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01 July, 2006

Kissing cousins

Despite sky high rates of deadly genetic disorders such as thalassaemia, and extensive government campaigns against consanguineous marriages, more than fifty percent of UAE nationals still marry someone they are related to:

Efforts have been made in the past to discourage inter-family marriages among nationals.

Although the efforts are working, they have not had impressive results since the rate of these marriages is still 50.5 per cent, [Professor Yousuf Abdulrazzaq] said.

The problem with these close-blood marriages is that they have been carrying on for so many generations, within such a small, tight group of people, that genetically it's the equivalent of brothers marrying sisters.

Frankly, it's time the government dropped the obstacles to "marrying out". Both Emirati men and women should be free to marry foreigners, without the lengthy rigmarole of seeking government "permission" and being threatened with losing their citizenship. Get as much new, unrelated blood in the gene pool as possible.

Because it's currently easier for an Emirati to marry their cousin, even if both carry genetic disorders, than for an Emirati to marry a non-national. Forget "tradition" and "culture" - repeated family marriage is resulting in deaths and severe disabilities among newborn babies. It's a primitive and unhealthy practice.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Damn it I don't have any hot cousins :/
Then again am not from aroudn there so I cannot be doing that.

01 July, 2006 06:59  
Blogger Muhammad Chughtai said...

The chance of cousins marrying and having an abnormal child is about 5%.

What people don't tell you is this:

The chance of an average couple having an abnormal child is around 3%.

Yes cousin marriages have a higher chance of having a child with an abnormality but that "higher" percentage is still VERY small.

01 July, 2006 09:37  
Blogger grapeshisha said...

Muhammad, I am not sure I believe your numbers. The number of disabled kids per capita in the UAE, I expect, is very high, especially if you consider those abandoned children that you don't see within society.

01 July, 2006 10:15  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i am a 21 year old half UAE/ half British girl.. basically a UAE national. its going to be fun if i meet a nice non-UAE national and decide to marry him becos i'd lose my precious passport!

tell me - wat are the benefits of holding a uae passport?

this 'rule' would not stop me from marrying someone. im not really that bothered wat nationality they are but for most UAE girls i know - unfortunately non UAE guys are NOT an option.

01 July, 2006 10:23  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Here in Kuwait, most people marry first cousins. Most of their children end up where I volunteer; the handicap centre for children.

01 July, 2006 10:41  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You may want to look at this,

particulary this paragraph:

"The second most common cause of death in this study was lethal malformation. It was responsible for 70% of deaths in normal-weight infants. Although the proportion of neonatal deaths due to malformations is similar to those reported from European and North American countries [14,19], there is an interesting difference between the finding in the American study and this predominantly Arab population. Almost half of the lethal malformations in our study were multiple anomalies that were due to specific autosomal recessive syndromes. This is similar to the finding of a previous prospective study on the pattern of malformations in this community [20]. In that study, most of the multiple malformations were due to specific syndromes with autosomal recessive mode of inheritance, and were associated with a high prevalence of consanguinity among parents."

01 July, 2006 10:47  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The HCT also dedicate a webpage to this:

Interestingly the first site that they mention is blocked!

01 July, 2006 10:51  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

so now u care about Emiratis that much eh?

I dont believe that 50% marry their couzens, perhaps 30% maximum?

I would understand if u said that UAE nationals shouldnt marry their relatives but I really dont know what is ur point insisting that Emiratis should marry foreigners.

Most of the Emiratis arent even interested.

01 July, 2006 14:27  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Quite aside from believing (or otherwise) Mohammed's figures, 3% vs. 5% is not a "very small" difference. It's almost double. Yes, DOUBLE.

01 July, 2006 14:30  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, and 5% translates to 1 in 20.

Still very small?

01 July, 2006 14:32  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of the more serious malformations is the one in the brain, where they just can't take simple criticism.

I think that's higher than 5%.

01 July, 2006 14:34  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

relatives marriages only dangerous if they were carrying diseases !
im not with cousins marriages, but, i don't think its a big problem in UAE, as i don't c alot of diseases as a result of that.
thalassaemia was the biggest and now all locals do the test before getting married regardless of who they r marrying.

