The consequences of marrying blood relatives, a common practice in the Middle East since before the advent of Islam, will be argued at the latest session of The Doha Debates here on Monday.
Students, young professionals and expatriates will gather at Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar’s auditorium at 7.30pm to argue the motion: "This House believes marriage between close family members should be discouraged".
Arguing on each side of the panel are two geneticists who have conducted research on the health implications of close family marriages and two social commentators - one from Saudi Arabia, the other from the UK.
Consanguinity is widely stigmatized in the West, but marriages between first and second cousins still account for over 10 per cent of marriages worldwide. The regions with the highest rates of consanguineous marriage are Africa, the Middle East and South Asia.
Tim Sebastian, chairman and presenter of The Doha Debates, expects the upcoming debate to be lively and controversial.
"This is a highly sensitive debate. It covers genetics, culture, tradition and a wide variety of family issues. In the context of an Arab world that is, to some extent, redefining itself, I'm sure it will be a thought-provoking discussion."
The Doha Debates, now in their eighth year, are a free-speech forum dedicated to offering young Arabs an opportunity to discuss major questions that affect their lives. The award-winning series has been broadcast on BBC World News since January 2005. Through various broadcasters, including the BBC, the programme reaches more than 400 million people around the world.
The Doha Debates are hosted and funded by Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development.