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  • Technorati: graph / links

    Having a debate on first-cousin marriages


    by Sunny
    16th November, 2005 at 2:50 pm    

    Labour MP Ann Cryer has tried to kick off a debate within the Muslim community on first-cousin marriages. She will be on Newsnight tonight saying it is leading to genetic problems.

    A Newsnight investigation reports that British Pakistanis are thirteen times more likely to have children with recessive disorders than the general population. The same research, shows that British Pakistanis account for 3.4% of all births but have 30% of all British children with recessive disorders.

    Keighley MP Ann Cryer, says: “As we address problems of smoking, drinking, obesity, we say it’s a public health issue, and therefore we all have to get involved with it in persuading people to adopt a different lifestyle. I think the same should be applied to this problem in the Asian community. They must adopt a different lifestyle. They must look outside the family for husbands and wives for their young people.”

    Following online debates for years, my impression is that this is usually forced on by parents rather than a choice that young Muslims make; in a similar vein to the ongoing practice with some Sikhs to marry within caste. I mean who really cares about caste these days?

    The Guardian and BBC have more. Though the BBC’s misleading headline is refuted in the Guardian article by Cryer herself.

    Also: England lost to Pakistan in the first test match. Ha ha! *points finger Simpsons style*


                  Post to del.icio.us


    Filed in: Culture,Race politics,South Asia






    51 Comments below   |  

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    1. Opinionated Voice

      [...] Currently there is much conjecture over the ‘next best’ option, which is to marry within the family. At this point it should be noted that much of the research that focuses on genetic problems has been considered over-exaggerated. However, whilst I do not in anyway seek to comment on the Islamic view on marrying Cousins, if one aspires to form new social ties, bonds and widen the social circle, marrying non-relations may be more preferable. The same can be said to those influenced to marry within their caste, or trailer park for that matter. What I’m saying is that marriage decisions should be primarily left to the choice of the individual, which is evidently distorted when parents and relatives make demands due to their hankerings of pride, materialism and greed. Tech Tags: Marriage Cousin+Marriages Islam Recessive+Disorders Genetic+Illness «« Previous: Muhammad Ali Comments » [...]




    1. shihab — on 16th November, 2005 at 3:05 pm  

      “Who really cares about castes these days?”

      Is that what you really just said? You’re spending too long with guardian readers my friend. The majority of our community, from whatever religion, do. No, not the people you see at your hangouts. They look down upon anyone who was born outside a 100 mile radius of their birth village. No, no one here. The majority. The ones that impose these vile traditions upon the young. Remember to announce you’re marrying a black muslim girl next time you go to a wedding and see how they applaud you…

    2. SajiniW — on 16th November, 2005 at 3:11 pm  

      I went to two special schools on Monday. One for one with children with physical disabilities. One for one with kids who had learning difficulties.

      The children at the second school were aged 13-19. None of them were capable of functioning beyond that expected of an infant. They all wore nappies. They all didn’t speak, a few grunts aside. All needed inordinate amounts of special care, from doctors, speech therapists, nurses, tutors and so on. The parental care needed for each one is draining, in both the financial and emotional sense.

      Six children were present in the 16 year old cohort. All six were Asian. Five were Pakistani, the last one Tamil. All six had consanguinous ancestry - their parents were first cousins.

      I. rest. my. case. Don’t marry your cousins.

      I

    3. shihab — on 16th November, 2005 at 3:14 pm  

      are asian inbreds called brown necks?

    4. raz — on 16th November, 2005 at 3:19 pm  

      Dunno what this has to do with Muslims. Cousin marriage is primarily a subcontinental thing (generally Pakistan). I doubt any of the sizeable non-South Asian Muslim community in the UK has much in the way of first cousin marriages.

    5. Sunny — on 16th November, 2005 at 3:20 pm  

      brown necks?
      you might have coined your first word mr shihab.

      when I say who cares about caste….. i was referring to young British Asians. The older generation are still living in a time warp 40 years ago.

    6. Jay Singh — on 16th November, 2005 at 3:20 pm  

      Anne Cryer’s daughter-in-law is Sikh. Her son, who was also a Labour MP until he lost his seat in the last election, is married to a Punjabi lady.

    7. Sunny — on 16th November, 2005 at 3:21 pm  

      Raz - Estimates at 55% of Pakistanis in the UK marry first-cousins. Though I don’t know who did the research.

