Race row over birth defects claim

A government minister has provoked a backlash by warning about birth defects among children of first- cousin marriages in Britain's Pakistani community.

Phil Woolas, the Environment minister, said health workers were aware such marriages were creating an increased risk of genetic problems. But the Muslim Public Affairs Committee said his remarks "verged on Islamophobia".

Mr Woolas, who represents ethnically diverse Oldham East and Saddleworth, said that cultural sensitivities made the birth-defects issue "the elephant in the room".

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