Islamism, Mental Illness & Inbreeding

Introduction

I wrote this after following a series of tweets between Dean Obeidallah and the Co-Founder of Ex-Muslims of North America Sarah Haider, where the below tweets came from. I had my own conversation with someone about the topic, which caused me to research inbreeding in the Muslim world.

 

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Notice the trap Obeidallah is lumbering mindlessly towards. If I had of compared the mind of God and the prophet Muhammad to the mentally ill; I dare say, I might find myself in a wee-bit-o-trouble. Of course, Obeidallah won’t willingly fall into this trap, but alas the trapping pit is not nearly as thinly veiled to him, as his attempt at apologetics is to me. Obeidallah claims that he just “can’t trust people who at one time advocated woman have no rights, and gays and apostates should be killed”, and said of Maajid Nawaz, “once an Islamist always an Islamist”, because in his unapologetic view, “Islamism is a mental disorder”, an “incurable” one. The trap should be, becoming clearer now, albeit too late for Obeidallah to prevent his fall. Although it would be comical–which is apparently his forte–to see the attempt.

Obeidallah suggests we shouldn’t trust former Islamists–who according to him, are mentally ill–because of their grotesque beliefs about homosexuality and apostasy. Well, it’s not difficult to find Hadith or Quranic verses advocating these ideas. One hadith narrated by Abdullah ibn Abbas, Muhammad’s cousin and early quranic scholar wrote, “The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: If you find anyone doing as Lot’s people did, kill the one who does it, and the one to whom it is done.” So what were Lot’s people doing? “do ye commit lewdness such as no people in creation (ever) committed before you?…for ye practice your lusts on men in preference to women, ye are indeed a people transgressing beyond bounds…and we rained down on them a shower (of brimstone): Then see, what was the end of those who indulged in sin and crime!” verses 7:80-84. Also on apostasy, a hadith from one of the three most trusted sources in Sunni Islam: “Ali burnt some people and this news reached Ibn ‘Abbas, who said, “Had I been in his place I would not have burnt them, as the Prophet said, ‘don’t punish (anybody) with Allah’s Punishment.’ No doubt, I would have killed them, for the Prophet said, ‘If somebody (a Muslim) discards his religion, kill him.” Need I continue with Muhammad’s record on women’s rights? Thus, it appears that these grotesque beliefs come from God, and were believed and promoted by Muhammad. Therefore, in Obeidallah’s view, Muhammad must be mentally ill and irredeemable. After all Muhammad is said to have received the revelation from the angel Gabriel, over some twenty-three years. Talk about schizophrenia!

Also notice, because the ideas Obeidallah finds so disgusting are available in the quran and hadiths; claiming one is mentally ill for taking them seriously, does not at all exonerate Islamic scripture. Rather it suggests, that access to the texts, is akin to leaving a pair of sharp scissors on a table in a mental health ward, someone’s bound to get hurt! Besides, it seems to me, if Islamists do indeed suffer from mental illness, they’re worthy of more of our compassion, not less. Mental illness reduces culpability for ones actions. Is a paranoid schizophrenic, who killed his wife because voices in his head told him she had been taken over by demonic forces, as culpable as a man who murdered his wife to collect the life insurance policy? Of course not. Moreover, we know that Islamism is “curable”, due to the people who have renounced the Islamist ideology (despite Obeidallah’s idiotic skepticism of Maajid Nawaz). The fact is, Islamism, or any ideology that promotes barbaric ideas, and the horrific acts that follow–however unconscionable–need not, have anything to do with mental illness, even when grounded in superstitious beliefs. Humans evolved a propensity for violence and a credulous mind, which lends itself to believing all kinds of nonsense, making normal people capable of all kinds of evil deeds.

If Obeidallah would like to play his faith card by claiming that Muhammad did in fact get the revelation, and therefore wasn’t hearing voices–a claim for which he has no evidence–then I would evoke the philosopher David Hume, and ask him, what is more likely, that Muhammad was a charismatic schizophrenic or liar, or that he really did receive the final revelation from a perfect deity, who didn’t get it right on the preceding two occasions, with the Jews and Christians? I would also point out what a cheap move invoking faith would be for a man in his position; and that it doesn’t explain the quran and hadiths promotion of the very ideas he finds so abhorrent; and he should be quiet, and it rubs the lotion on its skin!

