How Banging your Cousins Led to the Islamic State

Apologies for the tabloidy title. This is an otherwise serious post.

It is well known that higher rates of cousin marriages – especially the father’s brother’s daughter (FBD) type that is common in the Arab Muslim world – tends to increase clannishness and depress IQs. It is often discussed in HBD circles. The main focus of the most prominent current discussions led by Steve Sailer are the ways in which cousin marriage relates to the European immigration crisis. His argument basically goes that Europe is about to get tons of mentally stunted inbreds who will use proceed to use cousin marriage as a mechanism by which to bring over millions more of their (literal) cousins from the Middle East and Pakistan.

That Sailer, an American nativist, chooses to focus on the “invite” side of his “invade/invite the world” dichotomy is understandable. But what it leaves unsaid is that consideration of cousin marriage patterns also appears to explain quite a lot of the dynamics of the Syrian Civil War – and crucially, in so doing, invalidates all of the “intellectual” underpinnings of the neocon clamoring for Ramboing into Syria to remove Assad.

Using data from (a survey of cousin marriage Syria in 2008, i.e. before the war) and the ORB International Syrian 2015 opinion poll (which measured Syrian political attitudes in June 2015), I compiled the following table comparing the rate of consanguineous marriage and support for Assad across regions. The average %consang column is just the unweighted average of the rural and urban figures (I couldn’t be bothered hunting down the urban/rural breakdown for Syria’s governorates). Since with the sole exception of Tartus the rural %consang rates are systemically higher than the urban rates in a pretty predictable, linear way I do not think this is a particularly big statistical sin.

Governorate Type %Consang Ave.%Consang %Assad
Damascus Urban 35.4% 40.8% 81%
Rural 46.1% 50%
Hama Urban 33.7% 40.4% 63%
Rural 47.1%
Latakia Urban 14.6% 18.7% 69%
Rural 22.8%
Tartus Urban 28.2% 26.4% 89%
Rural 24.6%
Al Raqqa Urban 48.9% 56.0% 27%
Rural 63.0%
Homs Urban 33.5% 39.9% 52%
Rural 46.3%
Idlib Urban 17.2% 20.6% 9%
Rural 23.9%
Aleppo Urban 24.7% 28.8% 39%
Rural 32.8%
Syria Urban 27.5% 31.7% 47%
Rural 35.9%

Several patterns immediately strike the eyes.

(1) As can be expected from Lebanese consanguinity data, the Christians and Alawite areas have lower rates of cousin marriage, while Sunni areas have higher rates of cousin marriage.


(2) It also maps very well onto maps of political control by Assad, Al Nusra/FSA, and ISIS, down to the detail that even in contested areas the regime tends to control the cities – Aleppo, Hama, Homs, Damascus – while insurgents have a major presence in the surrounding countryside.


Is there an ethno-religious confound in play (i.e. Shi’ites support Assad, and Sunnis support Islamist rebels, regardless of consanguinity levels)? To a large extent, that is surely the case. But note that Al Raqqa city and its countryside, the two regions with the highest %consang rates out of all surveyed Syrian cities and rural areas, just happen to be the heartland of Islamic State power. Across the Muslim world, there is definitely a good correlation between rates of consanguineous marriage, depressed IQs, and support for radical Islamic positions on issues like apostasy. Surely it is not entirely a coincidence that the two single areas in Syria with the highest rates of consanguineous marriage also happen to host the most “virile”/virulent strains of Islamic extremism.

(3) There is an R2=0.38 correlation (excluding the one strong outlier that Idlib) between rates of consanguinity and support for Assad in the Syrian governorates. Considering the small samples, the clumsy averaging, and the uncertainties of surveying both cousin marriage rates and political attitudes in a civil war environment, this is not an unimpressive result.


But while all this might be interesting, why does it actually matter?

Because according to the neocon and liberal interventionist narrative, one of the root causes of the Syrian uprising was the hoarding of the nation’s wealth and power in the hands of a small Alawite elite. For instance, here is an entirely typical description of the Syrian political system from the BBC in 2012:

“You have got to think of Syria as a kleptocracy,” says a British financial investigator who asked not to be named, “where the state hands out licences to its friends and close relatives.”

According to this narrative, the Syrian Civil War began as a result of Syrian Sunnis getting fed up with the Shi’ites monopolizing all the most lucrative positions. (I don’t recall the question of why Christians didn’t likewise revolt against Alawite oppression ever being addressed).