      See here:
      http://www.asiansinmedia.org/news/article.php/television/850

    8. Jay Singh — on 16th November, 2005 at 3:23 pm  

      raz

      It doesnt have anything to do with Islam, but it is primarily a Pakistani thing, although there are some communities in South India who practice cousin marriage too.

      However, I dont wish to appear judgmental, but it is very much considered a taboo akin to incest amongst Sikhs and Hindus for cousins to get married. As I understand it, this is mostly a Mirpuri thing.

      Sunny

      Please check your e-mail.

    9. raz — on 16th November, 2005 at 3:25 pm  

      Yeah pretty much confirms my point. This is very much a Pakistani not a Muslim practice (I don’t think it is particularly common even among Indian Muslims, let alone Muslims from Africa, Middle East, Turkey, etc). BTW, my mum and dad are first cousins, explains a lot eh :)

    10. Don — on 16th November, 2005 at 3:26 pm  

      55% Is that a higher or lower rate of consanguinous marriage than the royal family?

    11. Jay Singh — on 16th November, 2005 at 3:26 pm  

      Sunny

      There are some British Asians who have not questioned the whole caste culture of their parents and wear it as a badge of ethnic pride and tribalism - you dont need reminding about the whole ‘Jat Pride’ thing amongst Jat Sikhs, do you?

      (One of the worst things you can do to a Jat Pride follower is remind them that Guru Nanak repudiated caste, but it doesnt seem to register with them that they are in complete violation of the most basic tenet of Sikhism - hypocrites - dont you just love them?)

    12. raz — on 16th November, 2005 at 3:28 pm  

      Jay, to be fair, things like pre-marital sex and homosexuality
      are considered taboo in India and Pakistan but are accepted in the UK. Lots of different standards here.

      BTW, also to be fair if we’re talking about health, it should be noted that a recent survey of sexual health in the UK (can’t find the link right now but it was in all the papers) showed that Pakistanis have the lowest rates of sexually transmitted diseases in the UK.

    13. Jay Singh — on 16th November, 2005 at 3:31 pm  

      raz

      Fair points mate.

    14. Sunny — on 16th November, 2005 at 4:09 pm  

      Pakistanis have the lowest rates of sexually transmitted diseases in the UK.

      Sure - but there is complete denial about the genetic impact of inter-family marriages amongst the older generation.

      Another point I wanted to raise in the original article was this:
      Inter-family or inter-caste marriages are a result of an obsession with tribal and racial purity, which is quite racist IMO. So people who are obessed with keeping their tribes exclusive are likely to be more racist IMO.

    15. Robert — on 16th November, 2005 at 4:09 pm  

      Also: England lost to Pakistan in the first test match. Ha ha! *points finger Simpsons style*

      Just like Glen McGrath did after England lost the first Ashes test.

      Sorry to post off topic, but I’ve linked to a couple of articles about race and cricket that you might find interesting.

    16. Bikhair — on 16th November, 2005 at 4:27 pm  

      For the record, it is permisible to marry a first cousin but the Messenger of Allah (salalahu alaihi wa salam) did say that it would weaken the ummah. Details on the hadith later, if I can find it, dont quote me.

    17. Mandip — on 16th November, 2005 at 4:34 pm  

      Jay - Its an interesting point you raise about Jatt Sikhs in the UK. However, i don’t consider it “true castism” as seen in India, where the lower class (Dalits) as treated like dirt and do not have the same rights and opportunities as the higher caste people. That I agree is totally wrong and is what our Gurus fought against.

      I come from a Jatt Sikh family [for non Punjabis, Jatts are farmers and have a reputation for being brave, hardworking and living life to the max] but don’t consider myself any more or less worthy than the next person, Sikh or non Sikh and neither do any of my other Jatt friends. However, that doesn’t stop me having pride in being a Jatt, its more like tribalism as you described it. Just as I have pride in being a Punjabi as also an Englishman.

      So when it came to getting married I married a Jatt Sikh lady not because I thought Jatts were better than anyone else, but because she would have been bought up with similar cultural values & interests as me. Is that casteism or is it similar to a German wanting to marry a German or a Nigerian wanting to marry a Nigerian? Had I met a non Jatt Sikh lady whom I wanted to marry, then I would have happily done that.