01 July, 2006 15:14  
Blogger Quillonpaper said...

True there secretdubai, I share your sentiment for 'kissing cousins'. And this government had better do something about it fast... before a major catastrophe overtakes the U.A.E. Of course there're those who'd forsake the U.A.E. passport for the sake of love, but then again I'm sure once u lose out on that, there's always gonna be a piece of you that's not contented! So the gov't should just make it all the more easier and scrap that red-tape to marry/get married to some new blood!!!

01 July, 2006 15:17  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Muhammed, your figures come from studies taken from populations that have a much greater diversity than those that are isolated, like that of the Emirates. Better examples for the case of the Emirates can be found in more isolated populations. For example, in the U.S., the Amish have long had social prohibitions on intermarriage; likewise with certain other religious minorities. Among those populations, the risks associated with the marriage of cousins are significantly higher. For some references, see this study of Saudi genetic diseases:
"Saudi Intermarriages Have Genetic Costs" . It concludes: "the rates of some metabolic diseases may be as much as 20 times higher..." than in more mixed populations. (One of the scientific papers supporting that conclusion is at "First-Cousin Matings and Congenital Heart Disease in Saudi Arabia" ).

In any case, SD is correct, and for the health of the Emirates' population, some significant changes need to be made in courtship and marriage laws and customs.

01 July, 2006 15:22  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Completely off topic

Alright, if withholding an employees passport is illegal according to the UAE Federal Law Then how come its impossible to find a reference to this circular / law that the minister is talking about on the ministry of labor website ?

Were they kidding with the temporary workers when they announced that? If such a law exists please post a link here, would like to read that and show it to certain people.

01 July, 2006 15:37  
Blogger Jayne said...

I see the 'results' of "Kissing Cousins" every week, where I volunteer at a (supposed) rehab centre. The patients are not a pretty picture. The babies are dumped, literally, like trash. The ones who are fortunate(?) enough to survive end up in hospitals or homes. For all the dilly abaya-clad schoolgirls that 'visit' bearing gifts of cookies & chocolate, I bet not one of them stops to think that their first offspring could turn out the way the patients do after they practice sex with a close relative.

01 July, 2006 15:40  
Blogger secretdubai said...

I spoke with a UAE national doctor about the consanguinity and thalassaemia issue. The only studies that have really been carried out have been in urban areas, where rates of genetic disorders are high.

It's estimated that in rural and remote areas, such as small mountain villages, places in the Musandam (yes I know that's Oman, but it's all the same, tribal peoples in terms of health issues) rates are many many times higher, because there is so much less out-breeding.

01 July, 2006 16:03  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The system of privileges associated with nationality in the UAE would put-off most emiratis from marrying non-UAE people, though this may change with time.

However, within the context of what is a semi-tribal society, marrying from outside of the clan carries its own issues of prestige, social ascendancy and trust. Highlighting the medical problems associated with cousin-marriage, on its own, will not stop the practice.

The practice of screening is helping. Additionally, I think, marriage across the Arabian peninsula would probably be a good idea. The societies are the same in social terms. Also, countries like Saudi Arabia have growing populations of unmarried women.

Given that 99% of human DNA is the same, we are already brothers and sisters, no matter whether we are from Ethiopia or from Sweden.

01 July, 2006 16:41  
Blogger Axonsax said...

"relatives marriages only dangerous if they were carrying diseases !"

and therein my friends lies the problem...

the bells....the bells.....

01 July, 2006 17:49  
Blogger BuJ said...

very good! totally agree...

02 July, 2006 02:19  
Blogger Emirati said...

I agree with what SD is saying. I have many friends who have 6 toes, webbed feet, my other cousin was born with his intestines inside out. And yet the government supports cousin marriage by not having the balls to object to it. Theyd rather harass people marrying foreigners of course, becuase theyre shit scared of the political ramifications of attacking certain peoples way of life.

Who knows what the effects of genetic disorders we havent found about are ? Disorders to do with how the mind and the intellect operate.

I do feel bad that this messed up materialistic society just dumps its children in institutes, for their own mistakes, they have NO shame whatsoever, spineless bastards.

02 July, 2006 03:39  
Blogger samuraisam said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

02 July, 2006 08:49  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok how about if I get married to an expat but have a little (family) somethin' on the side, know what I mean? Nudge nudge wink wink.

