Despite health risks, Saudis continue to prefer consanguineous marriages

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Consanguineous unions have long been proven to increase the risk of congenital/genetic disorders, yet despite what modern science tells us, many Saudis continue to view consanguinity as a safe practice that offers many social benefits to young men and women, Makkah daily reported.

According to Ahmed Qassim Al-Ghamdi, the former head of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, awareness among Saudis of hereditary disease in children and their relationship to marriages between relatives has increased due to the progress made in scientific research. Al-Ghamdi, however, said many of the risks have been exaggerated and urged couples to undergo premarital blood testing.

“Scientific studies have proven that there is an increase in risk of affliction with certain hereditary diseases among children born from marriages between close relatives. The studies have proven a high probability of the husband and wife carrying the same genes if they are relatives. Hence, this increases the probability of their children carrying a gene for a rare disease. However, this does not necessarily mean that every related couple’s child will be born with hereditary disease,” he said.

“The belief that marriage between relatives in itself increases hereditary diseases in children is an exaggerated belief. Islam has permitted marriage between relatives. The Prophet (peace be upon him) married his daughter Fatima to his cousin Ali Bin Abi Talib (may Allah be pleased with him). The companions of the Prophet followed the same path. This is widespread in Arab societies even though it has a role in the appearance of some hereditary diseases. At the same time, it causes the appearance of some good characteristics. The moderate view is to take precautions by undergoing premarital blood testing,” he added.

A relative is better than a stranger

Educational consultant Dr. Shaker Al-Hukair said one cannot issue an absolute judgment in favor or against consanguineous unions especially since many Saudis support such unions due to several reasons.

“The most important among these reasons is to follow what happened during the era of the Prophet (pbuh) as he married his daughter Fatima to his cousin Ali Bin Abi Talib (may Allah be pleased with him). Marriage between relatives strengthens the bonds of kinship, aside from boosting the bonds of intermarriage. A husband and wife need a lot of wisdom in dealing with their marital differences and even in the case of separation, the bonds of kinship and kindness remain. Despite the disadvantages of marriage between relatives, I still believe that the advantages exceed the disadvantages. The previously mentioned matters are a sufficient reason for supporting marriage between relatives,” he said.

Citizen Nawal Abdullah Abdu said marriage between relatives is a good thing provided the nature of the couple, their inclinations and feelings are in conformity for the success of the marriage and its cohesion.

“Nonconformity and discomfort between the husband and wife leads to separation that spreads enmity and hatred between relatives. This erases the kinship between them. According to doctors, marriage between relatives leads to hereditary diseases in the children. One can avoid such a situation by undergoing premarital blood testing, the way it is conducted at present.”