The alternate and altogether more banal explanation is that differences in ethnic representation in Syria’s state apparatus and in the ranks of its moneyed elites is that the Shi’ites are simply brighter than the Sunnis because they don’t bang their cousins as much.

In other words, for the same reason that Jews constitute a third of America’s billionaires – namely, not due to some ZOG conspiracy, but the fact of a 1 S.D. advantage over the American average in intelligence that translates to much bigger “smart fractions” capable of becoming billionaires in the first place.

Very conveniently, it just so happens that according to the official Western dogma, as expounded by Saint S.J. Gould and his acolytes, IQ is a “social construct,” its relationship to economic performance is a statistical artifact that can be fully explained by variation in parental socio-economic status, and even discussing the role of cousin marriage on Muslim society and intellect is “racist” and “Islamophobic.” The Western media will freely and even enthusiastically publish calls from the neocons and imperialists to aid mythical “moderate” rebels against Assad, to bomb Syria, and even to knock Russian warplanes out of the sky for daring to attack America’s pet jihadists. But they will never in a million years print anything like this article, not least thanks to the self-styled “progressives” and even “anti-imperialists” who make it their mission to police and censor crimethink.

The end result of all this is that, if the explanations ventured here are substantially true, the American and Western establishments are in effect supporting what can functionally be described as a Bolshevik takeover of the Syrian state – just with more beheadings and slave markets.

Anatoly Karlin is a transhumanist interested in psychometrics, life extension, UBI, crypto/network states, X risks, and ushering in the Biosingularity.


Inventor of Idiot’s Limbo, the Katechon Hypothesis, and Elite Human Capital.


Apart from writing booksreviewstravel writing, and sundry blogging, I Tweet at @powerfultakes and run a Substack newsletter.


  1. Sunnis were the elite in syria in the whole recorded muslim history of Syria, until 1970. Ask Razib, he’s written a lot about this. The alawites were a repressed minority on the coastline. Of course one could argue they never got a chance to shine, not being allowed to take certain civil positions until recently, and with the Sunnis only being an elite in the past thanks to their military might. Being supported by the Ottomans also helps, with the occasional massacre.

  2. Btw, there seems to be a pattern of hated minorities (Shias, Jews), getting the upper hand in the modern world thanks to higher-IQ they developed because of repression wiping out dumber, more trusting members.

  3. A couple of quick notes;

    1) within big cities, as in most developing countries, there was mass rural exodus and as a result, you had entire peripheral neighbourhoods in Aleppo and Damascus which burgeoned very recently before the war. The phenomenon especially accelerated with the 2006-2010 droughts. These neighbourhoods essentially map the currently rebel, islamist-held areas of these cities. While nominally urban, their population have kept their rural social mores intact.

    2)The figures for consanguinity describe the population pre-war, that is before the mass exodus it triggered, while the poll you quote post-dates this exodus. The internally displaced persons are 8 millions per the UN (far outweighing the 4 millions refugess abroad). The overwhelming majority of the IDPs of course left for the safety (and sanity) of governmental areas. For example, when the Idlib governorate fell to the Turkish/Western backed islamist Army of conquest this year, 100,000’s of its residents fled to Latakia and other government areas of Syria (out of an already depressed population). Remains only the rotten cream of the crop of islamist brotherhood and salafi locals. The area is now so desolate, by the way, that entire families of Uyghurs (some 3500), Uzbeks and other Caucasians and Central Asians are settling there.

    Which certainly heightens the trend you observe and should increase the correlation.

  4. Anecdotes aren’t worth much, but I’ve kept in touch since 2012 or so with a couple of Syrians from Damascus who are ardent supporters of Assad.

    One is a woman who’s an agnostic (from an Alawite family), keeps her hair uncovered, and works as an engineer. The other is a man who works as a journalist and is fluent in five languages.

    They’re the exact sorts of liberal, secular, modernist Syrians who are allegedly the moderate opposition’s demographic.

    Assad’s domestic support base online is strongly secular, nationalistic, modernist, and I’d even call a lot of them Islamophobic in a very literal rather than disingenuous sense.

    Street video from Damascus corroborates this to an extent as well. Headscarves are few and far between, women are wearing blue jeans, some of these videos look like they could have been filmed in Greece or Italy but for the language differences.

    The young secular modernist crowd that was involved in the original protests and is continually imagined to be the “mainstream opposition” have either fled the country or rejoined the government loyalists.

