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Abstract

By the end of 2013, the Qatar Genome Project (QGP) was launched by HH Sheikha Moza bint Nasser. Similar initiatives in the Gulf region usher new age for genomics in the Arab world. Previous experience in this field has demonstrated that mapping and sequencing human genomes always have profound ethical and social implications. This explains the establishment of the Ethical, Legal and Social Implications (ELSI) Research Program as integral part of the Human Genome Project (HGP) with annual fund of $14 Million. This successful experience of interweaving ethics and genomics became the norm for subsequent research projects conducted elsewhere on our planet. Rigorous analysis of the ethical deliberations on genomic technologies shows how religious convictions and cultural values of involved stakeholders can play a decisive role in formulating ethical positions. Bearing in mind the religio-socio-cultural fabric of the Arab world and specifically the Gulf region, one can hardly imagine successful domestication of the ongoing genomic revolution without addressing the relevant ethical concerns from Islamic vantage point. This research explores the Islamic religio-ethical perspectives on genomics-related ethical issues by providing: (A) descriptive overview of the religio-ethical deliberations that already took place in the Arab world and (B) critical analysis of these deliberations and proposing the pressing ethical issues that should still be addressed within the context of future genomic ambitions in the Arab world. (A)Descriptive Overview Realizing the complexity of ethical issues raised by genomics, both Muslim religious scholars and biomedical scientists collectively addressed these issues in successive large-scale expert meetings during the last decade. The Doha-based seminar "Ethical Implications of Modern Researches in Genetics" organized in 1993 by the Faculty of Science, Qatar University was one of the earliest initiatives in this respect. Islamic Organization for Medical Sciences (IOMS) held a seminal seminar on "Genetics, Genetic Engineering, Human Genome and Gene Therapy" in 1998 in Kuwait. The two Islamic Fiqh Academies, one affiliated with the Muslim World League and the other with the Islamic Cooperation Organization, held intensive discussions on similar issues in October 1998, November 1998, 2012 and 2013. During these meetings, various issues were examined from an Islamic perspective including population screening and reproduction ethics, gene therapy, eugenics, and genetic counseling. (B)Critical Analysis This part provides analytical reflection on the deliberations outlined in the first part by "translating" the commonly held ethical positions to a bioethics-friendly discourse in order to establish a constructive trans-cultural bioethical dialogue, e.g. what these deliberations can tell us about Muslim religious scholars' perception of concepts like confidentiality, informed consent and autonomy. Reference will also be made to some ethical issues that should still be seriously addressed because they touch upon central concepts in the Islamic tradition such as ownership, nature of human being, health and illness. Organizing academic and public events for addressing these issues will be the subject of close collaboration in the near future between the Research Center for Islamic Legislation & Ethics (CILE) and the Supreme Council of Health (SCH).

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/content/papers/10.5339/qfarc.2014.SSPP0602
2014-11-18
2020-02-27
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