February 27, 2024

Minister warns of inbreeding amongst British Pakistanis

3% of all births, but one-third of all birth defects
Genetics has become the latest battleground in British
multiculturalism. A government minister has called for a debate about
the prevalence of birth defects amongst British Pakistanis. "Part of
the risk, I am told by the health service, is first-cousin
marriages," says Phil Woolas, a junior environment minister. He denied
that he was demonising Muslims: "If you are supportive of the Asian
community then you have a
duty to raise this issue." This is not the first time that this issue
has surfaced in the British media. More than 55 per cent of British
Pakistanis are believed to have
married first cousins. Figures
show that British Pakistani children account for as many as one-third
of birth defects, even though they represent only three per cent of all
UK births.

“The problem is that many of the parents themselves and many of the public
spokespeople are themselves products of first cousin marriages. It’s very
difficult for people to say ‘you can’t do that’ because it’s a very
sensitive, human thing,” Mr Woolas told the Sunday Times.
He wants more discussion of the issue. “Most health workers and primary
care trusts in areas like mine are very
aware of it. But it’s a very sensitive issue. That’s why it’s not even
debate and people outside of these areas don’t really know it exists.”
The British Prime Minister’s office said that the minister was speaking
as a local MP and did not represent government policy.

Cooler heads put the alarming figures in perspective. Genetics professor Steve Jones, of University College London,
said that cousin marriages involved a higher risk of birth defects, but
that drinking or smoking in pregnancy was "as bad if not worse". However, he added, people should be warned of the risks as "a matter of public
health". ~ London Sunday Times, Feb 10; BBC, Feb 11