68. codingguy — on 16th June, 2011 at 7:04 pm  

    So that explains it!

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