    18. SKye-Vee — on 16th November, 2005 at 4:50 pm  

      I was always bought up to treat my cousins as if they were my brothers or sisters. These same sisters tie rakhi on me every Raksha Bandan.

      To be honest I wouldn’t dream of marrying anyone decended from my bloodline. It is just plain wrong. Makes finding a wife for me difficult. Both my parents have very large families. Seems I’m related to a lot of people.

      I joked to my mum that it would be safer marrying a white girl, chance are I won’t be related to her. She goes I should marry a black girl instead.

      The caste system has been abused and taken out a context. Our family isn’t bothered with it. Education is what’s important.

    19. Sunny — on 16th November, 2005 at 4:55 pm  

      Sajini / Rohin - Have just heard from Indian doctor on Asian Network saying that actually, statistically, the chances of first-cousin marriages leading to worse genetics are quite low.

      Any figures on all this?

    20. Jay Singh — on 16th November, 2005 at 4:55 pm  

      Mandip

      I beg to differ. I know, have seen with my own eyes, and heard and read about the casteist bigotry and violence perpetrated by Sikh Jatt’s against non Jatt’s.

      A remarkable feature of it is the denial when confronted with this phenomenon that many Jatts articulate - attempting to distinguish it from other forms of caste backwardness and downplaying the contradiction between constantly dwelling on being a Jatt and asserting Jatt Supremacy and Pride and the Jatt Tribalism and the message of Guru Nanak who said that caste pride is a sin, because it threatens the roots of Jatt Dupreme Identity.

      So I dont accept your arguments - they might be right for you individually but I dont believe they tell the truth for everyone and ‘Jatt Pride’ does take on bigoted and malignant forms.

      I understand some Jatts get defensive about this but there really is no need for you to do that - I accept you are not like that if you say so, but it is insulting my intelligence to claim it is not out there and it does not happen.

    21. Mandip — on 16th November, 2005 at 5:16 pm  

      Jay - I never claimed it is not out there, nor that it never happens, I am just saying that the actions of a few stupid people does not mean it is a fundamental problem within the UK. Agreed there may be times when Jatts have acted violently against non Jatts, but i truly believe these are sporadic instances and not everyday problems as you seen paint it. Just as there have probably been times when non Jatts have targeted Jatts (although these are probably even rarer).

      But you obviously have had different experiences that me. My non Jatt friends may have been attacked for the colour of their skin or religion but never for their “caste”.

      As I said, I am proud to be a Sikh but also from a Jatt family (Sikh first) but consider myself equal to the next person regardless of their colour, religion, nationality, caste etc.

    22. raz — on 16th November, 2005 at 5:38 pm  

      Jay, could you explain this whole ‘Jatt vs non Jatt ‘ thing to me, or do you have any links about it? I’ve never heard of this before (don’t know much about Sikhism).

    23. Rohin — on 16th November, 2005 at 5:50 pm  

      Sunny I don’t know of that doc (have pathetic Internet access down at Worthing Hospital and the computers don’t even let me post comments here!) but I did come to this very thread to give the medical view. God you’re all doomed if you’re taking medical advice from me.

      Breeding outside your genepool works because damaged DNA is removed. Recessive genes such as the genes for cystic fibrosis or sickle cell anaemia and so forth are lost by expanding your genetic pool.

      An incestuous marriage is not GUARANTEED to have disabled kids, but the chances of having a multi-factorial or recessive trait are higher. The chances of aneuploidy (eg Down’s) is higher due to an increased likelihood of DNA repair or translocation errors. Congenital malformations like cleft palate/lip, heart defects etc are more common.

      Take cystic fibrosis seeing as I’ve mentioned it. Not many people have it. But did you know that about 1 in 20 - 25 people carry the gene? So you can see being a carrier is far more common than being a sufferer.

      Figures:

      Chances of a HEALTHY consanguineous coupling producing a serious disease or major malformation - 5%. This is double the population standard risk. All consanguineous pregnancies are classed as ‘high risk’ by obstetricians and are monitored closely under full hospital care.

      I went to a Pakistani wedding recently. First cousins. His parents - first cousins. Her parents - first cousins. Their parents on both sides - first cousins. I quipped “Dude, your family tree is a CIRCLE!” It’s very unscientific, but you can just SEE it, they look wrong. All the family wedding guests looked the same. It was very unsettling.

