Iran having one of the lowest, if not the lowest, birth rates in the Islam world has become the center for infertility treatments in the Muslim world. In 1999, Ayatollah Khameini issued a fatwa allowing infertility treatments, which was out of step with the rest of the Muslim world. This may have been a practical decision looking at the collapse in birth rate in Iran before other nations. If Iran's fertility rate was enough for the Ayatollah to toss aside religious doctrine and welcome medical advancements, it may have also been a factor in the quest for nuclear power and weapons.
The Foreign Policy article is obsessed with the machinations of clerics and the mechanisms for approving different treatments. While constantly telling Americans that they need to understand those enemy Muslims (substitute Communists for Cold War articles), the article makes every effort to point out the otherness of Iranians and Muslim couples wishing to have kids. While forever portrayed as restrictive and reactionary, the articles cites the regime's openness towards fertility science. Clerics debate bioethics, consult the Koran and medical research, and make decisions. Change the religion and this is no different than our legal system and fertility clinics in Massachusetts. No one dare writes if the Muslims are oppressive selectively because some of the things they repress do destroy society.
The road less travelled the author could have walked down is revealed earlier in the article and never mentioned again.
IRAN, LIKE OTHER MIDDLE EASTERN COUNTRIES, has an extremely high infertility rate. More than 20 percent of Iranian couples cannot conceive, according to a study conducted by one of the country's leading fertility clinics, compared with the global rate of between 8 and 12 percent. Experts believe this is due to the prevalence of consanguineous marriages, or those between cousins. Male infertility is "the hidden story of the Middle East," says Marcia Inhorn, a Yale University medical anthropologist and a specialist on assisted reproduction in the region. Couple that with a shocking, multidecade decline in the average number of children born per woman, and it means that fertility treatment is needed in Iran more than ever.
What is cousin marriage? How often does it happen in Muslim countries? Do Muslims do it globally or just the Middle East? For those answers, see HBD Chick. Male biological infertility, cousin marriages so high that a Yalie blames infertility on cousin marriage and couples unable to conceive at double or more the global rate. The Foreign Policy report focuses on the what (minimally) and then discusses the government reaction to solving it. What about the why? Marcia Inhorn seems open and useful for exploring that issue.
Like most American problems, the why is harder to discuss and might bring up dangerous thoughts. If cousin marriage is at rates not seen in the West for over a thousand years in the Muslim world, then there might be more to the Muslim-West divide. Mentioning the cousin marriage rates of Muslims in the UK could bring up salty assimilation problem thoughts. If cousin marriage leads to more clannishness, the entire representative democracy experiment looks even dumber in retrospect. Cultural relativism would take a hit if a media outlet mentioned Afghanistan's 50% cousin marriage rate. This simple problem, infertility, could be a springboard for a much bigger discussion about West-MENA relations, but let's not have that. Let's just focus on those icky male clerics making arbitrary decisions and relying on their old superstitious book for guidance on how to solve a medical problem.