Islamic Incest Ratchet

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This article is part of a series of articles titled Faith_Ratchet.

Link to discussion

Islam encourages and facilitates consanguineous marriages (ie incestuous, between blood relatives). These cause a number of health issues among children of these marriages, as well as a significant reduction in IQ. This reduction in IQ is likely to make Islam more attractive as an ideology. This article presents the Quranic support for incest, evidence of the actual rate of incest by country, the health effects on children of incestuous marriage, the impact this has on IQ in Muslim countries, and an argument for how this lowering of IQ makes Islam more popular.

Quranic support for incest

Islam forbids marriage between siblings, parents and children, as well as marrying aunts and uncles. All else is permitted.

Qur'an 4:23-24

Prohibited to you (For marriage) are:- Your mothers, daughters, sisters; father's sisters, Mother's sisters; brother's daughters, sister's daughters; foster-mothers (Who gave you suck), foster-sisters; your wives' mothers; your step-daughters under your guardianship, born of your wives to whom ye have gone in,- no prohibition if ye have not gone in;- (Those who have been) wives of your sons proceeding from your loins; and two sisters in wedlock at one and the same time, except for what is past; for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful;-

Lawful to you are all beyond those mentioned, so that you may seek them with your wealth in honest wedlock…" In Sura Al-Ahzab (33:50)

Qur'an 33:50

O Prophet, indeed We have made lawful to you your wives to whom you have given their due compensation and those your right hand possesses from what Allah has returned to you [of captives] and the daughters of your paternal uncles and the daughters of your paternal aunts and the daughters of your maternal uncles and the daughters of your maternal aunts who emigrated with you and a believing woman if she gives herself to the Prophet [and] if the Prophet wishes to marry her, [this is] only for you, excluding the [other] believers. We certainly know what We have made obligatory upon them concerning their wives and those their right hands possess, [but this is for you] in order that there will be upon you no discomfort. And ever is Allah Forgiving and Merciful.

As well as explicitly permitting marriage between cousins, several aspects of Islam encourage this practice.

One such aspect is the example set by Muhammad himself [1]. The prophet Muhammad married his own cousin, and arranged his daughter to marry his (Muhammad's) cousin. The second Caliph, Umar ibn al-Khattab, also married his own cousin.

Another aspect is the prevalence of dowries. Where a family has significant wealth, marriage between cousins helps to keep that wealth within the family. The same is true of the reputation associated with the family name - Muslims tend to place great significance on reputation (more so than say, honesty), and marrying your daughter off to her cousin is seen as a source of social status [2]. For this reason, incest among Muslims is often more prevalent in higher socioeconomic classes (ie, richer people). This is contrary to the western stereotype of a 'backwards hick' marrying his cousin, but may be familiar from the history of European royalty, who also suffered significant health problems because of the practice.

Other aspects that make it more common include the prevalence of arranged marriages and various bans on men and women freely interacting. This is particularly true in countries where women are forced to wear a burka.

Many middle eastern countries impose a compulsory education session prior to marriage, mostly to inform people of the health risks of incest. Given the general Islamic principle against banning what Allah has permitted, this is as far as those countries can go in their efforts to combat incest. It is not working. In many, the prevalence of incest has increased over recent decades, since records began [3]. Between the 1940s and 1970s the percentage of Iranian cousin marriages increased from 34 to 44%. A 2009 study found that many Arab countries display some of the highest rates of consanguineous marriages in the world, and that first cousin marriages may reach 25-30% of all marriages. In Qatar, Yemen, and UAE, consanguinity rates are increasing in the current generation.

Rates of incest

So, just how common is it? This plot [4] shows the percentage of consanguineous (second cousins or closer) marriage by country:

Just to reinforce the influence that Islam has on this, compare the map above with this map of the military expansion of the early Caliphate [5].

There are a few outliers, but they have acquired a large Muslim population more recently. Surprisingly, the history of political Islam is probably a better predictor of incest rates than current Muslim population. Perhaps more recent recruits are not quite so keen to jump into bed with their cousin.

