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Honor Lost??
Norma Khouri

Updated 29 Mar 2007

A host of research has shown this book to be fiction though it was meant to be read as a true story. Several sources have converged in reporting that the events Khouri recounted never happened; it was a hoax. Honor was lost and it was Khouri's. The story is quite engaging and largely does reflect the backward tribal mores that give Islam a bad name in so many quarters. Although the details are fictitious, the overall ambience is not; though it is primarily limited to tribes and local chieftains, most notoriously in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

The fiction came to light when The Sydney Morning Herald reported after an 18-month investigation that this best-seller was a sham as the author only lived in Jordan until she was three years old. Khouri has denied the accusations.

In the post-Sept. 11 era, Khouri's book met a certain demand in the US and other Western societies, where the shortcomings and "backwardness" of Arab and Muslim societies have become a focus of intense interest to which precious little genuine expertise is brought to bear. Indeed the desire to "rescue" Muslim women has become a prominent theme in liberal justifications for US intervention in the region. This was most common at the beginning of the Afghanistan war.

There is also a Western tendency to assume that violence is a pathology when it occurs among Arabs and Muslims, and to apply spurious religious or cultural explanations for it. Murder rates in general, and specifically for the murder of women by male family members and intimates, are far higher in the United States than in Jordan (the setting for the book), though few analyses attribute this to American culture generally, or to Americans' devout Christianity. There is high irony here.

Husseini [a reporter on the crime beat for the Jordan Times] points to the well-worn stereotypes that infect Western media discourse about the issues to which she has devoted her career. She notes the exotic artwork on the cover of Khouri's book, which shows a women clad in black head-covering with only her long-lashed eyes peering out - dress that certainly exists, but is not typical in Jordan, where women outnumber and outperform men in secondary and higher education, and are increasingly present in all sectors of the economy.

"We have this problem (of honor crimes) in Jordan and elsewhere," says Husseini; "(T)here are people here working on it, the government is working on it and the royal family. The country acknowledged the problem before anyone outside was talking about honor crimes."

From Husseini:

Official statistics indicate that the majority of the women killed in honor crimes are teen-agers. Most are buried in unmarked graves, disgraced even in death. They become victims of family revenge for as little as speaking to an unrelated man or dating without parental permission. Even being raped is seen as having harmed the family's reputation. Premarital sex is prohibited. When an unmarried woman becomes pregnant, the law not only considers it a crime, but also requires that her child be taken away at birth and raised at an orphanage. ...

Husseini received both a bachelor's and master's degree from Oklahoma City University. Since returning to Jordan, she has fought for an amendment of the Jordanian penal code to give harsher punishment to those who kill in the name of honor.

Through her writing and her lectures in Jordanian international universities and human-rights forums, Husseini has urged the government to address these crimes seriously and systematically.

The Jordanian government says the killings have subsided since Amman amended article 340 of its penal code in December 2001, annulling the clause that exempts from its penalties against any individual who kills his wife and the man with whom she is committing adultery.

We applaud the courage and balance Rana Husseini exhibits in her reporting. It is people like her who are bringing about reformation in Islam. The Catholic reformation was slow and painful and so will be any Islamic reformation. For more, see: Reformation.

For web sites reporting on this important women's issue:

National Public Radio: -- ...Translator: "A week ago, father met with all members of the family together with our uncles and cousins to discuss your case. The outcome was that he demanded all members that they should kill you wherever they meet you and defend the killer against any danger even against the law." Ms. A married her lover and fled to the US. She was denied asylum by an immigration judge. ...The denial was a shock to the couple and it was a setback for asylum advocates like Karen Musalo at the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies at the Hastings Law School.

Global Women's rights Treaty -- WASHINGTON (WOMENSENEWS)--For the first time since 1994, the U.S. Senate plans hearings on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the U.N. global women's treaty which has been ratified by 168 countries since 1979.

Campaign Against Violence on Women -- "The 16 Days Campaign against violence on women which is held from the 25 of November until the 10 of December calls for the elimination of all forms of violence against women. The campaign starts on the November 25, International Day Against Violence Against Women and ends on December 10, International Human Rights Day."

Palestinian Human Rights Monitor -- "Killing of Women on the Basis of Family Honor."

Washington Post -- "In Turkey, 'Honor Killing' Follows Families to Cities. Women Are Victims Of Village Tradition."

Rana Husseini -- "Imad Sharqawi, a lawyer and a human-rights activist, said Husseini's insistent reporting had a large influence on the government's decision to partially amend the law pertaining to honor crimes. "Husseini was the first journalist to launch the campaign against honor crimes," he said. "She succeeded in attracting the attention of the government and the lawmakers to this issue. Her voice was heard by the concerned establishments and the international organizations."


Suniya wrote on our prior site:

"I am in the middle of reading the book 'Honor Lost', I was enjoying the book until the reached the end of Chapter 6. I must say Norma mis-respresented the message of Islam. I don't doubt for a second the conditions she lived in and as a Muslim girl I sympathize with her, but it is wrong for her to use her experience and state that this is what the Quran says. She clearly called Islam a religion of violence, which is NOT true, Islam is a peaceful religion, and Islamic fundamentalists do treat their women badly but she has no right to say that our Prophet was the one to spread this violence and Quran allows it. The Jihad is not all about violence, this is my jihad right here, defending my religion. Jihad is fighting for my religion, and I am fighting to protect my religion from any negative criticism.

Another thing that bothered me was the fact that she said men are superior in the Quran. Men and women are portrayed equally in the Quran, their rights differ but at the end they are equal. Obviously, they are not going to make a woman fight against men in wars. If a wife is supposed to submit herself to her husband, than the husband is supposed to do the same. They are 50/50 partners. She also said that a if a girl reject a proposal her father can veto her rejection and still make a her get married to the guy of their choice. As far as I know, in Islam you cannot make a girl or boy get married with out their permission, if they refuse you cannot force them.

She also said that the Quran states if you touch a non-muslim you have to be cleansed. I've never heard of that, i did hear that as long as ther person believe in a holy book (torah, bible, Quran) you can eat at their house and eat after them if your heart allows you to. If you are allowed to eat after them, I'm sure you can also touch them.

There were many more things that she said that I, as a Muslim girl, did not agree with. I just think that she should have done her reserach before she published a book against Islam.

I know that the conditions she lived in, go on in Arab countries, but only because they dont throughly follow the Quran. If every Muslims followed the Quran and teachings of our Prophet (peace be upon him) they will be much happier."

Posted by RoadToPeace on Friday, October 28, 2005 at 19:48:37

Norma Khouri was unmasked as a phoney by a reporter who could not confirm her story. The other information and insight you provide comes from the main-stream of Islam. Thanks.

Posted by RoadToPeace on Friday, October 28, 2005 at 19:56:38

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