  5. Ashkenazim bang their cousins as well. They even have diseases related to it.
    I guess that led to Zionist state.

  6. Here is a map of ancient Phoenicia:

    The southern half of the Alawite coast was Phoenician in antiquity. Phoenicians were the most important, richest mercantile minority in the Mediterranean from about 1200 BC till about 200 BC. Lebanese Christians are probably their most direct descendants. Alawites converted to Islam late. Some considered them crypto-Christians until recently. They’re allied with Christians in this war.

    I find it plausible that they’re related to Levantine Christians, who are to some extent Phoenician in origin.

  7. Hmm….the West has in the past had a history of supporting precisely the types of people in the Middle East who one would think should be their typical foes if the West wasn’t too busy focusing on power plays against the USSR and later Russia.

    The inconsistency of the West in support for Arab Spring revolts (compare Syria and Libya and to some extent Yemen with what happened in Bahrain) only seems to confirm this. One wonders if perhaps the Assads and Gadaffis had declared themselves absolute monarchs, if perhaps the US might have supported them instead 😉

    Is there any data from Afghanistan in the 1970s which would could be used to do a similar analysis on any correlation between consanguineous marriages and support for Islamist rebels in the 1980s?

    That would be particularly interesting, as it was always just a little puzzling that the US supported rebel groups that wanted to overthrow a government that allowed women to go to school and clothe themselves in western dress.

  8. As per 23AndMe I’m 98.3% Ashkenazi. A brother of one of my grandmas married his first cousin. I was told in childhood by my parents that this was common among Jews in the past. I wonder if it’s common among the Hasidim today. They’ve certainly preserved every other bit of tradition that they could. I’ve read Niall Ferguson’s two-volume history of the Rothchilds. They were really, really inbred.

    I think that a lot of the unique features of the northern European mindset and tradition come from the fact that northern Europeans lived on isolated homesteads for several millenia. The climate was too cold to support high population density of farmers.

    The climate in southern Europe and the Middle East could always support a high population density of farmers. Farmers there always lived in villages, not on single-nuclear-family homesteads. Villages had politics. You have to be clannish to win at politics. An inbred family is a more cohesive political team than a non-inbred family. That’s probably why my ancestors went in for inbreeding.

  9. My little theory of where science and the industrial revolution came from is “apolitical mindset + high population density”. If the apolitical mindset is produced by low population density of farmers, how does it get combined with high population density? Through conquest (ancient Greece and Rome, medieval northern Italy) or through improvements in agricultural techniques (post-Renaissance).

    Non-clannish peoples are good at warfare, so in the past they were sometimes able to capture bits of southern farmland. Over many generations their population density in such places swelled. After a while cities appeared which were filled with the kind of mindset that was molded on isolated homesteads. Athens, Thebes, Miletus, later Florence and Venice. You can always recognize the apolitical, nothern-farmer mindset by its egalitarianism. Elections, popular assemblies, term limits for politicians.

  10. And this is exactly why, objectively, the Assad side is the correct one in this Syrian civil war.

  11. Anatoly, I would like to see this interview about current sunni attitudes and opinions, collected by Chechen jihadists from somewhere in Aleppo. All-in all, everyone they interviewed is opposed to ISIS, but they are somewhat sympathetic towards jihadists, and almost all want “sharia law.”

    Please watch everyone:

    What do you think?

  12. “We don’t want ISIS in our country. They did massacres. Islam and Sharia don’t accept those things. They are not Islam and they are not part of us.”

    Granted this was in Aleppo, where the more “moderate” rebels were. Still Islamists nonetheless.

  13. Anatoly Karlin says

    First cousin marriages do not appear to have been prevalent amongst Ashkenazi Jews.

    See detailed history here:

    How can also look at the prevalence of cousin marriage in Israel by ethnic group in the database:

    Ashkenazi migrants in 1950s = 1.4% (that would make it similar to contemporareous figures for Italy)

  14. HBD Chick says in that post that western Ashkenazim (mostly German ones) did not engage in cousin marriage, but that eastern Ashkenazim (in Poland and Russia) probably did, although the evidence for the latter is more anecdotal than statistical.

  15. I would guess that among eastern Ashkenazim inbreeding died with the shtetls. Mass immigration to America and Palestine started in the 1880s. After the revolution there was massive migration to large Soviet cities, in which all of my grandparents participated. What remained of the shtetls after that must have been destroyed by the Germans during the war. The Hasidim try to recreate the shtetl lifestyle. Unfortunately the consang PDF doesn’t have data on them specifically.