    24. Mandip — on 16th November, 2005 at 5:57 pm  

      Raz - The Jatt V Non Jatt thing actually has nothing to do with Sikhism as the Guru abolished the caste system for Sikhs. So there is no such thing as high caste or low caste in Sikhism everyone is equal regardless of gender, colour, wealth, religion or caste.

      However, some (maybe many) punjabis still cling on to their old caste associations, primarily due to the strong hindu influence in punjab (the caste system is an integral part of Hinduism, from what I understand). Jatts are a “caste” or tribe and you get Jatts that are Hindus, muslims as well as Sikhs. So as Jay says there is a contradiction when a Sikh says he is of a certain caste. He cant be a Sikh and say he believes in the caste system.

    25. Jai Singh — on 16th November, 2005 at 6:30 pm  

      =>”This is very much a Pakistani not a Muslim practice (I don’t think it is particularly common even among Indian Muslims, let alone Muslims from Africa, Middle East, Turkey, etc).”

      With all due respect, this is factually incorrect. Here is a link from the European Genetics Foundation which states that “consanguinity is strongly favoured and is believed to offer significant social advantages in many parts of North and sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, and West, Central and South Asia, where some 20% to over 50% of all unions are between couples related as second cousins or closer.”

      http://www.charite.de/ch/medgen/eumedis/consanguinity04/globaloverview.html

      Here’s another link containing extensive information on both inherited genetic diseases in Muslim countries and the incidence of cosanguineous marriages:

      http://www.emro.who.int/Publications/EMHJ/0301/18.htm

      Extract: “Consanguineous marriages, which are believed to increase the frequency of autosomal recessive conditions, are common in the EMR. The percentage of first cousin marriages among all marriages has been reported to be 11.4% in Egypt [32], 30% in rural areas in the Islamic Republic of Iran [33], 29.2% in Iraq [34], 32% in Jordan [35], 30.2% in Kuwait [36], 17.3% among Muslim Lebanese and 7.9% among Christian Lebanese [37], 37.1% in Pakistan [38], 31.4% in Saudi Arabia [39] and 30% in the UAE [15]. In Al-Ain, UAE, autosomal recessive disorders have been reported to account for 80% of single gene disorders and 22% of congenital malformations among 16 419 births [15]. Recessively inherited disorders account for a substantial proportion of mental and physical handicap in other countries [8,40,41]. Similarly, children of consanguineous parents may be overrepresented in patients with severe mental retardation [42,43], blindness [44], hearing impairment and deaf-mutism [45-47].

      Other autosomal recessive conditions include cystic fibrosis and phenylketonuria. Cystic fibrosis has been detected in 39 per 100 000 Jordanian neonates [48] and 23.6 per 100 000 Saudi neonates [49], while phenylketonuria has been detected in 11.6 per 100 000 neonates in the Islamic Republic of Iran [50]. A recent publication on genetic disorders among Arab populations lists 115 new genetic syndromes reported over the past two decades among Arabs [51]. Of these, 100 syndromes are autosomal recessive, 10 are autosomal dominant and five are possibly X-linked recessive or autosomal recessive.”

    26. NorahJones — on 16th November, 2005 at 7:36 pm  

      First cousin marriages are sick. They look like siblings!
      I have a cousin who’s married to her first cousin, whose parents were first cousins (on both sides) and out of 8 pregnancies she’s had two live births. One of the pregnancies made it into the 6th month and then she had a malformed stillborn. It is not right.

      Thank god my parents aren’t related in any way!

    27. NorahJones — on 16th November, 2005 at 7:45 pm  

      By the way, the link you have for the BBC, on the right hand side of the BBC page, “one woman blah blah blah”… She has nothing worth listening to.

      Neila Butt, the face of cousin marriages… excuse me, having bitter moment.

    28. Uncleji — on 16th November, 2005 at 8:25 pm  

      the royal families of europe are a fine example of the benefits of interbreeding.

      I hope we’re just going to be banning blood cousins marrying.
      It took a great deal of affrontery, deceit and flattery to land the detectable Auntji.

    29. BevanKieran — on 16th November, 2005 at 8:40 pm  

      Kudos to Anne Cryer for addressing the issue. I don’t think it is ever a comfortable issue discussing the “genetic health” of a country, or the contribution to it by a particular minority. (Analogous debate with deaf parents opting to have deaf babies)

      http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/1916462.stm

      Although the prevalence of such disorders might suggest otherwise, are the genetic dangers of cousin-marriage common knowledge in the British Pakistani community?