Ok what I'm saying is I'll have half British babies, but still fuck my cousin on the side. Mmm, feels like mommy.

You know what they say, "lust is a must, but incest is the best"!

02 July, 2006 11:17  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It all comes back to protectionism - what's the best way to keep wealth within the family?

On the plus point - all these mentaly handicapped locals will soon be running your local HR department. Hooray!

02 July, 2006 17:23  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't remember hearing the government encouraging cousins marriage, it has always urged the opposite. It don't know what were forumers smoking here.

I also dont think that we have many handicapped locals as the jealous guy, who fears his position to be taken, suggest.

02 July, 2006 20:53  
Blogger Emirati said...

Well then get out a bit more anon.

02 July, 2006 23:43  
Blogger Scott said...

My grandparents were first cousins. I don't have two heads or three arms, although as my collegue just said when I told her, "That explains..."

I'm American, by the way.

Read this:

It's a New York Times article from 2002. Basically, while marrying cousins presents an increased risk of birth defects, the increase isn't nearly as big as most people think, and it basically fades in comparison with other factors that might also increase or reduce the risk.

Yes, I think it's gross, too. But from what it seems, the public health risks are really as outrageous as most people think. Notably, that the pratice of marrying cousins is 100% legal, without restrictions, in 19 U.S. states and all over Europe.

Secret Dubai is probably onto something when she says things might be different in a country where it's been going on for centuries and where the gene pool is limited. And there's no reason whatsoever the government should effectively be promoting the practice.

03 July, 2006 10:41  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My parents are cousins and none of my 8 family members brothers or sisters are handicapped.

Four of them has been married so far but none married a relative, which I totally encourage.

03 July, 2006 14:59  
Blogger waterboy said...

I wish I were as good an economist as Schelling, but I have a hunch that if one were to apply his kind of pattern analysis to the country one would find that the chances of marrying a cousin in such a small national population were rather high.

04 July, 2006 01:28  
Blogger kingfisher said...

I have had a couple of discussions on this subject with some Emirati and Saudi friends...

... but we just didn't see eye to eye!

hee hee

04 July, 2006 03:28  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One thing I don’t understand is as in most of the topics covered; some comments are without understanding the situation, culture and of course religion of this country.

I am an Indian working in this country. And I don’t think, regardless of the reasons, I have a right to argue on a government law.

And cousin marriage is not only a phenomenon (I doubt whether I can call it as a problem) in UAE. It is happening in rest of the world. And there is nothing the government can do, other than educating the people about this issue and about its consequences.

The law prohibiting the marriage with foreigners is entirely another issue related to government’s decision on immigration and foreign policy. And if anyone arguing that, UAE as a country doesn’t have enough people to get married inside their population, it’s hard to believe and in normal case, I would doubt the intention of the arguer.

06 July, 2006 08:32  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Proud to be an Indian you represent exactly what the Emaraati establishment loves an expat to be. A non-thinking accepting follower. I encourage you have your own opinion.

06 July, 2006 22:44  
Blogger Remedy said...

keep guessing for the reasons, but the only reason for emarati-emarati marriage is to keep the culture and tradition which is mostly from the Religion "Islam"

its true we have been facing many diseases caused by cousin marriages, but still we didnt reach to the level of the forigners' diseases!

with all due respect, we dont want to get married to non-local because we care about our kids, we dont want them to get physical nor mental diseases imported by the expats!

09 July, 2006 21:18  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In India esp in Hindu Culture....the marriage between relatives (even distant) is a sin. The science behind this is self evident...(to avoid abnormal offsprings)


