September 06, 2006

Shared Y-chromosome heritage of Hindus and Muslims in India

A new study has looked at the Y-chromosome variation of a sample of Hindus and Muslims from Andhra Pradesh, finding them to be similar to each other. This indicates that at least in this case, the transmission of the Muslim religion was largely non-genetic.

Human Genetics (online early)

A shared Y-chromosomal heritage between Muslims and Hindus in India

Ramana Gutala et al.

Abstract Arab forces conquered the Indus Delta region in 711 AD and, although a Muslim state was established there, their influence was barely felt in the rest of South Asia at that time. By the end of the tenth century, Central Asian Muslims moved into India from the northwest and expanded throughout the subcontinent. Muslim communities are now the largest minority religion in India, comprising more than 138 million people in a predominantly Hindu population of over one billion. It is unclear whether the Muslim expansion in India was a purely cultural phenomenon or had a genetic impact on the local population. To address this question from a male perspective, we typed eight microsatellite loci and 16 binary markers from the Y chromosome in 246 Muslims from Andhra Pradesh, and compared them to published data on 4,204 males from East Asia, Central Asia, other parts of India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Iran, the Middle East, Turkey, Egypt and Morocco. We find that the Muslim populations in general are genetically closer to their non-Muslim geographical neighbors than to other Muslims in India, and that there is a highly significant correlation between genetics and geography (but not religion). Our findings indicate that, despite the documented practice of marriage between Muslim men and Hindu women, Islamization in India did not involve large-scale replacement of Hindu Y chromosomes. The Muslim expansion in India was predominantly a cultural change and was not accompanied by significant gene flow, as seen in other places, such as China and Central Asia.


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