    30. Uncleji where angels fear to tread — on 16th November, 2005 at 8:55 pm  

      ” Jatts are farmers and have a reputation for being brave, hardworking and living life to the max”

      Love you guys I really do but you omitted drunken, psychotically proud, a tendency to go on about your supposed Aryan origin and with a fondness for violence (all fine punjabi characterics), which the rest of attempt to emulate.
      I am concerned that the custom of polygamy still lingers on.

      We Khatris are merely lying, cowardly, materialist, lecherous and tend to hang around with those brahmins a bit too much. Oh we’re always green with envy when you folk come striding into town.

      But its not a Sikh thing far it, Punjab dominants Pakistan and the Hindu Haryana is a Jat stronghold

      I’m going to run and hide now

    31. Sunny — on 16th November, 2005 at 11:58 pm  

      Lol at Uncleji! Let’s not make this into a Jatt vs Khatrsi thing, or it really will get out of hand.

    32. susano — on 17th November, 2005 at 12:25 am  

      “the royal families of europe are a fine example of the benefits of interbreeding.”

      Yeah but, they’re Reptillians, innit? That’s different.

    33. lost — on 17th November, 2005 at 2:31 am  

      Please don’t go into cynicism and sarcism. This is quite a serious issue.

      raz- I don’t know why you say this is a Pakistani issue not Islam. First cousin marriages are prevalent in Islam especially Muslims from Pakistan & Bangladesh.

      Most marriages are forced by their parents or other relatives. Apart from health implications there are emotional implications too, which cause alot of family conflicts. I used work as a social worker in London some time back, I have seen the family tension that arise from marriages that take place within families and also from polygamy.

      But, here we are discussing the genetic implications of marriage union between family members. I think that this should stop altogether, FULL STOP !.

    34. lost — on 17th November, 2005 at 2:59 am  

      We are so prone to go off topic. Now the discussion has turned to ‘Jatts and casteism’. We humans have to appear superior to the person we stand next to. So we would devise structures that suit us.

      Guru Nanak took away the caste system, very true. But, as one author put it, (can’t remember is name) casteism slowly crept back into Sikhism, and before one could work out what was happening, we were seeing a kind of ‘Sanaton Sikhism’ (Sanaton is the actual word for Hinduism).

      But, as I said we have to feel superior, so the Jatt will say I am the upper caste in Sikh, the Brahmans will say no I am upper caste, and the Khan will say no I am chieftain so I am superior. Does it end?

      I think we should start by shredding our ego, cos we are the stalwarts of feudalism regardless of religious belief.

    35. Shaggydabbydo — on 17th November, 2005 at 4:20 am  

      ‘Also: England lost to Pakistan in the first test match. Ha ha! *points finger Simpsons style*’

      Bah-humbug ;-) Well done.

    36. Inquisitor — on 17th November, 2005 at 5:41 am  

      I suppose it wouldn’t be too long till some americanised/mechanised - apologies for the tautology - minds will view such marriages as supplying the genetic basis for the emergence of Islamic’ ‘terrorism’.

    37. Chris — on 17th November, 2005 at 8:30 am  

      Oh dear - Inquisitor gives himself away with those nasty little quotation marks around ‘terrorism’

    38. SajiniW — on 17th November, 2005 at 9:47 am  

      Sunny, there are statistics on the haematology, chromosomal and metabolic disorder research registries.

    39. gunduwhitegirl — on 19th November, 2005 at 1:35 am  

      I was unaware that this was also a “Muslim” problem. Funny, here in the US I have many Muslim friends and none of them married their cousins — let alone relatives.

      However, from what I’ve seen from my Indian (Hindu) friends/couples this is common. I dunno, like I’ve said I come from primarily dealing with Tamilians. In fact, I was just posting in my blog today about my husband’s family trying to force him to marry his own niece.

      A very good friend of mine and her husband have been trying to have a baby for almost eight years. She keeps getting pregnant and miscarrying. She’s had almost ten total now. And, the doctors are saying that its a genetic problem. Supposably her family ran the family tree back three generations. HOWEVER, they only did this on her father’s side.

