I’m rather surprised that this story from the Times of London hasn’t received more attention:
A government minister has warned that inbreeding among immigrants is causing a surge in birth defects – comments likely to spark a new row over the place of Muslims in British society.
Phil Woolas, an environment minister, said the culture of arranged marriages between first cousins was the “elephant in the room”. Woolas, a former race relations minister, said: “If you have a child with your cousin the likelihood is there’ll be a genetic problem.”
The minister, whose views were supported by medical experts this weekend, said: “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].”
Woolas emphasised the practice did not extend to all Muslim communities but was confined mainly to families originating from rural Pakistan. However, up to half of all marriages within these communities are estimated to involve first cousins.
Medical research suggests that while British Pakistanis are responsible for 3% of all births, they account for one in three British children born with genetic illnesses.
I’m in no position to comment on the truth or falsehood of the statement or whether it constitutes a real problem for BNH or for the British educational system. Most of the commentary on the story has been what you might expect: Islamophobic or xenophobic claptrap. What struck me about it is that it demonstrates the potential conflict between a fully socialized public health system and reproductive freedom.
That is a rather obvious problem. One special-needs kid can absorb an enormous amount of resource—hundreds of thousands of dollars per year in what may be a very long life. Putting healthcare firmly in the hands of the state conveys to the state an interest in who will and will not be born.