Monday, March 14, 2016

Marrying a cousin?, you may want to read this first.

In modern western society, marrying your cousin is not well accepted, particularly in the United States. Through a combination of old prejudices and present-day conventional wisdom about inherited birth defects, first cousin marriage is seen by many as a little too close for comfort, as well as a bad idea if you want children.
However, first cousin marriage is far more common, and far less dangerous, than many of us have been led to believe, as you’ll soon see. Further, if you include second cousins in the mix, according to the Clinical Genetics Handbook, the increased risks with regards to having children are nearly non-existent in this case compared with non-cousin marriage.
While there have been instances of the banning of marriage between cousins at various points through history, such as the Roman Catholics banning the practice for a time starting with the Council of Agde in 506 AD, for the most part marriage among cousins has been popular as long as people have been getting married.  In fact, it is estimated that as many as 80% of the marriages in human history have been between first or second cousins.

This switch in cousin-marriage’s acceptance began in earnest in some parts of the Western world in the mid-19th century. Specifically, until the 1860s or so, first cousins commonly married in Europe and the U.S. In fact, Charles Darwin, Mr. Natural Selection himself, was married to his first cousin Emma Wedgwood.

Nonetheless, the practice soon fell out of fashion in the United States. Although never outlawed in England, during the second half of the 19th century, many states began to ban marriages between first cousins, as part of a larger movement after the Civil War for greater state involvement in a variety of areas, including education, health and safety.

Researchers note that the distinction in marriage bans between England and the U.S. may be explained by the fact that, in the United States, the practice “was associated not with the aristocracy and upper middle class [Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were second cousins] but with much easier targets: immigrants and the rural poor.”

 Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were second cousins

In some societies, first cousin marriage is traditional and well-accepted, although many make a distinction between “cross-cousins” and “parallel cousins.”

Cross cousins have parents who are siblings, but of the opposite sex. The parents of parallel cousins are also siblings but are of the same sex

Globally, cousin marriages are still going strong, with an estimated 10% of all marriages in the world being between cousins, and has high as 50% in some regions of the world. 

However, cousin marriage is making a comeback in the U.S., as well, as more and more studies continue to debunk the overblown risks once commonly touted.

Worldwide, it has been estimated that almost half of all Muslims are inbred:
In Pakistan, 70 percent of all marriages are between first cousins (so-called "consanguinity") and in Turkey the amount is between 25-30 percent.

Statistical research on Arabic countries shows that up to 34 percent of all marriages in Algiers are consanguine (blood related), 46 percent in Bahrain, 33 percent in Egypt, 80 percent in Nubia (southern area in Egypt), 60 percent in Iraq, 64 percent in Jordan, 64 percent in Kuwait, 42 percent in Lebanon, 48 percent in Libya, 47 percent in Mauritania, 54 percent in Qatar, 67 percent in Saudi Arabia, 63 percent in Sudan, 40 percent in Syria, 39 percent in Tunisia, 54 percent in the United Arabic Emirates and 45 percent in Yemen.

From a biological point of view it becomes clear that first cousin marriage is not recommended because close relatives have a higher than normal consanguinity which means an increased chance of sharing genes for recessive traits. With this high amount of shared DNA, you have a higher risk of birth defects in a baby. Even if cousin marriages are not performed, you can still have such genetic defects in populations where there is a restricted social structure.

 We've all heard about what supposedly happens if cousins marry. A recent study, though, showed that while there is increased risk of some genetic disease, the risk is actually smaller than a lot of people might think.

The numbers from this study are pretty interesting. For unrelated people, the risk of having a child with a serious genetic problem is around 3 or 4 percent. In other words, 3 or 4 of every 100 babies have potential problems (seems high to me but that is what the report claims).

If first cousins have kids, that risk goes up by 2 or 3 percent. At first this almost doubling of the risk might seem scary. But many genetic advisers argue that the increase isn't big enough to discourage marriage between first cousins.

Now, the more closely related two people are, the more likely it is that they'll share the same set of hidden disease genes. People might have thought that first cousins were too closely related and so there would be a big increase in genetic diseases if cousins marry.

