There has been a widely publicized Muslim invasion of the West, in particular of Western Europe, who have brought with them some of their culture and social customs. It is thus of particular interest to know a little more about this culture and social customs, and their broader effects. Here, we will describe a couple of tings.
Calendar and Ramadan
The Islamic calendar is unquestionably the world’s absolute worst. Almost every ancient calendar is a Lunar calendar (because the phases of the moon are obvious to the most casual observer). The problem, of course, is that the Lunar month is not an integer fraction of the Solar year, and every civilization since (and including) the ancient Babylonians and Egyptians has tried (with some success) to address this problem, by some combination of varying the length of months slightly and introducing leap years – the Gregorian calendar has leap days every four years (more or less), the Jewish calendar has leap months and so on. Having these fixes is what makes the calendar have some predictive power, so that we know that February is usually pretty cold, while April is a good time to start planting.
The Islamic calendar has no such adjustments, and having the date (without the year) gives absolutely no information about the season.This is perhaps explicable by the provenance of Islam as a religion of conquest, whose first practitioners were nomadic Arabs – these people lived in a tropical climate, and agriculture was not a high priority, so they just did not bother to make the adjustments.
However, now comes the Islamic part. Mohammed, by copying (poorly) the Jewish religious observance (which has a number of fast days), introduced the month of Ramadan, wherein the faithful are forbiddent to eat or drink between sunrise and sunset (and generally feast after the Sun goes down). From all accounts, the first Ramadan was in the Winter (when the days are short), and did not seem particularly arduous, but the error of this observance was obvious only a few years later, since not eating or drinking during the longer (and hotter) Summer days is quite an ordeal. To make this worse, no one consulted the womenfolk, and they seem to be the ones most affected, especially when pregnant – actually, not so much the women, as the embryo they are carrying (it should be noted that fasting while pregnant is not, strictly speaking, required. However, as we all know, it takes a while to determine whether or not someone is pregnant, which means that there is a high probability of someone fasting at the early stage of pregnancy , which is precisely when fasting has the most deleterious effect.
To read the gruesome details, you can see this article by Jordan Schemerhorn, and for a more encyclopedic treatment, see the wikislam article. We quote the part particularly relevant to the current post:
A new study by scientists in the United States has revealed that pregnant Muslim women who fast during Ramadan are likely to have smaller babies who will be more prone to learning disabilities in adulthood.The researchers also found that the women were 10 per cent less likely to give birth to a boy if they had fasted during Ramadan. The trend was clearest if the fasting was done early in the women’s pregnancy, and during the summer months, when long hours of daylight called for them to go longer without food.
. . .The study, which used census data from the US, Iraq and Uganda, also discovered long-term effects on the adult’s health and his or her future economic success.
“We generally find the largest effects on adults when Ramadan falls early in pregnancy,” the Independent quoted Douglas Almond, of Columbia University, and Bhashkar Mazumder, of the Federal Research Bank of Chicago, the authors of the research, as saying.
“Rates of adult disability are roughly 20 per cent higher, with specific mental disabilities showing substantially larger effects. Importantly, we detect no corresponding outcome differences when the same design is applied to non-Muslims,” they added.
(note: I have first learned of these problems from Levitt and Dubner’s Freakonomics)
For whatever reasons, inbreeding (more politely known as consanguinity) is extremely wide-spread in Muslim societies (if I had to think of a reason, I would guess that the discouragement of contact between men and women leads to most people of opposite sex you know being close blood relatives. However, this is not a full explanation, since historically most Hindu marriages are arranged, without the same phenomenon occurring). A very valuable resource in this field is
Bittles A.H. and Black M.L. (2015) Global Patterns & Tables of Consanguinity. http://consang.net
The key quantity used in the Brittles and Black study (which is an aggregate of a number of other studies) is
As a working definition, unions contracted between persons biologically related as second cousins (F ≥ 0.0156) are categorized as consanguineous. This arbitrary limit has been chosen because the genetic influence in marriages between couples related to a lesser degree would usually be expected to differ only slightly from that observed in the general population. Globally, the most common form of consanguineous union contracted is between first cousins, in which the spouses share 1/8 of their genes inherited from a common ancestor, and so their progeny are homozygous (or more correctly autozygous) at 1/16 of all loci. Conventionally this is expressed as the coefficient of inbreeding (F) and for first cousin offspring,F = 0.0625. That is, the progeny are predicted to have inherited identical gene copies from each parent at 6.25% of all gene loci, over and above the baseline level of homozygosity in the general population. In some large human populations genetically closer marriages also are favoured, in particular uncle-niece and double first cousin unions where the level of homozygosity in the progeny is equivalent to F = 0.125.
