Jewish World Review Feb. 10, 2003 / 8 Adar I, 5763
Love and honor -- lost, found and murdered
I admit there may be something perverse about lumping these two new books together -- "Honor Lost: Love and Death in Modern-Day Jordan". (Atria Books), a serious and important memoir bearing witness to the repression of women in the Muslim world, and "Cad: Confessions of a Toxic Bachelor" (Hyperion), an unserious memoir bearing witness to the hedonism of the Western world -- or, at least, of a certain subculture of Manhattan.
The two books were on adjacent tables at a bookstore, but close enough to trigger a double take. Both titles relate to moral codes (or lack thereof): With unblinking purpose, "Honor Lost" refers to the cult of female chastity that drives Muslim men to murder family women for any "impurity," real or imagined. With a reflexively ironic wink, "Cad" refers to one man's -- rather, one guy's -- halting pursuit of love through uninterrupted promiscuity.
Interestingly enough, both book jackets feature cropped photos of eyes: a woman's resolute stare on "Honor Lost," and a young man's faintly smoldering (he hopes) gaze on "Cad." After that, of course, you've got to dig for a connection, because what two worlds could be farther apart than Amman, Jordan, a women's prison according to author Norma Khouri, and New York City, the libertine lovefest that author Rick Marin describes?
Marin is a pal of mine from way back, so all I will say about the haplessly relentless -- or is that relentlessly hapless? -- womanizing he recounts following his divorce from "Elisabeth" is that it's a relief when he finally finds a love true enough to bring his little black book of a memoir to a conclusion. Meanwhile, it is his unshrinking, unstinting and wholly unembarrassed depiction of himself as a "cad" that is notable. If hyper-promiscuity is the convention in this milieu (and that's the case if this book is truly non-fictional), then a "cad" -- who, by quaint definition, is "a man or boy whose behavior is not gentlemanly" -- isn't busting up any social norms. Maybe the social embrace of the non-gentleman is significant for what it suggests about the expectations Western women have for Western men, and vice versa.
The answer is not much. Sex is the currency of dating, and dating is cheap. As "Cad" tells it, gals streak in and out of the author's life, never breaking their free fall for more than a varying stint of sexual gymnastics and, maybe, a little non-marital intimacy. It's hedonism out of control -- literally. In the West, where liberty is all, our codes of honor, from chivalric to Boy Scout, are mainly self-imposed; they get no institutional muscle from church or state. When an individual loses his moral compass, it's up to him to find it again -- or not.
Such freedom doesn't exist in the Muslim world, where the mosque and the state control even the most intimate details of people's lives -- particularly women's lives. This domination causes Khouri to label Islam "a totalitarian regime operating under the guise of a religion." And totalitarianism is the nightmarish subtext that comes to life in "Honor Lost," Khouri's terrifying and inspiring account of the murder of her best friend, Dalia, and Khouri's own efforts, in Western exile, to avenge the murder and others like it. Dalia was murdered by her own father. The man stabbed his daughter 12 times, calling an ambulance only when he knew she was dead. Why? He believed Dalia had been seeing a man.
In fact, the dead woman had been seeing a man. The young Muslim woman was going to marry him --once the couple could flee the country. Michael was a Catholic, and therefore forbidden to marry Dalia by Islamic law. Such "immoral behavior" -- along with other "immoral" behaviors such as being a victim of rape, incest or unfounded rumor -- incites the murder of thousands of Muslim women like Dalia every year by their male relatives. Khouri vividly describes the unbearable tension that exists between women in Muslim societies and their menfolk, who may one day become their murderers.
Not that such crimes are considered "murder" at all. Jordan, like other Muslim countries upholding this heinous practice (and even Muslim communities in Great Britain, Denmark and Sweden), deems them "honor crimes" or "honor killings." They are misdemeanors. (Indeed, as Khouri writes, failing to buckle a seat belt while driving in Jordan incurs a stiffer penalty than honor-killing a family female.) Dalia's killer served no jail time. "I've cleansed my house," he announced on that horrific day as Khouri raced into his house to find her friend. "I've cut the rotten part and brought honor back to my family name."
Honor: Pity the cad who doesn't have any use for it; punish the killer who doesn't know the meaning of the word.
Enjoy this writer's work? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
JWR contributor Diana West is a columnist and editorial writer for the Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.
02/03/03: A calm that causes concern
01/27/03: Playing politics with a T-shirt mentality
01/21/03: When understanding the East means losing the West
01/13/03: Is a war on Jews a war on democracy?
01/06/03: Bush must take a stand on affirmative action
12/30/02: Questions for reflection on 2002
12/16/02: The pre-emptive war goes Hollywood
12/09/02: Protest Augusta? Why not Sudan?
11/25/02: Something to contemplate this Ramadan
11/08/02: Does Eminem now fit in?
11/04/02: No time for gloating
11/04/02: What's in a name when the name is Muhammad?
