Miljøvernminister i Storbritannia, Phil Woolas, sier at fetter/kusine-ekteskap mellom bestemte grupper britiske muslimer er grunnen til at de får en uforholdsmessig høy andel av barn med defekter.

Man går som katten rundt grøten når det gjelder temaet, selv om det er godt kjent i områder med mange muslimer, sier Woolas.

Phil Woolas, an environment minister, said the culture of arranged marriages between first cousins was the «elephant in the room».

Medical research suggests that while British Pakistanis are responsible for 3% of all births, they account for one in three British children born with genetic illnesses.

Woolas, who represents the ethnically mixed seat of Oldham East and Saddleworth, has previously warned that Muslim women who wear headscarves could provoke «fear and resentment». Yesterday, he was similarly outspoken.

«If you talk to any primary care worker they will tell you that levels of disability among the . . . Pakistani population are higher than the general population. And everybody knows it’s caused by first cousin marriage.

«That’s a cultural thing rather than a religious thing. It is not illegal in this country.

«The problem is that many of the parents themselves and many of the public spokespeople are themselves products of first cousin marriages. It’s very difficult for people to say ‘you can’t do that’ because it’s a very sensitive, human thing.»

He added that the issue is not talked about. «The health authorities look into it. Most health workers and primary care trusts in areas like mine are very aware of it. But it’s a very sensitive issue. That’s why it’s not even a debate and people outside of these areas don’t really know it exists.»

Woolas was supported by Ann Cryer, Labour MP for Keighley, who called for the NHS to do more to warn parents of the dangers of inbreeding.

«This is to do with a medieval culture where you keep wealth within the family,» she said.

Minister warns of ‘inbred’ Muslims