Brittles and Black now give the following startling graphic:
The reader will see heavy prevalence of consanguinity in the Middle East, but in fact, studying the tables thoughtfully provided by them, we see that in the only major mixed-religion country (India), the high percentages of consanguinity are specific to Muslim populations, and are very low (though a little higher than in Western countries) in the Hindu population. We can quote Bittles and Hussain:
An analysis of consanguineous marriage in the Muslim population of India at regional and state levels
A. H. BITTLES and R. HUSSAIN
Edith Cowan University, Perth, Australia
University of Wollongong, Wollongong, Australia Received 24 August 1998; revised 21 April 1999
Consanguineous marriage is widely favoured in a large majority of the world’s Islamic populations. According to recent estimates, the resident Muslim population of India is over 100 million. However, apart from a few numerically small or geographically de® ned surveys, little is known about their patterns of marriage preferences since partition of the Indian Subcontinent in 1947. This study seeks to determine the prevalence and patterns of consanguineous marriages contracted among Indian Muslims at regional and state levels during the last two generations. Data from the 1992/93 Indian National Family Health Survey (NFHS) were used in the analysis. The NFHS was a nationally-representative survey of ever-married women aged 13± 49 years, conducted across 25 states of India. Of the initial 9845 respondents, 8436 were included in the final weighted analysis sample. Overall, 22.0% of marriages were found to be contracted between spouses related as second cousins or closer, ranging from 15.9% in the eastern states to 32.9% in the western states of India. In all parts of the country first cousin marriages were the preferred form of consanguineous union, and in four of the five regions paternal first cousin marriages predominated. Despite predictionstothecontrary,there was no evidence of a significant change in the prevalence of consanguineous unions over the course of the study period, which extended from the late 1950s to the early 1990s.
Now, you may ask: who cares? Well, we all should. Here is a relevant study:
Behavior Genetics, Vol. 18, No. 5, 1988
Consequences of Consanguinity on Cognitive Behavior
Mohammad Afzal 1’2
Received 6 Sept. 1985–Final 19 Jan. 1988
In order to study the effects of consanguinity on IQ, a survey was con- ducted among the Ansari Muslims of Bhagalpur residing in suburban and rural areas. Both outbred (N = 390from suburban areas and N = 358 from rural areas) and inbred (N’s = 300 and 266, respectively) children aged 9 to 12 years from socioeconomically middle-class families were administered the Weschler Intelligence Scale for Children–Revised [WISC(R)-74]. The coefficient of inbreeding, F, was .0625. The inbred children showed lower verbal (20 and22%) and performance (30 and20%) subtest scores and lower verbal (11 and 11%), performance (17 and 12%), and full-scale (15 and 12%) IQs. A three-factor analysis of variance per- formed on the full-scale IQ scores indicated that both consanguinity and locality affect IQ. The interaction between these two factors was also significant. Neither age nor sex affected these scores. Overall, subjects’ performance scores were lower than verbal scores.
We see that both the Ramadan problem and (more seriously) the inbreeding problem individually have a serious detrimental effect on mental development. But, to follow Mercier and Camier:
Now we must choose, said Mercier.
Between what? said Camier.
Ruin and collapse,
Could we not somehow combine them? said Camier.