Note that the results presented above are the average for each country. Within each country, rates of incest vary widely between communities and also between socioeconomic classes as discussed above. In some central Arabian communities, a man is considered to have the 'right' to marry his cousin (father's brother's daughter). While he can not force her to marry him, she must obtain his consent in order to marry someone else [6].

There is a clear correlation, but is there causation? It is not the case that Islam was somehow drawn to areas where incest was common. For example, first and second cousin marriages were banned at the (Christian) Council of Agde in AD 506, over two centuries before Muhammad. For a time, this was even extended out to sixth-cousins. Jewish law has banned incest since the time of Moses (1500 BC) [7]. The example of Muhammad, the scriptures quoted above, and many other aspects of Islam demonstrate that Islam permits and encourages incestuous marriage. However it will be argued below that in addition to Islam causing incest, incest causes Islam. But first, the medical evidence and a historical note.


In April 2002, the Journal of Genetic Counseling released a report which estimated the average risk of birth defects in a child born of first cousins at 1.1–2.0% over an average base risk for non-cousin couples of 3%. In terms of mortality, a 1994 study found a mean excess pre-reproductive mortality rate of 4.4%, while another study published in 2009 suggests the rate may be closer to 3.5%.

Although isolated cousin marriages may pose little risk, repeated consanguineous marriages within a group are more problematic [8]. After repeated generations of cousin marriage the actual genetic relationship between two people is closer than the most immediate relationship would suggest. In Pakistan, where there has been cousin marriage for generations and the current rate may exceed 50%, one study estimated infant mortality at 12.7 percent for married double first cousins, 7.9 percent for first cousins, 9.2 percent for first cousins once removed/double second cousins, 6.9 percent for second cousins, and 5.1 percent among nonconsanguineous progeny. Among double first cousin progeny, 41.2 percent of prereproductive deaths were associated with the expression of detrimental recessive genes, with equivalent values of 26.0, 14.9, and 8.1 percent for first cousins, first cousins once removed/double second cousins, and second cousins respectively.

In places affected by the initial rapid military expansion of the first Caliphate (Islamic State) under Muhammad and his successors, divinely sanctioned inbreeding has been happening for roughly 50 generations. Approximately half of all Muslims in the world are inbred, with rates as high as 70% in Pakistan [9]. Among Pakistani immigrantsd to Denmark, he risk of what are called autosomal recessive disorders such as cystic fibrosis and spinal muscular atrophy are 18 times higher than native Danes [10]. Among Pakistani immigrants to Britain, 55% are married to a first cousin [11].

Historical context

On a historical note, the two maps presented above cover almost the entirety of western civilisation until Muhammad's time. Until then, western civilisation had been centered first on Iraq, then Iran and then Egypt. It was not until the Roman Empire that the center of western civilisation moved to Europe. The footprint of the Caliphate, with the exception of the Iberian Peninsula (Muslim invaders were driven out of modern day Spain, Portugal and parts of France during the inquisition) is a footprint of the effective destruction of the progress of civilisation. These societies went from being the oldest, most civilised and advanced societies, to being social and economic backwaters. This can be seen not just in the map of the prevalence of incest, but in just about any measure of human progress across the region.

Muslims tend to make a great deal of the Islamic 'golden age,' however the historical evidence shows that measures of human development (eg, lifespan) remained well below those previously seen in the Roman Empire. These levels were not exceeded until well into the industrial revolution. In other words, Islam 'locked in' what were effectively 'post-apocalyptic' living standards that followed the collapse of the Roman Empire. In fact, it was during the 'Islamic golden age' that western civilisation slipped behind eastern civilisations on basic measures of human development for the first time in history [12]. To be fair, the increase in living standards had always been somewhat cyclical in both western and eastern civilisations, however the 2 millennia downturn in western civilisation following the Roman Empire was far longer than the historical record would anticipate. Furthermore, the sheer expanse and power of the Caliphate (it became the largest empire the world had seen until then) should have made the next 'great leap forward' inevitable. Instead, the opposite happened.

