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Family matters, revisited

When I posted about this topic before there were no examples of just how this affects the individuals involved the latest article puts a very human face on the situation.

Minutes later, the boy finally enters the living room. Imran is a handsome lad and seems perfectly normal. He has just spent the day at his school in Bradford, where he is often top of the class.

Look a little closer, though, and you can see hearing aids tucked behind each of his ears. Imran is profoundly deaf because a vital nerve which carries sounds to his brain has failed to develop.

Medically, there is nothing that can be done to cure his disability. It is the same affliction that has struck his teenage cousin, a girl called Myra. Two of the children’s uncles also suffer severe deafness. Is this a tragic coincidence and are the family just unlucky?

According to Imran’s mother, the answer is an emphatic “No”.

Union: A Muslim couple marry in traditional dress

“I married my first cousin, which is why Imran is deaf,” she says. “Myra’s parents are also first cousins, which is why she is also deaf.

“When I started my family I was just a young girl. I had no idea that marrying a close relative would be medically dangerous for any children I had. My parents did not know either. Now our son is paying the price for our ignorance.”

The mother (whom we will call Zuhra) agreed to talk to the Mail only on condition of anonymity.

She is terrified of being identified and condemned by her extended family of 100 members, spread across Northern England, for speaking out about one of the most controversial – and taboo – subjects in multi-cultural Britain: inter-marriage between cousins which has left hundreds of children damaged or dead.

“My parents would think I had betrayed them,” she says. “They were born in Pakistan and are stuck in the past. They are good people, but they can’t accept that my son’s deafness has been caused by my husband and myself being so closely related.

“My father would like my oldest daughter, who is 18 and at college, to marry her cousin. He already has a male relative in mind. But I will do everything to avoid it happening.”

This week, Government Minister Phil Woolas provoked a furore by warning of the health risks of cousin marriages among British Pakistanis. He claimed the practice was sending the number of birth defects among children in these communities soaring.

Daily Mail

The extent of the problem is made very clear by this statistic quoted in the article

Although British Pakistanis account for three per cent of the births in this country, they are responsible for 33 per cent of the 15 to 20,000 children born each year with genetic defects.

A medieval mindset  is clearly the problem here and a tendency to see the role of marriage as a market place where children are  used as pawns in a never ending quest to increase or maintain family prestige which tends to stifle the natural instinct to seek genetic diversity is also in play here.A religious faith that sees women and girls as beings who are less autonomous than men has also been a factor that can not be ignored. Clearly women like “Zuhra” have to be supported  in her desire to end this cultural practice  and no amount “cultural sensitivity”  or multicultural political correctness should stand in the way of that.

Cheers Comrades



  1. JM says:

    You do realise that this is a perfectly legal marriage in Australia as well as the UK? See Sec 23 of the Marraige Act 1961, and Sec 13 of the Marriage Amendment Act 1985. The only prohibited marriages are those between ancestors/descendents and brothers and sisters. Cousins are a-OK.

    And the scientific basis for the statement “marrying a close relative would be medically dangerous for any children ” is actually pretty thin. After all, homo sapiens are descended from a community perhaps as small as 7 individuals in East Africa around 120,000 years ago, and communities were pretty close in the intervening period. Methinks there’s a little bit of the old prejudice going on here, which doesn’t surprise me at all when the source is that shining light of rationality (not) otherwise known as the Daily Mail.

    I don’t view Australia as having medieval attitudes but it appears our law does (by your lights).

    Time to get out the rolodex and start lobbying for a change to the law. Good luck.

  2. Iain says:

    Firstly let me welcome you to my blog JM 😉

    i suspect from the way that you cite legal statute that you are a member of the legal profession.

    The issue here is not a legal one I don’t suggest it is and the Daily mail does not suggest that such practices are in any sense illegal what I am talking about and what the statistics I cite in the post is on about is the biological bad practice of people who are too closely related breeding, Now I have bread pedigree dogs in the past and I am very well aware of what happens when you consistently breed from too small a gene pool , quite simply you get an increase in deformed puppies. This is a biological fact and it directly translates from the animal to the human model.

    As for lobbying for a change in the law I am doing that to some extent by blogging about the issue but the problem is not that first cousins should occassionally marry but that successive generations repeatedly do so.
    JM you may be well versed in the law BUT your understanding of basic genetics seems rather lacking.

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