27 March, 2007 10:55  
Blogger Unknown said...

Hi Folks, Someone has just said that Hindu culture disallows interrelation marriage. Thats a blatant lie. In all communities in the world, intercommunity marriage is present. People have an inherent tendency to "not accept" the other person's culture and belief. Be that a Hindu Jain or an Emaarati or even a German. There is not such thing as not related, because it has been scientifically proven that infact all of us are RELATED. But still a Lebanese girl would prefer a Lebanese boy, an Indian girl would prefer and Indian boy, a British girl would accept a British boy and vice versa. We all have one thing is common "Fear of being torn away from our roots". No Emaarati would also like to stay with an Indian, because both their worlds are poles apart. Government should not restrict anyones decisions, but the government also thinks that if one is taken away from ones motherland, he/she cannot survive easily. Thats the reason why the Emirates government enforces its rule. Forget that. Lets see how an Indian Kashmiri man and a Kerala woman survive together. Both are Indians, but there ends the similarity. Marrying in immediate relations and marrying anywhere else have similar positives and drawbacks. I being an Indian would again like to smash my other Hindu Indian's idea that marriages in relations are not common or rather a sin. In India the parents search for a suitable girl or boy. Suitability is based on 1. Age, 2. Colour, 3. Community, 4. Social Status, 5. Height, 6. Dowry and lastly 7. Education. If the girl and boy match in all categories they are considered suitable. ONE WITH THIS MANY SIMILARITIES IS BOUND TO BE GENETICALLY RELATED, OTHERWISE IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO MATCH SO MUCH. Think about it.........

14 April, 2007 01:37  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

soo. only catholic church held it as incest... ordinary people do not marry their first cousins.. maybe seventh.. but surely not first... no catholic priest will sanctify such marriage. yes, I know there were some exceptions, but mostly in high classes, in order to avoid wealth division..
the second country preventing cousin marriage is China, or at least they have done it in the past..
have a nice day
PS: I personally know one pair of first cousins, and all their children are handicapped - deaf or almost deaf...

22 May, 2007 18:09  
Blogger freethinker said...

An Answer for Remedy.
First of all inter-race or inter-family marriages are not promoted nor opposed in Islam.
So really I don't know where you get your info.
The fact that the UAE government substantially pays UAE citizens to marry fellow nationals doesn't stem from Islam.
If a UAE girl wants to get married to a foreign national without asking the UAE government for any permission she and her husband should get married in a mosque or with an Imam at home and then leave the country for her not to lose her benefits.(Example if she is on a scholarship program).
Personally I would like to know if there is any blog or website about lives of emirati women married to foreign men in or outside UAE. It'd be interesting to share stories of ordinary psychological murders perpetrated against women and men whose only mistake is an intimate personal desire to be happy together.

19 June, 2007 23:28  
Blogger Unknown said...

It seems that your articles are written with streotypes set in your mind. Please think outside the box.

I am an Indian living in Dubai all my life and what your saying in your blogs is not something i have come across often, rarely in the newspaper. I am sure you will such extreme stories in the west as well maybe with the different flavour, but they do exist in every part of the world.

So please do not create a negative picture of dubai like that, it is a beautiful and safe city

20 August, 2007 16:12  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This topic has nothing to do with the beauty or safety of a city. Good grief, this is a well-known issue in many parts of the world, and most other governments & cultures have learned how to prevent it, such as prohibiting the marriage of cousins. This DOES occur in other countries, but for the most part the genetic risk are known and most people, through modification of their cultural traditions & mores over time, just simply do not view relatives as marriageable.

It appears that some of the social aspects of Islamic culture, some of which derive from the Quran and other Islamic laws, make it convenient for men to seek out female relatives for sexual relationships & marriage. For example, the prohibition of unmarried women to be in the company of unrelated men, kind of makes it tough for unrelated men & women to get together.

16 December, 2007 11:16  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm an Emirati woman married to a Bahraini national. My brother (also obviously an Emirati) is married to a Turkish national. Let me just say that it is not imperative for Emirati nationals to marry another Emirati national. You will not lose your passport if you marry a non-national. We haven't! The 'permission' people mention with regard to the government is a mere formality.

My mother especially is of the view that there was quote 'no way in hell that I was going to marry a cousin or a relative, no matter how distant!'.

People who marry amongst themselves are playing with fire; and to be honest, amazingly selfish: what right do you have to subject your child to genetic diseases??

08 January, 2008 18:31  
Blogger Lady X said...

If you want to marry a foreigner marry one! If you want to marry your cousin marry your cousin! But if you want to marry your cousin be ready for what MIGHT happen to your child- genetic diseases and the like. That being said it doesn't matter who you marry if God decides your child will have some problem it will so I don't think it matters who you marry.
And this business about Emaratis not marrying whoever they wish, I dont think its true because I know a local who married a Kenyan lady and they live happily in Abu Dhabi...If a local can marry a black person I think they can marry ANYONE. I'm not being racist becuz I myself am African...

15 October, 2008 21:59  

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