10/28/02: Jihad as a First Amendment right
10/21/02: When speaking out isn't allowed
10/14/02: Terrorism in Maryland and abroad
09/30/02: So long urgency, hello indulgence
09/24/02: That one, sturdy, missing word
09/17/02: Fingerprinting, finally
09/09/02: When 'healing' overshadows reality
09/04/02: Tales from the Techno Valley and Forest
08/16/02: Elvis shall rise again
08/14/02: War with Iraq won't harm war on terror
08/06/02: Clinton snaps over Somalia
08/01/02: 9-11 anniversary shouldn't come with apology
07/27/02: An unstable common ground
07/25/02: Hillary fights hard for soft money
07/12/02: Goretheus unbound
07/10/02: Rosie takes a shine to Republicans
07/08/02: Are you still shocked, Sami?
07/02/02: Can Britney win hearts of the Middle East?
06/28/02: A war on terror or Islamists?
06/25/02: Blame the murderer, and the messenger
06/21/02: Up front and personal with Atta
06/18/02: Terrorism at the United Nations
06/11/02: Who's policing the INS?
06/07/02: Spa Gitmo
06/04/02: Can rock gods save the queen?
05/31/02: Hillary's war
05/29/02: Have you forgotten we're at war?
05/24/02: An antiquated luxury of the past
05/21/02: From terrorists to tourists
05/19/02: Hate U.
05/07/02: Western self-loathing numbs us to violence
05/03/02: Pioneering television
05/01/02: Western self-loathing numbs us to violence
04/29/02: It's the misconduct, stupid
04/24/02: Medal of diss-honor
04/17/02: Holy sanctuary or terrorist shield?
04/12/02: Egyptian clerics solicit martyrs for murder
04/09/02: Defining terrorism down
04/05/02: The Wilder life
04/02/02: Acting, equality and the Academy
03/31/02: Speeding to conclusions
03/25/02: Hard to remove blood (libel) stains
03/21/02: The tale of Nixon's tapes --- again
03/19/02: The Big Lie lives on
03/15/02: The tunnel vision of '9/11'
03/13/02: The American Auschwitz?
03/08/02: Hating the indoctrination of hate
03/05/02: Clinton and Enron: Old friends
03/01/02: Pickering doesn't polarize, the process does
02/26/02: Destiny's prefabricated child
02/22/02: The White House heist
02/20/02: Making the grade
02/11/02: Studying student visas
02/06/02: Understanding arrogance
02/04/02: The professor's war
01/29/02: Disconnected dialogue
01/18/02: How much is enough?
01/15/02: Oh brothers, where art thou?
01/10/02: Air on the side of caution
01/04/02: Blacks seeing red at Harvard
01/02/02: Clinton's campaign continues
12/26/01: A tale of two exhibitions
12/24/01: Taliban Idyll
12/19/01: Right is right
12/17/01: Hillary strikes out
12/13/01: Lost files, lost presidency
12/10/01: Revolutionaries never grow up
12/05/01: Immigration reform talk is not just for 'haters' anymore
12/03/01: A new symbol of justice
11/30/01: Beyond morality
11/26/01: Can't keep a good man down
11/20/01: Tough talk at the United Nations
11/19/01: Hollywood's other battle
11/14/01: What's the matter with Sara Jane?
11/09/01: A beef with bin Laden's Beef Noodles
11/07/01: Facing up to the FBI's past mistakes
11/02/01: A school that teaches patriots to shutup
10/30/01: The gap between Islam and peace
10/26/01: The ties that bind (and gag)
10/24/01: This war is more than Afghanistan
10/22/01: The fatuous fatwa
10/19/01: Left out
10/16/01: Whose definition of terrorism?
10/11/01: Post-stress disorder
10/08/01: How the West has won
10/01/01: Good, bad or ... diplomacy
09/28/01: Drawing a line in stone
09/21/01: Prejudice or prudence?
09/14/01: When our dead will finally rest in hallowed ground
09/07/01: We want our #$%^&*() audience back!
08/24/01: The transformation from Green Mountain State to Green Activist State is all but complete
08/17/01: Enlightenment at Yale
08/10/01: From oppressors to victims, a metamorphosis
08/03/01: Opening the dormitory door: College romance in the New Century
08/01/01: How-To Hackdom: The dubious art of writing books about writing books
07/20/01: Hemming about Hemmings
07/13/01: Justice has not been served in the Loiuma police brutality case
06/22/01: When PC parades are too 'mainstream'
06/22/01: When "viewpoint discrimination" in our schools was
not nearly so gnarly a notion
06/15/01: Lieberman flaunts mantle of perpetual aggrievement
06/07/01: Is graciousness the culprit?
06/01/01: The bright side of the Jeffords defection
05/29/01: Campus liberals should be more careful
05/18/01: 'Honest Bill' Clinton and other Ratheresian Logic
05/11/01: Dodging balls, Bugs, and 'brilliance'
05/04/01: Foot in mouth disease and little lost Tories
04/20/01:The last classic Clinton cover-up
04/20/01: D-Day, Schmee-Day
04/06/01: For heaven's sake, a little decency!
03/30/01: The sweet sound of slamming doors and clucking feminists
03/23/01: America's magazines and the 'ick-factor'
03/09/01: Felony neglect
03/02/01: Who's sorry now?
02/23/01: 'Ecumenical niceness' and other latter-day American gifts to the world
02/16/01: Elton and Eminem: Royal dirge-icist meets violent fantasist
02/12/01: If only ...
© 2001, Diana West