  16. I believe that the custom of marriage to a niece has been common in Judaism in the past. Abraham, for example, probably married his niece. The next two generations married cousins.

  17. I wonder if this is why Israel is so fixated on the Iranian-Shia alliance rather than the Sunnite, jihadi-supporting Gulf states (even to the point of supporting ISIS over secular leader like Assad)? Lower IQed peoples can’t be a strategic threat and develop sophisticated weapons.

  18. Anatoly Karlin says

    This is an interesting theory but I don’t think it’s ultimately true.

    Israel had exceptionally good relations with the Shah. They also continue to have good relations with Azerbaijan.

    That said I’m sure you’re right about the ISIS-specific angle. A united Syrian state, even weak as it might be, is still a far more potent threat than any number of Islamist warlords running about.

  19. The relative political/economic position of Sunni/Shia groups was the reverse in in pre invasion Iraq and yet when I glanced at the consanguinity figures and it appears that they follow the same pattern as in Syria. (Highest Sunni, Shia, Kurd, Christian lowest). As Kamram noted above the period of Assad family rule is not representative of Syrian history.

  20. Israel has done very well in its wars with other states.

    The last war with a non-state foe gave them all they wanted.

    I am skeptical of the idea that Israel wants to destabilize and break up all the ME states.

  21. Israel did not fare so well in 1973 and 1982. I think you’d have to be living on another planet not to see that Israel wants countries like Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya etc. to be destroyed and become failed states embroiled in endless civil war. The Oded Yinon plan lays it out pretty clearly. Moshe Sharett’s memoirs show that Israel organised the Lebanese Civil War for the same reason. There are many Israeli sources who openly admit this is their strategy.

  22. Southern Sage says

    I am skeptical of the IQ argument for the number of Jewish billionaires and other Jewish “success” stories in American society. It is far more likely that much of this “success” is due to the tremendous advantage a small, self-contained, secretive group has when working together against the interests of the larger group in which it lives and works. Add to this an apparent willingness to almost completely ignore the moral codes of the larger groups and you have a surefire recipe for “success”.
    The IQ argument for Jewish success is obviously false. While I do not doubt that on average American Jews have high IQ´s, they are swamped by the number of white, non-Jewish Americans with IQ´s just as high or higher. Jewish success is based on group loyalty which is, unfortunately, often directed against the interests of the general population. For example, if members of the Jewish community (illegally) provide interest free loans to their fellow Jews starting a business and do not give such loans to non-Jews, guess who will be more “successful”? And if, for example, Jewish business owners engaged in large-scale insurance fraud in the case of failing businesses and non-Jews did not out of obedience to the law, what would be the result? Likewise in the professions, if Jews slowly gain a predominant position in, say, medical schools, they may favor Jewish applicants over others. Ditto for the legal profession, Hollywood, the media. IQ, while useful, is not the deciding factor in “success”. I might add that non-Jews may take a while to wake up to what is happening. When they do, however, they are likely to be enraged to find out that people they saw as their friends and neighbors had been diddling them for decades, with cold-blooded selfishness. Guess what their reaction is?

  23. Even if true ( and the rural hick versus the urban sophisticate is hardly a novel revelation) it does not absolve the urban elite of governing with more than a ‘stick’ which seems to have been the Assad family’s favorite tool.

    OTOH wouldn’t the same dynamic be in play in Iran, i.e., the rural ‘hick’ population being the backbone of the “Islamic Republic” that has propped up Bashar Assad’s regime? It is also the case that much of Islamic States fighting men are not from from rural Syria or Iraq but from the cities of Western Europe, North Africa and even Russia?

  24. Sage, you’re absolutely right that tribal teamwork is a bigger success factor than simple I.Q. Not only will Jews “favor Jewish applicants over others” (and there’s no “may” about it), they also will often conspire to purge non-Jews in order to bring in one of their tribe, whether or not less qualified than the non-Jew they are purging. (I have reliable first-hand accounts from Federal gov’t agency.)

    The HBD (21st Century eugenicists’) preoccupation with small differences in relative I.Q. is a pathetic and pointless attempt to prop up their egos with “scientific racism”.

