It’s time to confront this taboo: First cousin marriages in Muslim communities are putting hundreds of children at risk

November 14, 2013

 

The man wept as he told how his beautiful, dark-eyed child died in a hospital cot with medical tubes snaking from his frail body as nurses fought unsuccessfully to save him. Sick with pneumonia, the two-year-old gave up the battle for life.

A heartbroken Mr Rehman told the inquest that he and his wife were unsure whether to have any more children. The coroner expressed deep sympathy before saying that Hamza’s death should serve as a warning to others. ‘This highlights a cultural and religious issue relating to first-cousin marriages and the potential risk to children that some medical experts say can result from such unions.’

This week, leading geneticist Professor Steve Jones, of University College London, warned that ‘inbreeding’ in Islamic communities was threatening the health of generations of children. This is not the first time the distressing issue has been raised. Ann Cryer, the Labour MP for nearby Keighley, has said that cousin marriages are medieval, harm children and are arranged in order to keep wealth and property within families.

One in ten children from these cousin marriages either dies in infancy or develops a serious life-threatening disability. While British Pakistanis account for three per cent of the births in this country, they are responsible for 33 per cent of the 15,000 to 20,000 children born each year with genetic defects. The vast majority of problems are caused by recessive gene disorders, according to London’s Genetic Interest Group, which advises affected families.

As one British-Pakistani put it bluntly on a similar website: ‘A main reason why this corrupt practice is still followed in Britain is because the family wants to keep their property, land, jewelry and money in the family – with many parents believing it is an ‘act of God’ or the ‘will of Allah’ that their children are born disabled.

 

The Daily Mail: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1394119/Its-time-confront-taboo-First-cousin-marriages-Muslim-communities-putting-hundreds-children-risk.html#ixzz2kePe8xKf

Interview with Muslim Scholar Ziauddin Sardar: ”Muslims yearn for real debate”

Ziauddin Sardar is a leading British-Pakistani Muslim scholar and critic. In this interview with Susannah Tarbush, he talks about the magazine “Critical Muslim” he founded and which he sees as an “intellectual, cultural, philosophical and creative backup” for the revolutions of the Middle East

In January a year ago, a refreshingly different kind of Muslim publication, the quarterly Critical Muslim (CM), was launched in Britain. Published by London-based C Hurst & Co, CM takes the form of an attractively-produced paperback book of over 250 pages. Its stated mission is to be a quarterly of “ideas and issues showcasing ground-breaking thinking on Islam and what it means to be a Muslim in a rapidly changing, increasingly interconnected world”.

CM‘s founder and editor is leading Muslim scholar, critic and public intellectual Ziauddin Sardar. Born in Pakistan in 1951, Sardar grew up in London where he still lives. He is a prolific and much-read writer: since the late 1970s he has written some 45 books as well as numerous articles and essays. Sardar’s CM co-editor is the prominent British-Syrian novelist, critic and blogger Robin Yassin-Kassab.

To mark the first anniversary of CM‘s launch, Qantara interviewed Ziauddin Sardar on the quarterly’s concept, first year of publication, and future plans.

Pakistani immigration to Britain is still rising

The population flows between the UK and Pakistan have remained high in the past years. Each year 250,000 Pakistanis come to Britain to visit, work or marry, and some 350,000 British citizens journey in the opposite direction, mainly to visit family. Links are reinforced by ingrained marriage customs: six of ten ethnic Pakistanis in Britain pick a spouse from Pakistan.

After a major police raid on April 8, in which 11 Pakistani nationals got arrested for an alleged terrorist plot, vigilance remains high on who immigrates from what region for what purposes. However, the largest migration flows are still within families, mainly for the purpose of marriage. British-born men are especially keen on marrying a Pakistani women, while their female counterparts would rather go with British-Pakistani men, but since there is a lack of such on the marriage market, they sometimes have to import a husband, too. The article argues that extremism is much less of a problem in this respect; it is rather imported poverty that might be a Pakistani threat to Britain.

UK Leaders Question British Pakistani Cousin Marriage Practice After Shariah Flap

Pronouncements by politicians and religious leaders are again spotlighting the cultural divide between the Muslim community and the rest of British society. This time, the issue is people who marry their cousins. Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan William suggested last week that the adoption of some form of Islamic law was “unavoidable” _ a remark that sparked protests from commentators and politicians who said Muslims must abide by British law. Then, as that furor subsided, two governing Labour Party lawmakers called for a frank discussion of the health risk posed by Pakistanis who marry their cousins. Lawmakers Phil Woolas and Ann Cryer, citing high rates of birth defects, said Britons must question the practice of arranging marriages between first cousins. Both warned of grave public health consequences if the custom continues.

Tariq Ramadan Speaks Sunday in Rome

Tariq Ramadan will speak opposite playwright and producer British-Pakistani secular Hanif Kureishi in the final day of the Festival of the Philosophy. Critics see Ramadan’s presence at the conference as support for what they consider a radical position. Daniela Santanch_ (An) accused the Mayor Veltroni of Rome of having invited “a declared fundamentalist, a bandit from the university, and an accomplice to terrorism. Gabriella Carlucci (Fi), argued, “Tariq Ramadan cannot be granted a public forum to sow the seeds of his \wicked theories, and whoever does is his accomplice. Isabella Bertolini, accused Ramadan of anti-Semitism and called him an enemy of western civilization. Angelo Bonelli, President of the Federazione dei Verdi accuses the CDL of being blinded by Islamophobia and believes cross-cultural dialogue to be critical. Ramadan is a consultant of the English government, appointed by Tony Blair to help combating extremism and terrorism; in France he is involved with the Commission on Islam.