      I’m not sure how common this is…but it’s creepy. BTW, I believe other South Asian cultures have similar practices about ‘keeping the wealth in the family’. And ‘preservation’ of the family.

    40. gunduwhitegirl — on 19th November, 2005 at 1:52 am  

      OK, This is so gross…

      My husband is from Tamil Nadu and he says the only place this is legal in India is his state. And, it’s very common (where he’s from) to marry your cousin. In fact, his parents are first cousins.

      Here’s a link a found with more stories in the US.

      http://www.people.virginia.edu/~rjh9u/inbreed.html

    41. gunduwhitegirl — on 19th November, 2005 at 2:07 am  

      One more thing…

      I found this website to be informative. It’s actually a report done on a study of imbreeding in North India. If you are curious, like I was, at the bottom you will find the name: Rao PSS, Inbaraj SG. Inbreeding effects on fetal growth and development. J Med Genet 1980; 17: 27-33.

      http://www.indianpediatrics.net/nov1998/nov-1110-1113.htm

    42. Sunny — on 19th November, 2005 at 3:23 am  

      No way! I never knew Tamilians approved of cousin marriages? How bizarre!

    43. Sajn — on 20th November, 2005 at 12:02 am  

      From my experience first cousin marriages have never been as prevalent as some are portraying (that isn’t to say that they weren’t common) and although we went through a period when parents in the UK would attempt to ensure that the weddings were arranged between first cousins, over the last 10 or so years this has dropped off and now it is mostly non-first cousin marriages taking place.

    44. gunduwhitegirl — on 20th November, 2005 at 2:50 am  

      Sajin - really, first cousin marriages are allowed in the UK? I know here, in the US, there are state laws saying you are not allowed to marry a first cousin (some states even go as far as second cousins).

      These first cousin marriages were very common in West Virginia and Kentucky. I’m from Ohio, and still have relatives in West Virginia (no- no inbreeding).

    45. Hari Pota — on 20th November, 2005 at 1:55 pm  

      REPORT FROM THE ASIAN VOICE

      Ann Cryer’s first cousin campaign raises Hindu eyebrows

      Keighley MP Ann Cryer’s campaign in the national media to persuade ‘British Asians’ to end the tradition of marrying first cousins has raised a few eyebrows in the Hindu community. Hindu leaders have become slightly alarmed about the way Ann Cryer had labelled the problem as ‘Asian’ even though Hindus and Sikhs do not marry first cousins.

      The investigation, carried out for BBC2′s Newsnight, found that over 50% of British Pakistanis married their first cousins. It also found that although British Pakistanis accounted for just 3.4% of all births, they had 30% of all British children with recessive disorders.
      Ms Cryer said: “As we address problems of smoking, drinking, obesity, we say it’s a public health issue and therefore we all have to get involved with it in persuading people to adopt a different lifestyle. I think the same should be applied to this problem in the Asian community. They must adopt a different lifestyle. They must look outside the family for husbands and wives for their young people.”
      “By saying that she wishes to discourage first-cousin marriages in the Asian community, Ann Cryer has shown a high level of ignorance of the diversity within the Asian community and the cultural differences that permeate within,” claimed Ishwer Tailor, President of the Hindu Forum of Britain.

      The Asian community is made up of a number of different communities from different backgrounds, ethnicity and faith. Thus, the Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan communities have their own singular traditions that differ from each other. Within the South Asian nationalities, those of Indian origin are mostly Hindu and Sikh, those of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin are mostly Muslim and those of Sri Lankan origin are mostly Hindu and Buddhist.

      “Hindus and Sikhs do not indulge in the practice of marriage to first cousins. Hinduism is oldest living religious tradition in the world and its scriptures pre-date Abrahamic literature by 5000 years. For marriages, the ancient Hindu system of ‘gotra’ is held as a scientific and proven way of avoiding genetic inbreeding,” explained Gauri Dasa, President of Bhaktivedanta Manor and Spiritual Commissioner of the Hindu Forum of Britain.

      The gotra system traces a person’s ancestry to thousands of years. A man and a woman belonging to the same gotra cannot marry each other because they may have the same ancestor thousands of years previously. The name of the gotra is passed from father to son to ensure that genetic inbreeding does not happen. In this sense the Hindu faith is the only faith in the world where genetic inbreeding has been prevented for thousands of years through a meticulous system that has been established and is still prevalent.

