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But the onlooker needed to overlook the fact that such independent voices were few, whether in Australia or anywhere else. And as the decade wore on, the number did not notably increase, especially in the matter of the treatment of women within the culture of Islam, and especially in the matter of honour crimes. My own impression, drawn over the course of these past ten years or so, is that the amount of protest about honour crimes from Western female thinkers has diminished as the news about honour crimes has proliferated, and has steadily shrunk towards nothing even as news about honour crimes among immigrant populations in the Western countries has become more conspicuous. In Britain especially, the worse it gets, the fewer objections we hear from writers in the serious newspapers. (In the unserious ones, the stories run all the time, as a kind of snuff video on a loop: but the purpose there is to play on fears about immigration in general, and not to highlight a failing in the law.) A serious British journalist, such as Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, who promotes the difficult double programme of wanting Islam respected and honour crimes condemned, would not have to be quite so brave if she had more back-up. But the feminists do not want to know, or, if they know, prefer to do nothing. This was certainly a conclusion I didn't want to draw, because I never wanted to publish this essay, or even to make much more than a start on writing it. I wanted women to do the job. After 70 years of hard training, I had finally accepted that it was not a woman's job to wash my socks, but I still thought that if there were thousands of madmen all over the world ready to murder or mutilate their own daughters for imaginary crimes, then it was a woman's job to object in the first instance, always provided that she was free to do so. On the whole, however, it hasn't happened. 

Some people keep a file of outrageous things they read in the newspapers, and sometimes those same people are eventually found dead among their heaps of clippings, having understandably decided that life is not worth going on with. Keen to avoid the same fate, I make a point of throwing almost everything away. But there is a paragraph I saw in 2001, before the twin towers were brought down, that I have never been able to get rid of. When I clipped it out in the first place, I knew it would be harder to lose than a bad dream. I would use the clipping as a marker in a work book, and then deliberately lose the work book in my inland sea of papers. But I always knew where the clipping was. I knew that it would go on sending out its beeping signal until I had summoned up the courage to write something about it. Perhaps the time has come. Anyway, here is the clipping, reduced to the form of a single quotation, with a credit for the speaker. 

"All women killed in cases of honour are prostitutes. I believe prostitutes deserve to die."

Abdul Karim Dughmi, the former Minister of Justice in Jordan, quoted in the Sunday Times Magazine, 8 July 2001.

The "former Minister of Justice" no longer held his post, but he was still prominent enough in public life to have his opinion quoted. A key part of his belief system, it emerged, centred on the principle that if a girl is raped, her father is honour-bound to kill her. At the time, as clueless as anyone else in the West, I was not yet fully familiar with the idea of taking revenge on the victim. Later on, when it finally emerged that a feature of the conflict in the Balkans during the 1990s was the reluctance of Muslim girls who had been raped to tell their own families, I woke up. But even while still asleep I was impressed by what this man had said, mainly because of the eminence of the post he had held and in which country. The fact that this principle could be enunciated at all by any man not clinically insane attained a special piquancy in the context of Jordan, then as now held to be a centre of enlightenment within the Arab world. Stung to attention, I started to keep an eye on the news coming out of Jordan. 

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John Moseley
July 26th, 2014
10:07 AM
I loved this article for the characteristic excellence of James's prose and the passionate concern it expresses. But might the key to western feminist writers' silence on this subject be the same as the hey to James's own up to now? He says himself that he felt for a long time it was not his job, as a man, to take up cudgels on a feminist cause. Might western feminists not equally have felt that it was largely the job of Eastern feminists to argue for their own rights?

Prof. Dr. Wisam Mansour
November 25th, 2009
12:11 PM
Wonderful! I liked Clive's article. It is uncompromising and to the point. I enjoyed the occasional sardonic humor with which Clive describes oppressive cultures here and there and I couldn’t agree more with him. Screw multiculturalism when it interferes with a universal notion of justice! Now who is going to hang the bell for the mediation / eradication of systems and cultures that do not effectively practice the universal declaration of human rights?? The answer is simple and predictable: the west and those who adopt a western perspective. The Billion dollar question is how to do so?? I despair!!

September 22nd, 2009
11:09 AM
The short answer is that any Western feminist/socialist etc is quite happy to criticise their own society but are quite frankly cowards when it comes to assessing and observing other societies. Those other societies could kill you, you know! They know that and will only scream/rant about those who will not harm them.

The Sad Truth
September 17th, 2009
12:09 PM
There is something westerners have failed to understand about ourselves vis a vis the Islamic world: THEY BELIEVE IN THEIR VALUES FAR MORE THAN WE DO AND ARE PREPARED TO DIE FOR THEM. Clive James, like most westerners today, hasn't risk a toenail for any principle, while Muslims blow themselves up daily in pursuit of beliefs. Asking western feminists to fight the cause of Muslim women is as useless as asking pigeons to fight global warming. They have far more resolve than we do and will never bend an inch in our direction We have to learn to live with that.

September 12th, 2009
1:09 AM
Bravo! One day in the not so distant future you western people will realise that you have been colonised and that the very tenants and fabric of your society have been erased. This implosion or indeed suicide is entirely lamentable but your own doing none the less.

Shakira Hussein
September 10th, 2009
3:09 AM
Apologies, I did not intend to post my previous comment (with the query about Helen Garner) anonymously - clumsy mouse-click. I would still be interested in a clarification from James on this one - it seems to me as though Garner, having been criticised for things she did say, is now being defended (by James) for things she did not say. Which, frankly, is at least as problematic.

September 7th, 2009
7:09 AM
I wondered whether Mr James could provide some more detail about his discussion of Helen Garner getting into trouble for saying that women make false claims of rape? Garner caused a major stir with her book "The First Stone", but that was about sexual harrassment, not rape - and she did not say that the womens' claims were false, just that they made much too much of a fuss about it. I don't remember her talking about false rape allegations, and if she ever did, they did not attract nearly so much attention as her discussion of sexual harrassment (and in that case, as I said, she concluded that the womens' version of events was basically true, she just disagreed as to its significance). Could James provide more detail about where Garner has talked about false rape allegations? I have not read every word she has ever written, so I don't deny that she may have done so - however I would repeat that if she did, they did not attract the level of attention that James describes - that was in relation to her discussion of sexual harrassment - and again, she did not claim that these allegations were false.

September 3rd, 2009
11:09 PM
Where are the Western Feminists? Would that not be you, Mr. James?

September 3rd, 2009
3:09 PM
The point of this artical may be to wake up the silent west but it is the content that I find amazing. Amazing that people can still come on here and find cause to argue against the writer. People should be aware of the crazy actions that are happening on a daily basis and if in the correct position do something about it! I know I would if i knew how. And to all that are going to make comment on spelling and grammer, get a life and think about the consequences if you were born in the "wrong" country. Great Artical.

September 1st, 2009
2:09 AM
Kimserca resorts to "blah blah" as a supposed counter-argument. James's principal point is the *silence* of supposed intellectuals, whether inside Oz or out, and it's pretty hard to provide a quote of a silence. Plus, James refers to the extremity of the Northern Alliance that were used to displace the Taliban and by implication, the continuing Islamic misgyny of the present Afghan regime. He refers to the brutality of one of our principal allies, Saudi Arabia. He was clearly condemning all such oppresive regimes - does he have to list all of them? Harrah for Clive James. As he himself suggests, the only thing unfortunate about his piece is that it is not a woman who has written it.

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