Kirkus Reviews QR Code
HONOR LOST by Norma Khouri

HONOR LOST

Love and Death in Modern-Day Jordan

By Norma Khouri

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2003
ISBN: 0-7434-4878-2
Publisher: Atria

Speaking on behalf of her murdered friend, a Jordanian woman bravely defies Islamic fundamentalism and repudiates her homeland.

Although it is held to be one of the more moderate Islamic nations, “for most women,” writes debut author Khouri, “Jordan is a stifling prison tense with the risk of death at the hands of loved ones.” Her case in point is a tale of her friend Dalia, whose parents, like Khouri’s, “never showed a hint of ambition for us, beyond marriage.” When the two young women opened a hair salon in Amman, one of their first customers was a handsome young officer in the Royal Guard, obviously attracted to Dalia’s beauty (the product, Khouri wistfully writes, of “ancient Greco-Roman genes”). Dalia was similarly attracted, but there was a problem: Michael, the young major, was Catholic, and inter-religious romance is strictly forbidden by custom—if not law—in much of the Islamic world. The two conducted a secret romance involving much subterfuge, document forgery, and dangerous liaisons in off-the-path hotels; they planned to leave Jordan together for Europe—no easy thing, writes Khouri, inasmuch as a single woman is forbidden to travel without the express consent of her father. Dalia’s father not only would not have consented, but, when he finally learned of the affair, he stabbed her to death, raging, “What did she think? That my home is a house of whoredom?” Having committed a “crime of honor,” the father was exonerated. This acquittal is perfectly in keeping, Khouri holds, with Islamic society’s privileging of men and degradation of women. After all, she writes, as late as August 2001, a former Jordanian minister of justice remarked of honor killings in the case of rape: “All women killed in cases of honor are prostitutes. I believe prostitutes deserve to die.”

An eye-opening indictment of Islam as “a totalitarian regime operating under the guise of a religion” and of the mistreatment of women in the modern Arab world.