on March 8, 2003
As an Arab, Jordanian, Muslim woman educated in the West and living in the heart of Amman, Jordan, for the past 20 years, I was astonished at Ms. Khouri's attempt at portraying Jordanian women as being subservient to the men in our families and society. Her sweeping statements about the status of women in this country, in addition to her similarly-sweeping statements about our culture, heritage and religion(s), are so extremely misleading -- and often outright false -- that one wonders about the author's real agenda. I am extremely disappointed that such an important issue as the murder of women and girls done in the name of honor has been degraded into such bad fiction. Honor crimes do exist in Jordan, as in other parts of the region. It is by no means excusable under any circumstances and any pretexts. And it is no secret these murders happen. Jordanian women activists have been at the forefront of fighting these crimes and continue to do so relentlessly. They continue to fight for women's civil rights, and achievements, as slow as they may be, are being made in that direction.
So, NO, not all, not even most, women here are subservient or stay in the kitchen. Walk in the streets of Amman and go to its restaurants, cafes and clubs and you will see that half are women, some veiled, some not. Go to any government institution or private company, and you will see a substantial percentage of the work force are women. It is truly insulting that Ms. Khouri gives the impression, through her book, that we are slaves, mindless, helpless creatures, who have only two choices: Either live as slaves at home in Jordan, or escape to the West to be free. That is far from the truth.
Ms. Khouri's book, which she claims to be a true story about her Muslim best friend's brutal murder by her father because she loved a young Christian man (which she often refers to as "Catholic," very unusual reference to Christians here), is so packed with false information, including important and unimportant details, that one wonders about the credibility of the whole story.
Examples: -- The writer does not know the countries that border her own country? She included Lebanon and Kuwait as bordering Jordan. They don't. -- At one point, Ms. Khouri writes that her brother gave her a 50-dinar bill. There were no 50-dinar bills in 1996, and only came out after King Abdullah assumed the throne in 1999. -- She writes her father was shocked to see a man (taxi driver) at her front door waiting to be paid the fare, repeatedly complaining about how strict her and her best friend, Dalia's, fathers and brothers were, not allowing them out of the house without a chaperone, not allowed to speak to men, etc. But yet, these very same backward men allow them to open a unisex hair salon where men can come and go as they please and have their daughters cut men's hair? It just doesn't fit, and certainly not in the lower-middle class area of Jabal Hussein. If their fathers and brothers were so concerned about their "family name," they would NEVER have allowed them the luxury of opening a unisex salon. -- The Islamic Action Front did not have a majority in Parliament when the National Assembly rejected revoking the law that gave lenient punishment to the killers of women. In fact, the Islamic Action Front boycotted these parliamentary elections and not one single member was in the National Assembly at the time. Or was this piece of misinformation slipped in to blame the Islamic movement for parliament's unjust decision?
The list is endless, and that's why I question the credibility of the whole story and on an issue that is so important to many of us.
Ms. Khouri is clearly a fiction-writer, though not a very good one. And I urge NO ONE to read it, unless you want to waste your time, like I did.
on February 14, 2003
I am a Muslim who once fell foul of our 'traditions' which are alien to Islam. So I was eager to read Norma's book who also lost her friend Dalia to traditions. But, sadly, I feel disappointed. I couldn't recognise the society I was born into, in her book.
By seeking 'revenge' and the Western readership, self-consistency, accuracy and objectivity were discarded: Dalia's tragic life has been so 'westernised' that it reads -sometimes- like a Middle-Eastern Mills & Boon saga!
Even as a Muslim, it was hard for me to peel off its thick Western makeup to evaluate its content thoroughly. Within less than 1000 words, I'll raise only 5 illustrative points, with no spoilers.
First, Norma and Dalia grew up TOGETHER in the same society. So when Norma says she was helping match Dalia with Michael, didn't she realise she was unwittingly putting Dalia in harm's way? Dalia's demise was so predictable! Does Norma feel blameless? Did the Catholic affinity between Norma and Michael play a role? How crucial was Norma's involvement and matchmaking?
Secondly, we are told Michael 'courted' Dalia for more than a year at HER OWN RISK. If he loved her THAT MUCH, why didn't he embrace Islam and marry her? He would NOT have been the first convert in Jordan which is a man's world where -also- being an army officer counts! Actually, an English friend embraced Islam to marry his Muslim love: such cases are becoming common! Dalia would be ALIVE TODAY if Michael did so, but he didn't! This 'relationship' looked more like a platonic friendship from HIS part.
