Nine Parts of Desire by Geraldine Brooks

Nine Parts of Desire by Geraldine Brooks

Author:Geraldine Brooks [Brooks, Geraldine]
Language: eng
Format: epub, mobi
ISBN: 978-0-307-43445-6
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Published: 1995-11-10T16:00:00+00:00

Later that year the king’s democratic initiative bore fruit in an election that left Islamic hard-liners dominating the Parliament. Just before the election, a delegation of liberal-minded Jordanians had come to the palace to brief him on the persecution of Toujan Faisal, a candidate whose campaign for greater women’s rights had made her a target of extremist threats and harassment. The night before the vote, Hussein went on television and warned against religious extremism. The division of his country along religious lines, he warned, would never be tolerated while he lived. The extremists seemed to get the message and stopped short of violence against Toujan or her supporters.

Until August 1990, Jordan ticked along, the fundamentalist parliamentarians making a proposal, such as the banning of male hairdressers for women, and the rest of the community panning the idea and carrying on much as it always had. Free speech was exposing the fundamentalists’ agenda to a healthy airing, and most people, it seemed, weren’t buying it. One initiative that cost the Islamic bloc credibility, even with very religious Jordanians, was a proposal to ban fathers attending their daughters’ school sports days. “Are they saying I’m so dirty-minded that I can’t even be trusted to watch my daughter play basketball?” fumed one intensely religious father who had previously been in sympathy with the Islamic bloc.

Then Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, the United States sent troops to Saudi Arabia, and Jordan erupted in an outpouring of support for Iraq. I went to a sermon at one of Amman’s largest mosques and heard the preacher whip the overflow crowd into an anti-American frenzy, warning the U. S. Government that “your pigs will only come back to you in coffins, God willing.”

It was the queen’s moment. Suddenly, she could serve her adopted country in a way that no Arab-born consort could have. When Washington snubbed the king, sending Secretary of State James Baker and other officials to every other country in the region but Jordan, she got on a plane and went to her old hometown, lobbying senators and congressmen, asking them to understand the king’s quest for a negotiated settlement. It was interesting to compare the press coverage she gleaned on these trips with the articles that had appeared on her first visit to Washington after her marriage. “I’d Be Delighted to Have His Child” cooed the headline on a 1978 People magazine article, full of her thoughts on sport and shopping. This time she spoke at the Brookings Institution and appeared on “Night-line,” no longer asked about hairstyles and child rearing, but required to field hard questions about Jordan’s foreign policy. She did it well, with poise and clarity.

Back home in Amman, she encouraged the king to brief reporters hurrying to and from Baghdad through Jordan, the only gateway to Iraq that U.N. sanctions had left open. She arranged small dinners in a salon at her office for ten or twelve reporters at a time to meet the king and hear his version of events.

I saw a lot of her as I passed back and forth between Saudi Arabia and Baghdad.


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