A shared Y-chromosomal heritage between Muslims and Hindus in India
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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.
KeywordsGenetic Distance Muslim Population Genetic Impact Binary Marker Biallelic Marker
We specially thank all the donors for making this work possible; George van Driem for encouragement; Toomas Kivisild, Sarabjit Mastana, Partha P. Majumder, Peter Underhill and Rene Herrera for helpful information; Joan Green and Andrew King for facilitating the access to historical books; S. Qasim Mehdi, Tatiana Zerjal and Oscar Lao for comments and discussions; and three referees for suggesting improvements to the manuscript. DRC-S was supported by funds from the Arts and Humanities Research Board and the EC Sixth Framework Programme under Contract no. ERAS-CT-2003-980409. CT-S was supported by The Wellcome Trust.
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