Cousin Marriage is a massive issue especially amongst Asian Muslims in the UK. It divides the Muslim community like nothing else. You're either dead against it because of cultural and medical reasons or its 'cousin marriage or no marriage' in your parents eyes. Mainly it's parents who favour it and the youth who oppose it. The Revival spoke to the Muslim Youth across the UK to get their views on cousin marriages:
Farzana Patel, 25, Bury
I am all for cousin marriages and I don’t see anything wrong with it. The scientific point that people who marry their cousins have defective children is a load of rubbish, because if it was true all or majority of disabled children would have parents who are cousins.
From a religious point of view there is no prohibition at all, so why should we prohibit it socially? Me and my partner are cousins and I found it an advantage that I knew him and his family, so he wasn’t a stranger and I felt comfortable.
Mohsin Shahid, 25, Oldham
Do I think one should marry their cousin? No. There are several reasons for this. Many people in our communities do not realise what the medical problems are, such as hereditary illnesses. Our parents deny this over and over again, claiming that ‘we didn’t have these problems and look at us - we’re cousins’. However, what they fail to see is that one, or both, of them might be carriers of illnesses or have a recessive gene which can lie dormant for generations, but then be passed onto a child or grandchild.
Another reason is that when you marry your cousins, you can’t be as open with them as you would with an ‘outsider’- you end up treating them like you do your sister! You may accept someone as a spouse when you marry them, but I don’t think you can enjoy your life in the same way as you would if you didn’t marry a cousin. Likewise, your wife also cannot be as open with you, i.e. she might not raise any issues concerning her in fear of upsetting your parents who are either her aunty or uncle.
If someone WANTS to marry their cousin then I think that’s fine. But forcing someone to marry their cousin is bad. My advice is that if someone is going to marry their cousin, they should at least have a medical checkup. Our people might see this as a bad thing, disrespectful even, but I think that this is a necessary precaution.
Sadia Hussain, 23, Bradford
In my family, many of our cousins have some sort of disability because not only are their parents first cousins, but the entire family is inter-related. When you confront them, they insist that they’re not disabled because of the close relations; it’s just ‘Allah’s Will’.
Then there’s the issue of divorce. If one couple get divorced it effects the entire family, not just the two particular individuals. I remember when my sister got divorced, it caused so much drama and half the family stopped talking to her and my parents.
I too got married ‘in the family’, but at least my husband and I are not first cousins; we’re distantly related, which is at least better.
Abdul Ali, 23, Crawley
I think it’s wrong because you’re brought up to treat them as though they’re your brothers/sisters. Plus if something goes wrong, it’s awkward when you see them afterwards, because they’re still part of your family.
Nadia Ali, 26, Derby
Many people in our communities marry their children to cousins for several reasons. One is that the Prophet (pbuh) married his daughter Fatima (ra) to HER cousin, i.e. his (pbuh) nephew. So if the prophet (pbuh) did it, then they believe that they should also. Our older generation think that if they have a daughter-in-law who is their niece, i.e. their brother or sister’s daughter, then she will look after them better when they get older than an unrelated daughter-in-law would.
I myself married a cousin and it did not work out. In my opinion most of the people I know that are against cousin marriages are those that have had bad experiences. I do know people though who HAPPILY went ‘back home’ to marry a cousin and masha’Allah they are very happily married. My own parents are first cousins and have a very happy and loving marriage.
Syma Ahmed 22, Huddersfield
Having a Pakistani background, I view the issue of 'cousin marriages' with cultural sensitivity and an open mind. My very own family has pursued this practice. Setting aside the moral disdain people generally have for cousin marriages, my problem with this practice derives from the physical and social consequences that I have come to witness.
Firstly, the increased risk of genetic disease has become widely acknowledged. In Britain we learnt this in GCSE science, where we found that when two carriers of a disease reproduce there is a good chance their offspring will become a sufferer; family members who share the same genes therefore, and are carriers, are more likely to reproduce a child with a genetic disease.
My biggest frustration is the unwillingness of many Pakistani people to even accept this as a possibility. Many parents believe these children would have been born with disorders anyway had their parents not been related. What is mind-boggling is the conviction of such statements. It seems to me that science is appreciated in the form of modern medicines, but becomes the enemy when it stands against cultural traditions. This is what I see as blissful ignorance. They refuse to acknowledge what is happening and carry on with these practices, blaming it on 'kismat' (destiny) when things go wrong.
"Why marry your cousin?" The basic answer is to uphold the hierarchy that predominates in Pakistani families of course, where the so-called elders rule with an iron fist. The idea of 'respecting your elders' to me is something that should be done and should be a way of life, though I have come to realise this phrase has been used as a tool of oppression.
Women are told to marry internally so that they will continue to 'belong' to the family. Their labour, their time, their space is owned by the family, and this continues when she marries her cousin. For the boy, mother-in-laws are instantly jealous of women who threaten to take away their sons.