In seeking an explanation for this, consider the dire consequences of generations of inbreeding on intelligence.


Incest significantly reduces the intelligence of children [13]. The risk of having an IQ lower than 70 (criterion for being “retarded”) increases 400% among children from cousin marriages. [14].

In 2014, two studies from North India (Jammu and Kashmir), reported in PLoS ONE and American Journal of Human Biology providing the evidence for inbreeding depression on cognitive behavior and physical traits (height, weight and body mass index) respectively. The average reduction in IQ due to inbreeding was 22, 24 and 27, depending on the measure used. Below are some extracts from "Estimating the Inbreeding Depression on Cognitive Behavior: A Population Based Study of Child Cohort" (Mohd Fareed, Mohammad Afzal):

This study is one of the first attempts with details of inbreeding coefficients and elaborate statistics to examine the effects of inbreeding on the cognitive abilities of children among the indigenous Muslim populations of Jammu region (Northern India). Our results showed a significant decline in cognitive abilities of children due to inbreeding and higher frequency of mental retardation observed among offspring of inbred families, whereas children from non-consanguineous families display higher values of VIQ, PIQ and FSIQ scores and consequently low frequency of mental retardation or ID. Various studies on consanguineous marriages and other forms of inbreeding have cited a discernible reduction in cognitive abilities, with increased mental illness in the offspring of such unions. A familial study has reported the incidence of mental retardation among the children of first-cousins being four times greater than that in the control group. The study of Morton has revealed that the offspring of first-cousins had over five time’s higher risk of mental retardation when compared to that of the control. The study concluded that decline in IQ or increase in the frequency of mental retardation were consistent with rare recessive alleles associated with around 325 loci, whose likelihood of being transmitted to offspring increases with the relatedness of the parents. The present study differs in several aspects from a previous study conducted among the Ansari Muslims of Bhagalpur, as it overcomes the limitations with inclusion of details of inbreeding categories, SES, also five Muslim populations and elaborate statistical models.

We found significant decline in child cognitive abilities due to inbreeding and high frequency of mental retardation among offspring from inbred families. The mean differences (95% C.I.) were reported for the VIQ, being -22.00 (-24.82, -19.17), PIQ -26.92 (-29.96, -23.87) and FSIQ -24.47 (-27.35, -21.59) for inbred as compared to non-inbred children (p>0.001). The higher risk of being mentally retarded was found to be more obvious among inbred categories corresponding to the degree of inbreeding and the same accounts least for non-inbred children (p<0.0001).


VIQ = Verbal IQ

PIQ = Performance IQ

FSIQ = Full-Scale IQ

C.I. = Confidence Interval - the researchers are 95% sure that the real value is between the two numbers in brackets, based on the uncertainty inherent in the statistical analysis.

In summary, our comprehensive assessment revealed that parental consanguinity and degree of inbreeding was significantly associated with depression in intellectual behaviors among children. Factors other than inbreeding showed little influence, suggesting that genetic component (i.e., inbreeding) was more influential over these parameters under study. Moreover, the depression in cognitive abilities seems to be more prominent due to increase in the degree of inbreeding (F). This study provides new leads for health care providers and health policy makers to train and make people familiar with the assessment of harmful effects of inbreeding on mental health and cognitive efficiency.

Aggregate Intelligence

Measures of aggregate intelligence (eg, average intelligence by country, or country of origin) are controversial and typically associated with racism - probably because many of the people who are involved are openly racist. In addition, they are mired in technical arguments over how to interpret them. This theory provides another alternative explanation to the racist one, at least for those regions covered by the original Caliphate. These places buck many trends, such as the apparent reversal of the historical development of human civilisation, and the extreme social conservativeness even in very wealthy countries. Incest may explain much of this enigma.