Thirdly, to promote the book, a Sunday magazine published a photo of Dalia and Norma that casts serious doubts on crucial events. What struck me -apart from her arresting beauty- is Dalia wearing HIJAB, the religious scarf worn by practicing Muslim women (Norma confirmed it). One of my sisters wears hijab so I know its significance. As anyone acquainted with Islam knows (Muslim or otherwise, including Norma therefore), by wearing hijab, Dalia's message was clear: To her, ALLAH was her ULTIMATE choice in her life, above all people (including her family) and in all matters (including love and marriage); hence her 5 daily prayers and her intact virginity. We practicing Muslims do not believe in extra-marital sex or marry outside our faith. So, to please Allah, she could NOT have married Michael UNLESS he embraced Islam, even if her parents allowed it. Their mixed marriage is contrary to whom Dalia wanted to please by wearing hijab: GOD NOT MICHAEL! Therefore no 'love conquers all' from HER part, either! Where does this 'forbidden love' come from then?
Fourthly, an example of how Western makeup was applied to Dalia's story: after her death, Norma asked Michael if Dalia was still a virgin. Such a question is unimaginable because Dalia was a devout Muslim and Norma KNEW that, since she was her LONG-LIFE friend and 'sister'. It seems, to 'spice up' her book for the Western market, she has ended up insulting Dalia's memory, thereby negating her book's declared aim: To avenge Dalia.
Finally, the other publicised point is: Dalia died because she 'dared to love a Christian'. Yet the book itself led me to believe otherwise.
Indeed, excluding rape, honour killings happen for ONE reason: When the daughter defies her parents' will and acts on her own accord. Whether this defiance is real or imaginary is irrelevant-all what is needed for murder is a suspicious and paranoid mind.
At home, I heard of such murders: A father chose for his daughter a husband but she refused him as she loved someone else, so he killed her for 'shaming' him. He was jailed, quite rightly! She was killed despite the fact her choice and her father's are BOTH Muslims.
PERSONALLY, I lost my first love because she was forced to marry her cousin to whom she was 'promised' at birth. Yet again, her family, her cousin and I are ALL Muslims.
So, bearing in mind what I know about my society of origin (similar to Dalia's), what happened to me and finally the book content itself, I have to conclude Dalia was not killed because Michael was Christian but mainly because she didn't tell her family about her innocent friendship with him; which became consequently in her father's paranoid mind a full-blown 'love story' he did NOT sanction BEFOREHAND for HIS daughter.
If Michael's religion were the issue, Norma's Christian parents would have taken offence and protected their daughter. Yet, to launch the book, so much has been made of Norma threatened by her OWN family for shaming them before Dalia's family!
Consequently, Michael's Christianity was a far lesser concern than the MAJOR social crime of a daughter (Christian or Muslim) acting independently behind her family's back. THIS IS WHY DALIA DIED AND NORMA WAS THREATENED FOR THE SAME REASON: THEIR FATHERS' TRUST SEEMED BETRAYED!
Ironically, if Dalia's family hated Christians, she would be ALIVE TODAY: They allowed her -with the Catholic Norma- to run a salon where unknowingly her fate was sealed.
In truth, a book about Dalia dying 'for loving a Christian' appeals to the West BUT one about her dying for disobeying her father doesn't. The winning commercial formula is obvious: it relies on the anti-Islamic prejudices and ignorance of the secular AND religious West. Yet, 2 out the 4 participants in this tragedy are Christians! The trumpeted 'forbidden love' story construed, out of an innocent friendship, is a needed red herring and Western market ploy!
But to someone, like me, born into and victim of Dalia's world too, this book simply DOESN'T stand scrutiny.
As Dalia cannot comment, it would be enlightening to read Michael's version of the events.
on June 20, 2004
For a man to rant on and on about how wrong Norma Khouri is, how racist she is, and how she knows nothing of the topic of her life, is obnoxious and disgusting. I suppose as a western man VISITING an Arab family, they told you all about the deep religious and traditional values they hold over women. As a western man, I suppose you had to walk around shaperoned under pounds of heavy black material so that people could ignore your existance. Frankly, I am suprised that such an obvious redneck managed to finish the book and write a review about it. Your comments enforce the message that Norma is trying desperately to spread: the world needs to open their eyes and understand that this it is not right to treat women this way. Congradulations Norma on a heart-wrenching job well done!
on July 11, 2003
Yvonna's review (see below) is inconsiderate to say the least. In my view, this book raises important issues about the concepts of honour killings, and women as property. Who cares if the book may not be 100% factually accurate? The fact remains, that honour killing is a very serious issue which deserves serious consideration from the human rights perspective. If you're out to pinpoint inaccuracies, Yvonna, try the dictionary instead. Less frustrating that way.