These are generalisations and the issue is much too complicated to be conveyed here. However, what I will say is that in the C4 programme a father-in-law claimed he wanted his niece to marry his son because the bond of love is already there. I think it’s more the case that it’s hard in Britain to find a daughter-in-law who will do the constant bidding of the in-laws without it ending in divorce two years later.
Cousin marriages are not about two people simply coming together to get married; it’s a mechanism to uphold the family order, it’s about the paranoia of an outsider marrying into the family, but more importantly it’s a source of protection for certain members of the family who want the world to continue revolving around them.
Jamal Khan, 34, Sheffield
If cousin marriages, like any marriage, are done without force and with the full consent of the man and woman, and with the couple being compatible with each other, then I say 'why not'? My problem with cousin marriages is that most cousins who marry don't really have a choice; it's either marry this cousin or that cousin... not marry whoever is compatible with you, because marrying outside the family is seen as a crime.
My biggest issue with cousin marriages is that if it doesn't work out and the couple divorce then many, many families, and even generations, fall out for life, unlike in non-cousin marriages where only the couple or the two families are affected.
Haffsah Nazir, 22, Rochdale
To put it simply, I think marriages between cousins are wrong. Your cousins are your extended family, and should be treated like brothers and sisters, not potential life partners. Yet there seems to be a lasting tendency for parents to arrange cousin marriages whilst children are still toddlers.
More than anything else I believe it is emotional blackmail that ‘encourages’ young Muslims to marry within the family, and it’s a real shame that parents make their children feel as though they should ‘repay’ them through marriage.
I think it’s unfair that many young people are not given a degree of freedom and choice when choosing the person they are ultimately likely to spend the rest of their lives with. I also believe that on issues such as this, the generation gap is becoming much more apparent.
On top of this there are a whole load of medical factors that come into play with cousin marriages, and again I feel this is unfair on all persons involved, although I am ignorantly unaware of the facts around this.
Nazia Salim, 27, London
Fortunately growing up, I knew that cousin marriage would never be an issue in my life. My parents were not cousins, nor were any of my grandparents. I was also lucky enough not to have any male cousins near my age. I felt sorry for school friends that were expected to marry their cousins when they grew up.
I am happily married to someone who is not related to me at all. I’ve enjoyed getting to know my husband; where he went to university, what he got up to at school, the part time jobs he did growing up, and I’ve enjoyed getting to know his family members too. This information wouldn’t have been new to me if he was a cousin of mine.
My husband and I are very protective about our privacy and have a zero tolerance approach for any interference in our marriage. This is easily done, because I don’t have a double relationship with anyone in our family. This wouldn’t have been the case if I had married into the family. I also don’t have the fear that if (God forbid) my husband and I were to divorce, it would cause a huge family feud and a divide within the family.
My marriage is interesting and fun – that’s because even after two years of marriage I’m still getting to know my husband. I wouldn’t have had that level of mystery if I had married a cousin.
Yaqub Maqsood, 32, Leicester
I’m married to my cousin from Pakistan and it's been a happy 6 years so far alhamdulillah. I wasn’t forced into marriage, and got to know her well before we married. I have two sons now who are masha' Allah healthy and as active as ever. So I suppose I am proof that cousin marriages do and can work… the secret is to buy your own house and not let the ‘aunties’ interfere lol. The key is that you are compatible with each other and after that you put in 100% effort if you want your marriage to last forever and want to live happily ever after!
Most of my relatives have had cousin marriages and to be honest some haven’t worked out, but others are happy and dandy! It’s a shame that a lot of people don’t really get a choice when it comes to marrying their cousin and a lot are emotionally blackmailed! Also if (God forbid) it doesn’t work out then hundreds of families here and abroad completely fall out for years, if not life!
Even though I’m not against cousin marriages I wouldn’t want my kids to marry their cousins because of the reasons I’ve mentioned, but mainly because my grandparents, parents and me have all married first cousins, and the gene pool now will be so weak that I think my kids are at a ‘higher risk’ of having disabled children… and I don’t want to gamble with their lives. I'd rather they marry anyone compatible and Islamic and avoid all the cousin marriage politics altogether.
Shamila, 22, Shipley
I think the only people that want cousin marriages are the parents. No person in their right mind would happily marry their cousin if there wasn't some sort of family pressure. Our cousins are like brothers and sisters - particularly in close knit families.
Parents want their kids to marry their cousins for their own self-interests. They dress it up by saying it’s the Islamic thing to do when Islam does not encourage or discourage it.
Parents want their kids to marry cousins because they think that a related daughter-in-law is more likely to treat them well and look after them, regardless of whether she’s the right girl for their son, thereby acting in their own interests.
Generations of cousin marriages lead to a limited gene pool too, so scientifically it can't be a good thing either.