A British politician has caused quite a stir with his statements regarding the defective results of the arrangements Asians accede to…
A minister who warned about birth defects among children of first cousin marriages in Britain’s Asian community has sparked anger among critics.
Phil Woolas said health workers were aware such marriages were creating increased risk of genetic problems.
The claims infuriated the Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPAC) which called on the prime minister to “sack him”. [BBC]
As far as Woolas is concerned, he’s bravely confronting a worrisome issue which is politically incorrect; he has been quoted as saying he has an obligation to bring this up. He isn’t attacking the marriages as illegal or even a religious problem, his point is that this is a cultural practice which should be examined. Children of such unions are 13x more likely to suffer from recessive disorders.
“The issue we need to debate is first cousin marriages, whereby a lot of arranged marriages are with first cousins, and that produces lots of genetic problems in terms of disability [in children]. If you talk to any primary care worker they will tell you that levels of disability among the… Pakistani population are higher than the general population. And everybody knows it’s caused by first cousin marriage….Awareness does need to be raised but we are very aware of the sensitivities,” [BBC]
Critics wonder about his motives, since his political position deals with the environment instead of health. The timing for this hullabaloo in the empire’s orchard is awesome:
His comments follow the storm sparked by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, who suggested some aspects of Islamic Sharia law could be allowed in Britain. [mirror]
Anti-green team, please note, both Woolas and the the cabinet minister who has his six, Geoff Hoon, are taking pains to point out that this conniption about cousin-coupling doesn’t involve the “wider Muslim community”; oh no, this backwardness is alll Asian.
The junior Minister has other vocal supporters besides Hoon:
Ann Cryer, MP for Keighley, said she was delighted that Phil Woolas had triggered a public debate on the issue which she said affected some sections of the Pakistani population in her constituency.
An expert in genetics, Steve Jones, also defended Woolas today, saying that first-cousin marriages doubled the risk of babies being born dead or disabled. [Guardian]
Cryer, like Woolas, reps significant numbers of Pakistanis. She has plenty of gasoline for this fire:
“I am delighted we are talking about. I have been fretting about this for 10 years and at last we are having a debate about something that is having a very large impact on my Pakistani constituents,” Cryer told the Today programme.
She stressed that she was only talking about “certain sections” of the Pakistani community. The problem related to families who engaged in “trans-continental marriages” because most of those marriages were between cousins.
There was often “a price to pay”, she went on. “The price to pay is often babies being born dead, or babies being born very early or babies being born with very severe genetically-transmitted disorders.” [Guardian]
“This is to do with a medieval culture where you keep wealth within the family.”
“I have encountered cases of blindness and deafness. There was one poor girl who had to have an oxygen tank on her back and breathe from a hole in the front of her neck,” she added.
“The parents were warned they should not have any more children. But when the husband returned from Pakistan, within months they had another child with exactly the same condition.” [BBC]
Anyone seen Razib? Someone page him. He HAS to chime in on this…