Remember, we all have two copies of each of our genes -- one from mom and one from dad. We also have on average around 5-10 disease genes each. So how come we all aren't wracked by genetic diseases?

Because most of these "bad" copies of genes are recessive. What recessive means is that you need both copies to be bad to get a disease -- a single good copy can save you.

If we all shared the same disease genes, then the likelihood of kids getting these diseases would be high. But we don't. Everyone has a different set of hidden disease genes so that the odds are against people each giving one of the same bad genes to their kids.

There are lots of places in the Middle East, Africa and Asia where marriages between first cousins are encouraged. There is no rampant genetic disease in these places suggesting all along that the risk was low.

Congenital abnormality is more common in the Pakistani community due to cousin marriage practice.

Birth defects in children of cousins are the result when both parents have an abnormal recessive gene. This arises mostly with generation upon generation of first cousin unions. Most people do not have these, but even when they are present, the odds of their children having them are only one in four.

‘If both parents carry the same mutations, there is a one-in-four chance of having an affected child — which can result in anything from a mild disability to a catastrophic illness or a miscarriage.’

In Pakistan, where there has been cousin marriage for generations, and according to professor Anne-Marie Nybo Andersen from South Danish University, the current rate is 70% one study estimated infant mortality at 12.7 percent for married double first cousins, 7.9 percent for first cousins, 9.2 percent for first cousins once removed/double second cousins, 6.9 percent for second cousins, and 5.1 percent among non-consanguineous progeny. Among double first cousin progeny, 41.2 percent of pre-reproductive deaths were associated with the expression of detrimental recessive genes, with equivalent values of 26.0, 14.9, and 8.1 percent for first cousins, first cousins once removed/double second cousins, and second cousins respectively.

A BBC report discussed Pakistanis in the United Kingdom, 55% of whom marry a first cousin. Given the high rate of such marriages, many children come from repeat generations of first-cousin marriages. The report states that these children are 13 times more likely than the general population to produce children with genetic disorders, and one in ten children of first-cousin marriages in Birmingham either dies in infancy or develops a serious disability.

The BBC also states that Pakistani-Britons, who account for some 3% of all births in the UK, produce "just under a third" of all British children with genetic illnesses. Published studies show that mean perinatal mortality in the Pakistani community of 15.7 per thousand significantly exceeds that in the indigenous population and all other ethnic groups in Britain. Congenital anomalies account for 41 percent of all British Pakistani infant deaths

There is no objection whatsoever in the Islamic religion for a man to marry any of his relatives except al-maharim (those forbidden for marriage) whom Allah mentioned in surat al-nisaa', 4:23 (interpretation of the meaning):

Prohibited to you (For marriage) are:- Your mothers, daughters, sisters; father's sisters, Mother's sisters; brother's daughters, sister's daughters; foster-mothers (Who gave you suck), foster-sisters; your wives' mothers; your step-daughters under your guardianship, born of your wives to whom ye have gone in,- no prohibition if ye have not gone in;- (Those who have been) wives of your sons proceeding from your loins; and two sisters in wedlock at one and the same time, except for what is past; for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful;-Qur'an 4:23
Allah has made marriage with first cousins lawful. There is no dispute about this in Islamic Law. Anyone who wishes to dispute with this is placing his own religion in serious danger. 

 It is established by the Qur’ân, the Sunnah, the practice of the Companions including the Rightly Guided Caliphs, and the consensus of the Muslim Ummah.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) married his daughter Fatima to Ali (may Allah be pleased with them) and he is the son of her father's uncle, as well as the marriage of the Prophet himself to Zainab bint Jahsh (may Allah be please with her) and she is his aunt's daughter (i.e. his cousin); and there are many other such examples.

"Is it better or preferable for a Muslim to marry someone he is not related to rather than a relative?"
The answer to this question varies from case to case, and perhaps it may be preferable to marry people who are non-relations, for example if one aspires to form new social ties or bonds, and regards the existence of a marriage relationship with a different family as constructive in widening the circle of social bonds.



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