TROUBLING TO SAY THE LEAST
Prof Jones, who lectures at University College London, is likely to find himself at the centre of controversy in the wake of the comments.
Similar remarks made by Phil Woolas, a Labour environment minister, in 2008 resulted in calls for him to be sacked from the government.
Prof Jones, who writes for the Telegraph’s science pages, told an audience at the Hay Festival: “There may be some evidence that cousins marrying one another can be harmful.
“It is common in the Islamic world to marry your brother’s daughter, which is actually closer than marrying your cousin.
“We should be concerned about that as there can be a lot of hidden genetic damage. Children are much more likely to get two copies of a damaged gene.”
He added: “Bradford is very inbred. There is a huge amount of cousins marrying each other there.” Research in Bradford has found that babies born to Pakistani women are twice as likely to die in their first year as babies born to white mothers, with genetic problems linked to inbreeding identified as a “significant” cause.
Studies have found that within the city, more than 70 per cent of marriages are between relations, with more than half involving first cousins.