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November 01, 2006

Cousin Marriage in the MidEast

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Steve Sailer has done heroic work alerting us to the fact that many marriages in the mideast are between close relatives. His sensible political point is that it's nuts to expect such a region to behave like a collection of modern, bureaucratic states, and far more realistic to expect quarrelsome tribal behavior from these people instead.

Today Steve links to a WashPost article from 2000 about the marriage situation in Saudi Arabia, and reproduces a chart showing how common close-relative marriages are in the region. They're very common, in fact. 57.9% of marriages in Iraq are between what Westerners would consider close relatives!



posted by Michael at November 1, 2006


This also relates to the difficulty in promoting loyalty to the ideals of a state versus loyalty to one's clan or tribe.

Posted by: beloml on November 1, 2006 1:18 PM

I've often thought that the "honor killing" phenomenon is somewhat related to this as well. If it is likely that your daughter will end up marrying your brother's kid, then her dating some guy is preemptively cuckolding a member of your family.

Posted by: chris on November 1, 2006 3:03 PM

Well, gosh, this might explain an awful lot about the development of societies in the middle east...the inbreeding thing not being the best evolutionary tool.

Posted by: annette on November 1, 2006 4:20 PM

I don't have anything against Saudi Arabian guys, but would you want their sisters to marry one?

Posted by: Rick Darby on November 1, 2006 5:49 PM

Not only in the Mid-East, but among immigrants from these parts in Western Europe as well. Brides are often especially imported. Which leads those couples them being prone to far more genetical disorders/hereditary diseases than the other population.

Posted by: ijsbrand on November 1, 2006 6:28 PM

Since I often disagree with Sailer, I will take this opportunity to say that he is absolutely right to point this out as a critically important fact to understand these socieities. They cannot form a civil society along western lines if they cannot allow individual choice in private matters like marriage decisions. There are no privagte matters in these societies. There are only networks of relatives who play zero sum games. No civil society, no citizenship, no trust of non-kin. None of the foundations of the West. If you want to understand where our society gets its dynamism, look at marriage practices. See in particular Alan Macfarlane Marriage and Love in England, 1300-1840

Posted by: Lexington Green on November 1, 2006 11:17 PM

Ummm... this is something all anthropologists and many sociologists have known forever; it's intrinsic to what is meant by clan society. For those of us who pride ourselves on stoutly exogamous NW-European origins, it was true until just a few centuries ago (an eyeblink in genetic terms); it was an inescapable concomitant of life in agricultural villages. So the big news is...? The deep sociobiological implications are..?

Posted by: Monte Davis on November 2, 2006 9:08 AM

Also very true in Iran, I can tell you via (unsuccessful) attempts to understand my wife's family tree. It's a very common situation to be able to establish more than one accurate description of a distant family member's relationship to you: "Well, if you come around through my mother's side, then they're. . ."

Posted by: Derek Lowe on November 2, 2006 12:54 PM

Why is it, anyway, that we have such a bias against first cousin-marriage in our society? It doesn't come from Scripture (not anywhere in the prohibited-relations list in Leviticus), and according to a study reported a few years back in the New England Journal of Medicine, offspring from marriages of first cousins don't show an increased tendency towards retardation, or other mental or physical genetic defects, so why the bias?

Posted by: anon on November 3, 2006 11:02 PM

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