  25. As per 23AndMe I’m 98.3% Ashkenazi. A brother of one of my grandmas married his first cousin.

    Jews in some small rural communities (shtetles) engaged in some cousin marriage due to not enough diverse eligible marriage prospects. But (some) Muslim populations have first cousin generation after generation, they pile on, which makes defects much more likely. I wonder now much cousin marriage goes on in Muslim Indonesia and Malaysia. My guess is much less than among Pakistanis and Arabs, Persians

  26. The islamic state isn’t a homegrown militia. They’re a fanatical, euphoric, theologically apocalyptic group. Typical recruits in such groups throughout history are urban and literate (and crazy), but low-class. But there are plenty of Sunni hicks in it as well.

  27. Stubborn in Germany says

    When comparing photographs of Taliban fighters and Islamic state fighters, I am struck by the difference in appearance. The Taliban are in all age groups, they sport thick beards, thick eyebrows, and they look like angry transplants from a former century.

    The IS fighters are almost uniformly young (early twenties), sport only wispy milk beards, and are bright-eyed and cheerful. Your word “euphoric” matches well what I perceive. They are committing the most barbaric cruelties and proudly posting videos of them, yet their features do not appear to be distorted by hatred.

  28. Yes this is indeed the case. They write literature and sincerely believe the apocalypse is coming and that the armies of god will fight the fight the armies of dajjal in northern syria, and that the only way to bring this about to rally all muslims under the black flag of Muhammed and in preparation for this event extirpate all taghout, mushrik (idolatry), and mortad (apostasy).

    Whenever the BBC calls them the ‘so-called’ islamic state, I let out a little sigh.

    These guys are literally steeped in Islamic eschatology. Their founder Abu-ayyub al masri, has written several long, eloquent tracts detailing the precise order of the battles that will be fought in Syria and who prophesied them back in which century, etc. etc.

    Although I do suspect a certain percentage are just irreligious violent psychopaths.

  29. Islamic State are both, as you say, thick bearded hicks fighting for cousin and clan and euphoric thin bearded contestants fighting to win ‘Terrorist Idol.’

  30. Whenever the BBC calls them the ‘so-called’ islamic state, I let out a little sigh

    That is my reaction exactly.

    As a Brit my sigh goes even deeper, though, as I know that the BBC means well by that phrase as the journalists are trying to avoid offence but they end up being much offensive by being so patronising.

    It also advertises their blind cluelessness.

  31. I think this is unintentionally hilarious.

    Particularly the bit where the guy complains that IS are too extreme, they should just cut thieves’ hands off, not kill them.

    Nice white journalists can’t even conceive of such a thing. They think that their compatriots are unrepentant beyond the pale barbarians for not believing that Bruce Jenner in a dress is a beautiful, sexy and heroic woman haha.

    The next question is: Who is crazier? The nice white journalists or the fundies from IS? I’m leaning towards the journalists being the loons and in fact that Syrian hand chopper looks like the moderate middle ground!

    At some point as we in the West continue to tumble into multikult madness, there could be a choice between an alien but half-way sane social system like moderate Islam and the multikult, and I, and those like me, who tend to be the types of who know how to fight and get stuff done, will choose the foreign system over the native insanity.

    It is certainly not my overall preference but more and more it looks like we are heading for a binary option. To be honest, the four wife lifestyle is another potent draw, a nice older one to cook, a young sexy one to ****, and two in between!

  32. You think that sounds good ,but usually you end up with four wives, who can’t cook, are not beautiful, and are loud and annoying as hell!!

    As the antagonists in the Russian classi, Kavkaskaya Plennitsa, sang:

    Если б я был султан, я б имел трех жен

    И тройной красотой был бы окружен,

    Но с другой стороны при таких делах

    Столько бед и забот, ах, спаси аллах!

    Не плохо очень иметь три жены,

    Но очень плохо с другой стороны.

  33. Southern Sage, you have pretty much described the “Modus operandi” for the Jewish Business model.It is these same predatory practices that led to the Jews being expelled from so many countries throughout history.

  34. I am skeptical of the IQ argument for the number of Jewish billionaires and other Jewish “success” stories in American society.

    As others have chimed, this is pretty obvious. And it’s curious why it’s not obvious to a wider population.

    Elite university admissions are another area where Jews seem to be flying under the radar as “white” applicants and reinforcing their own numbers while, no surprise, Asians are suppressed under the guise of “diversity”. So there’s obviously a double-standard here.

    The alleged ~120 Ashkenazi IQ is also suspect. Besides anecdotes and Nobel Prize winners, where is the data?

  35. June Shelton says

    So, this summer’s family reunion is not the journey to riches I had hoped for?
    You got me luvin’ on Assad, at least Christians are safer with him.
    Hey! That’s my team!!!
    Go Assad.