      “The fact is that the Hindu genetic pool is probably much more diverse and expansive than the Christian or Jewish ones,” said Arjan Vekaria, Chair of Hindu Aid. “That’s why Ann Cryer’s labelling of the problem as Asian is slightly unfair to the Hindu and Sikh communities.”

      In a letter written to Ann Cryer, the Hindu Forum of Britain has urged her to be more careful in using words to describe communities.

      The letter said, “The BBC has opted to use the word ‘Pakistani’ to identify this problem which is definitely better than the word ‘Asian’. However, Indian and Bangladeshi Muslims too marry first cousins. Yet, if you feel that the word ‘Muslim’ is not appropriate due to the sensitivities involved, please continue to use the word ‘Pakistani’ as the BBC have done. However, to continue to use the word ‘Asian’ to describe this problem is unfair to the Hindu and Sikh communities from an Asian background.”

    46. Steve Davies — on 20th November, 2005 at 5:11 pm  

      This is very interesting topic and not just because of the genetic implications. This site has a wealth of detail about it and also a map showing the incidence of cousin marriage worldwide.

      http://www.consang.net

      One thing that shows is that a high level of cousin marriage is found in a very clearly defined area - the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia and the North West of the Indian subcontinent (IIRC you do get first cousin marriage in South India but only on one side of the line of descent). It isn’t found in all Islamic societies, with Indonesia and Malaysia being the big exceptions, it’s also not found among Muslims in e.g. China. In theory Islam discourages it but it has proved persistent.

      When this pattern of marriage is widespread it has far reaching effects. In particular it leads to a society which is clan based and where trust based relations are much stronger among relatives than those who are unrelated. One consequence is that government becomes a family business - so long as the family in question stick together that is.

    47. Sunny — on 20th November, 2005 at 11:17 pm  

      Steve - hnmmmm… that may be true, but a lot of societies in third world countries have famoly run dynasties… India being another example.
      Interesting website though… it happens in Spain too?

    48. Steve Davies — on 21st November, 2005 at 9:58 am  

      Sunny - Royal families in Europe have historically tended to this pattern of marriage as well. The Spanish Habsburgs were the classic example, resulting in the hapless Carlos II (the Bewitched) whose back teeth in his lower jaw barely met the front teeth in his upper jaw. Another classic example were the Rothschilds who only married their cousins for several generations. That’s different though from having a large portion of the population doing it because it’s that which when you combine it with a high birth rate leads to very large extended kin groups with their members all related to each other.

      Historically other parts of the world have had this marriage pattern but it has died out at various times (often with ‘encouragement’). One way of tracing this is the change in the way languages describe family and blood relationships. If there’s a lot of cousin marriages then the language will tend to have a big vocabulary of words to distinguish between different kinds of aunts and uncles and cousins as opposed to just having a few words.

    49. Jerry C — on 24th November, 2005 at 12:14 pm  

      I know of one British Sikh who has fallen in love with his first cousin, but his family and community are strongly opposed to their relationship.

      As to the law, Ann Cryer has made it clear she is not seeking a legal prohibition. We will never have a prohibition of cousin marriages in the UK as that would be a gross infringement of the freedom of people to choose their spouse.

      This is not however the case in the USA. There, just over half the states prohibit first cousin marriage, while the rest allow it, some with restrictions. There are no prohibitions on second cousins, though a few states prohbit first cousins once removed.

      The most recent prohibition is in the state of Texas which (effective 5 September 2005) prohibits first cousin marriage and makes it a felony to have sexual intercourse with a first cousin. Of course there are many first cousins in Texas who were lawfully married prior to 5 September who now risk jail if they have sex with their spouse.

      All potential first cousin partners who want to have children must take the gentic issues seriously. The risks vary considerably depending on ethnic group and family history. This is why all such partners should visit a genetic counsilor for a risk assesment. In the case of many serious recessive disorders (e.g Cystic Fibrois) it is possible to test for carrier status in advance. Only if both partners are carriers is the risk of the disease significant. Where both partners are carriers however the risk rises to 1 in 4. In such cases if the partners still wish to marry they will probably wish not to have children or consider donor insemination. Legally however the choice belongs to the people involved, the government cannot make such choices for people.

    50. Sunny — on 24th November, 2005 at 12:32 pm  

      Cool, thanks for explaining that Steve. and cheers for that info Jerry.

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