Is there incest in Islam

family: So that everything stays in the family

Vienna. Yasemin Yadigaroglu is not exactly liked by most of the mosque associations in her hometown of Duisburg. The young social scientist with Turkish roots has often been insulted as a "nest polluter" because she has dedicated herself to the topic of relatives marriages among migrants.

In 2006, during a kindergarten internship, she noticed the high number of children with hearing problems, mostly from immigrant families. After further research, it was clear to her that this frequent occurrence of hereditary diseases is related to so-called consanguineous marriages, i.e. when the parents are related to each other. As a rule, it is the first cousin or first cousin who are considered the preferred spouse in many Turkish and Arab migrant families. In order to educate the communities about the consequences of this practice, Yadigaroglu gives lectures wherever she can and has also received nationwide media coverage in Germany.

In Austria it was doctors like the gynecologist Martin Langer from the Vienna General Hospital who took up the topic a few years ago. "The problem came up to us through the children we look after because they are very difficult and atypical diagnoses," recalls Langer. "The real problem is when first cousins ​​marry over many generations. The genetic material is becoming less colorful. This also means that genetic predispositions for certain diseases are more often passed on from both parents."

The diseases actually break out in a quarter of children. Langer estimates that out of a total of around 18,000 newborns in Vienna every year, 30 to 50 are born with hereditary diseases through relatives' marriages: "I am assuming a consanguinity rate that is similar to that in Turkey, around 25 percent. Scientists there have taken up the problem for a long time and there are studies with solid numbers on it. "

Gül Ayse Basari also regularly deals with marriages between cousins. The "Orient Express" counseling center she heads helps women who are affected by violence in marriage or forced marriage. "The fundamental problem is the forced marriage, because a high proportion of it are also related marriages," says Basari. There are several reasons why this tradition is so popular, especially in conservative migrant families: "This is how wealth is kept in the family and it is assumed that related spouses get along better than non-family members. Control over young women also plays a role which is more likely to be possible in a marriage of relatives. "

The aim of these families is to keep the marriage going under all circumstances. The daughters who still want to break out are threatened with repudiation. As far as the second generation is concerned, Basari is optimistic: "They will no longer carry on like this. A lot of young women say: For me my cousin is like a brother, I cannot marry him." But Basari does not want to take a targeted stand against marriage of relatives: "We do not work against it as long as it is voluntary marriages."

Martin Langer does not want to approach the problem with regulations either: "An instructive or derogatory undertone in advice is inappropriate and should be avoided at all costs." The only effective strategy is to promote education and employment for women. "The better educated the women, the less consanguineous marriages occur." There are not yet any specific initiatives to raise awareness in Austria.

Roots in ancient times

The majority population often reacts to the phenomenon with incomprehension and indignation. The tabloid media are quickly at hand with the catchphrase "incest baby", even if the vast majority of related marriages do not involve incest, which is forbidden by law, i.e. sexual contact between siblings, parents and children or with nieces and nephews.

The connection between Islam and consanguinity is also made quickly at first glance, but it does not go far enough. "Islam certainly did not invent marriage of relatives. Rather, it is based on a social ethic rooted in ancient civilizations that has flowed into Islamic customs," says the ethnologist Monika Schreiber, who wrote her dissertation on the subject of consanguinity. After all, the religious minorities in the Middle East such as the Druze, the Jews and the Christians also have consumption rates of between ten and thirty percent.

"Consanguinity is a social norm, perhaps comparable to the veiling of women, which is not a dogma of the Koran either. This even contains in some cases extensive catalogs of forbidden relatives," emphasizes the scientist, referring to a number of peoples in the Middle East who in pre-Islamic times not only practiced cousin marriage, but also marriage between siblings and between parents and children.

Marrying the first cousin was also allowed by Islam and was thereby upgraded. "In particular, the special form of parallel marriage between the children of two brothers, the bint-al-’amm marriage, became the ultimate Islamic marriage," explains Monika Schreiber. As far as suppressing these traditions is concerned, she also cites the fight against forced marriage as an approach, but also religion: "In the traditional Islamic literature there are also very skeptical traditions about consanguinity. On the other hand, there is also the badal marriage form, in which two men give each other their sisters for marriage. In Islam it is explicitly forbidden, but in the Middle East it is just as popular as cousin marriage. "