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I should say straight away, when it comes to Jordan, that there was, and still is, reason for hope. Obviously, Queen Rania has never believed any of this lethal nonsense and she has often verbally condemned it as an anachronism. Even saying that much couldn't have been easy, but she has contrived to back her words with action, and it was partly due to her influence that the notorious Article 340 of the Jordanian criminal code was at last modified so that men who murder women on a point of honour no longer automatically walk free straight away. But they still walk free soon enough to make you wonder if an enlightened ruling elite, and even a reformed justice system, really has much chance against the ingrained prejudices of the culture. We know that the present monarch, King Abdullah II, and his elegant wife have done what they can for the liberal reform of the Jordanian justice system. But we also know that they would be receiving less praise for their bravery and originality if the Jordanian justice system had been less recalcitrant. Or, to cut the irony before it starts softening the enormity, it is a fair bet that the culture, in Jordan, goes on treating women like dirt.

Upon investigation, this proves to be the case. In Jordan, to expiate the shame brought upon a family by loss of honour, a woman is murdered every two weeks. Not only the crime of having been raped brings loss of honour. A rumour can bring loss of honour. Apparently there is little to encourage fathers in these cases to the consideration that there might be loss of honour involved in murdering their helpless daughters. The King and Queen have tried: they have spoken out for reform. The lawyer Asma Kadaar and a journalist on the Jordan Times have bravely devoted a good part of their working lives to the cause of sanity — particularly bravely because they are both female, and thus potentially subject to the self-righteous vengefulness of any mentally challenged male with honour on his mind. These advocates of elementary justice are people of influence, but they count for little against the collective dementia of the culture. 

One says "the culture" because one is not allowed to say "the state". The state, we are assured, isn't really like that. Theoretically, in Jordan, a father must go to jail for killing his daughter. And so he does, but he is out again soon enough to be in good shape for a hero's welcome. In response to the influential liberal voices, the Jordanian system of justice is currently, in August 2009, tying itself in yet another series of knots as it strives to assure the world that the courts will not admit a plea about "honour" when it comes to murder committed "in a fit of fury caused by an unlawful act on the part of the victim", and that a convicted murderer in such a case, instead of being let out after three months — six months in severe cases — might have to serve the full term of two years. (A 29-year old man who stabbed his raped sister 12 times was sentenced to 15 years but has just had his sentence halved. Will anyone be stunned when the sentence is halved again?) It seems to occur to nobody, not even the concerned royal family, that the sentencing policy is laughably unjust even when it is strictly applied. What a threat: if you murder your daughter because you think she has been raped you might very well go to jail for months on end. 

We are told that when it comes to a case of honour, Jordan is one of the more progressive Islamic communities. In Jordan, only one quarter of all homicides are cases of honour. In the Palestinian sectors of the West Bank and in Gaza, the proportion is two thirds. In Pakistan about 1,000 women get killed every year, and a startling, if lesser, incidence of ritual murder is true wherever Pakistanis live in the outside world. When a girl in a British Pakistani community is set on fire by her brothers, or has her face ruined with acid by a rejected candidate for the role of husband, we hear about it in the newspapers, although seldom for long. But in Pakistan such incidents aren't news at all. They happen three times a day. They are part of the culture. It was news in Britain when, on 14 July 2006, in London, a gifted Pakistani girl (her name was Sumari) was slain by her father, brother and cousin. It needed all of them to do it, because apparently she had to be stabbed 18 times. Her crime had been to disobey them, and she died of the proof that they had been well worth disobeying. Taking it on the lam, the father — who, while thicker than any brick, had at least been smart enough to spot the lack of congruity between British law and his own beliefs — holed up in his land of origin, Pakistan, thus providing yet another statistic in one half of the two-way traffic whereby potential victims, if they are lucky, hide out in the West, whereas perpetrators flee the West to hide out in the East. That two-way traffic should surely be enough by itself to define the nature of the horrible cultural interchange, which is mainly a matter of our culture failing to provide sufficient protection against the consequences of theirs.

Women students in Pakistan's Swat Valley 

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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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