Inbreeding insufficient to explain Islamism

It was suggested to me that mental illness could indeed, explain Islamism, due to the prevalence of consanguineous relationships in the Muslim world, going back to the time of Muhammad. In other words, the adverse effects on the offspring of blood relatives–first cousins being the usual focus. I don’t know if Obeidallah subscribes to this view, so I’ll leave him to wallow in his trap. But if he thinks he’s using consanguinity as a rope to climb out, he’s mistaken. Muhammad married his first cousin and the quran lists relatives one cannot marry, but luckily for Muhammad, no such prohibition on cousin fuckin’ exists; given there seems to be a few issues with the offspring of consanguineous relations, you’d think the creator of the universe might have prohibited it, another opportunity lost, it appears. Most experts in this area don’t call for a ban on the practice either. Instead, they call for education about the risks, and advocate genetic screening for consanguineous couples. It’s true that the potential health risks are double that of the general population, but the overall risk remains small. In a nutshell, relatives have more genes in common than people that are unrelated. If both parents carry the same recessive gene, then their offspring have a higher risk of getting the genetic disorder associated with that gene. The overall risk for non-consanguineous couples is around 2.5% compared to approximately 5% among consanguineous couples (first cousins). However, if there is consanguinity going back generations–which will be the case for many Muslims–the risk can be higher, how much higher is unclear.

In 2011, a veritable who’s who of geneticists and researches working in this area met in Geneva, Switzerland, to discuss “Consanguineous marriages, pearls and perils” and went on to produce the “Geneva International Consanguinity Workshop Report.” They concluded that the adverse effects of consanguinity on offspring, predominately relates to autosomal recessive genetic disorders. The authors suggest that although there is some evidence of the effects of consanguinity on IQ–possibly a result of most consanguineous couples coming from rural, poor, uneducated areas–Down Syndrome, Schizophrenia, Bi-Polar Disorder, Autism and Alzheimer’s, the evidence is often “vague and inconsistent”. Moreover, the authors’ of the report suggest–in relation to autosomal recessive genetic disorders–approximately “92% of first cousin couples will not be at increased risk of the birth of an affected child”. Of course, we would have to increase the percentage of risk among Muslims due to the history of consanguinity. Regardless, if evidence for mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, bi-polar or low IQ are better controlled for, and their results are more consistent, I have no reason to suspect that similar approximations like the above, wouldn’t be true in that case, namely the majority of offspring being born without problems.

Some believe we just have to look at the Muslim world and conclude Islamists are mentally ill, or suffer from poor education or low IQ, “just look at the case of Farkhunda, tell me that’s not insane”. According to this article, one of her most “fervent” attackers, a young man named Mohammad Yaqoub heard people shouting “if someone doesn’t hit her, he is an infidel.’ That was when I got emotional and hit her twice…my third punch hit the road, and my hand got injured.” Maybe the dim-witted boy felt intimidated and feared the mob might turn on him, if he didn’t participate. Except, when he went back to his shop and wrapped up his injured hand, he could still hear the commotion outside, and decided to go back for more. When he returned, he picked up a stone to pulverize Farkhunda’s lifeless body, it was so large, “he could barely lift it.” Without knowing if Mohammed Yaqoub is schizophrenic–the voices he heard that day were certainly real, including the screams of his victim–whatever affliction he may suffer, as the article puts it “Mr. Yaqoub was hardly an illiterate day laborer. He had completed 11th grade and, when interviewed in prison, said he was 18. He explained his fury by saying, “The Quran is like our honor: It is our personal honor and the honor of the prophet.”

Ghazi O. Tadmouri et al. interestingly point out that consanguinity is also practiced among Lebanese, Jordanian, and Palestinian Christians, albeit to a lesser degree than their Muslim neighbors. However, they do often suffer the same injustices as their neighbors, and one wonders if they’re driven to a Christian form of Islamism that causes them to fight the West by turning to the Old Testament (or even the New Testament) to express their mental corruption. Such Christians appear rare, which again suggests that it’s not the illness that’s the problem, it’s the texts, but I digress. Tadmouri et al. point out other limitations; most researchers break their studies into two groups: consanguineous verses non-consanguineous, even when the type of consanguinity is unknown or undisclosed. For example, stating that 30.3% to 39.8% of Syrians are in a consanguineous relationship doesn’t indicate whether they’re all first, second or third cousins, which is important, as the less gene’s in common the lower the risk. However, they do concede that “the risk of birth defects in first-cousin marriages may be estimated to be 2-2.5 times the general population rate, mainly due to the expression of autosomal recessive disorders”. But again they conclude; “studies on the association of consanguinity with chromosomal abnormalities such as Down syndrome and association with non-communicable disorders such as diabetes, hypertension, and psychiatric disorders [Italics mine] among Arabs are presently non conclusive…likewise, studies on the association of consanguinity with traits such as intelligence quotient and stature are scanty among Arabs and results of studies performed in Western countries cannot be applied directly to societies with high consanguinity rates such as the Arab society.”

Therefore, it seems to me that mental illness, whether caused by consanguineous relationships or otherwise, is insufficient to explain Islamism.

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Islamism, Mental Illness & Inbreeding

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