Senior Muslims in the Conservative party are warning minority communities against marriage between first cousins because of the higher rate of birth defects resulting from such unions.
First cousin marriages are practised within Britain’s Pakistani community, as well as among some Arab and African families. Medical data previously suggested that while British Pakistanis were responsible for 3% of all births, they accounted for 30% of British children born with a genetic illness.
The Conservative Muslim Forum (CMF), which is supported by David Cameron, will soon host a lecture in parliament to highlight the issue. It will be addressed by a surgeon of Pakistani origin from the Bradford area.
Mohammed Amin, deputy chairman of the CMF, wants all schoolchildren to be taught about the risks associated with first cousin marriages. He believes that awareness of the practice needs to be raised in the same way as that of female genital mutilation. “There’s a great deal of ignorance out there,” he said.
He admitted that “white politicians” who have raised concerns risked being labelled Islamophobic or racist. It was therefore important for ethnic minority leaders to speak out.