Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Professor Speaks Up in Defense of Cousin Marriage

Professor Alan Bittles of the Centre for Comparative Genomics, Murdoch University, Perth, Australia, takes issue with Professor Steve Jones' John Maddox Lecture at the Hay Festival 2011, as it was reported. He wants to clean up misinformation and confusion about consanguineous marriages, as well as Muslim custom.

There is no doubt that couples who are close biological relatives are at a higher average risk of giving birth to a child who has inherited a genetic disorder that otherwise is very rare in the general population. But in a large majority of families where the parents are first cousins this added risk is small, and comparable to other non-genetic risk factors, such as maternal alcohol ingestion during pregnancy. Therefore to approach this highly sensitive subject via the statement that, 'Bradford is very inbred. There is a huge amount of cousins marrying each other there', is troublesome. The very concept of an 'inbred' city is curious indeed.

It is, however, the claim, 'It is common in the Islamic world to marry your brother's daughter, which is actually closer than marrying your cousin', that specifically jars and alarms. In fact, contrary to Professor Jones' unqualified assertion, uncle-niece marriage is specifically prohibited by the Holy Quran. So the idea that Muslims worldwide commonly contract this form of marriage is both incorrect and could well be interpreted by some as insulting.

A lot of people don’t mind insulting others, especially when it comes to their sexual orientation, or the person(s) they love. What would they say if we criticized their love life?
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