The mean IQ in Arab countries is 84 [15]. This is over a full standard deviation (which is 15) below the 'normal' mean of 100. That is, what passes for average would be in the bottom 15% elsewhere. Other countries that fall within the historical Caliphate (excluding Spain and Portugal), also tend to have high rates of incest and similarly low aggregate IQ levels [16].

To further reinforce the genetic (rather than purely cultural or environmental) cause, rates of physical and mental disability are significantly higher among Muslim immigrants to some western countries [17]. 64% of school children with Arabic parents are still illiterate after 10 years in the Danish school system [18].

Back to Islam

So far we have demonstrated that Islam permits and encourages incest, that this results in much higher rates of incest in Muslim countries and that this incest causes significant mental and physical health problems. Now we go full circle to consider how this reduction in intelligence actually promotes Islam.

There is recurring media coverage of an interesting phenomenon that less intelligent people are more likely to hold conservative political views [19][20]. The leading theory for this is that socially conservative ideologies provide a rigid structure that less intelligent people find comforting. That is, simple rules effectively absolve them on the need to think for themselves. When it comes to socially and politically conservative ideologies, Islam is at the top of the list. Not only that, it provides seemingly arbitrary rules for myriad daily activities. This goes some way towards explaining the maps above showing very high rates of incest in the most conservative Islamic countries, and those with the longest history of political Islamic rule.

In summary, Islam permits and encourages incest, which results in demonstrably high rates of incest in Muslim countries, high infant mortality and other health problems, as well as lower intellect, which in turn increases the likelihood of children of incestuous relationships being attracted to Islam and thus engaging in incest themselves.

Thus, incest and the resulting reduction in intelligence is one aspect of the broader 'faith ratchet' of Islam - a mechanism by which Islam may be easily introduced, but very difficult to extinguish because of the properties of Islam itself. For example, Muslims may insist that their religion is tolerated, and have in the past used hostility to Islam as a pretext for military conquest. However, as Islam begins to dominate every aspect of a society, the death penalty for blasphemy (criticising Islam) and apostasy (leaving Islam) is likely to be introduced. Several such mechanisms have been identified and are outlined here [21].

What to do?

You may be breathing a sigh of relief that this argument undermines racist explanations for low measured IQ. After all, the societies affected are the oldest civilisations on earth and represent most of the history of western civilisation, which lead the world in living standards and social development until the time of Muhammad. Furthermore, it may seem that the health problems and low intelligence now have an easy fix - simply stop incestuous marriages. However, they also highlight some fundamental challenges facing health workers in the region. As discussed above, efforts by authorities in the middle east to reduce the rate of incest are limited to offering compulsory advice to prospective couples. This is no doubt a reflection of the difficulties in banning a practice that is not only permitted in Islam, but was practiced by Muhammad and the early ('rightly guided') Caliphs. It would be difficult for the people giving this advice to describe incest and the increased risk of mortality and lower intelligence in any negative way. Counselors must be sensitive not only to pontentially very low intelligence, but religious-inspired hostility to their message. As a result, the advice is not working, and the rate of incest is increasing in many middle eastern countries [22].

The other religious and social institutions that encourage and facilitate incest are equally difficult to break down, as most of them have their roots in Islamic law and the example set by Muhammad.

The results of inbreeding are starting to have health, economic and social impacts on western countries with significant immigrant Muslim populations. It is estimated that one third of all handicapped people in Copenhagen have a foreign background. One third of the budget for Denmark’s schools is spent on children with special needs. Muslim children are grossly over-represented among these children [23]. Low intelligence is being used as a legal defense by Islamic terrorists [24]. Efforts to confront this problem (that ought to be easily corrected) are usually undermined by accusation of racism and Islamophobia [25][26][27].

It is my hope that this article highlights both the scale of the problem and the tragic situation these people now find themselves in. Whole societies are suffering from an easily curable 'disease' that they are religiously dedicated to suffering under. Furthermore, the problem is spreading. There are myriad options to address the problem [28], which I will not go in to except to say that something should be done, but it will be far more difficult than we imagine to achieve success.