This book by the former queen of Jordan, Queen Noor, gives unique insight into the history and development of the country of Jordan and the Middle East during some of the most historically eventful times of the 20th century.
It is most interesting to read how the mind of this young American woman began to change beginning with her travels abroad to islamic-based countries during her college years. The story of her life up to that point appears to be very uneventful and average, similar to any other young person's life in America.
As Lisa Halaby, she tells of her parents desire to raise their children with every comfort and expectation that the majority of American parents at that time had for their children. She also relays a little about their struggle to maintain an unhappy marriage relationship and how as she grew she could see how her parents difference in ethnic heritage and upbringing affected their marriage and lifestyle. She tells of her father's ambitions and the many moves the family made to help him as he strived for 'happiness and success'. Pride in his heritage and guilt for not being able to maintain it strongly were probably reasons her father took great pains to introduce his children to his homeland and culture as they grew (although not specifically to the religion). His background also drove him to be one of the first to begin working cooperatively to improve business and political relationships between these leaders in the USA and their counterparts in Middle East countries.
But what is most interesting to see as an American is how she was instrumental in bringing western concepts (sometimes also thought of as 'christian' concepts by Muslims) to so many areas of Jordanian society - in her drive to create charities, develop musical and cultural events, work to improve access to education for all classes, and especially to raise the status of women by giving them jobs outside the home. Many times she admits to mistakes made in public out of sheer ignorance, but often her strong character and sheer determination provoked many to step aside and allow her access to areas and information that in the past would never have been granted to any queen, or woman.
Queen Noor also relates some very unexpected details about her whirlwind romance and marriage to King Hussein and the issues this relationship created for her - questions about privacy, maintaining family relationships and friendships, as well as blending King Hussein's children from previous marriages into their new life and dealing with all his former wives and relatives. Of course, also woven into this are details about many historical events and Hussein's involvement and reactions. Queen Noor relays how she grew as a young queen and was constantly trying to understand and adjust her role to support him and the positions of Jordan, especially as she was increasingly asked to make public appearances or speak individually at events in the USA. One of the most telling phrases she notes from her journals in the mid1990's states "our shared enjoyment of so many extraordinary experiences is the greatest gift of the advancing years of marriage". The photos in the middle of the book alone provide a history and romance of this royal marriage that many probably never thought or imagined was real or could be so well maintained. But to me, this story is one that shows clearly the future of the entire world - as people from different worlds are now regularly challenged to live together and move their countries and lives into a new age - blending the best of each culture and worldview, or at least committing themselves to respect the other and not become overly aggressive and destructive because of their differences - sadly, something most countries in the Middle East still can not commit to.
Of course, the saddest part of the book is about the final years living with her dying husband as he struggled to maintain his demanding schedule that he felt so obligated to continue as the 'father of all Jordanians'. We also read about Hussein's increasing depression about the situation in the Middle East and many times it appeared he was 'set up' by the US government to challenge him publicly. Several pages are given to detail about the Jordan-Israel Peace Treaty that was developed and signed during Clinton's presidency. Most beautiful to read is the final statement by Rabin after signing the pact "the peace that was born today gives us a hope that children born today will never know war between us, and their mothers (Muslim, Jew or Christian) will know no sorrow." Of course, the book recounts next about the tragic assassination of Rabin and the Hussein's sympathetic reaction and the arab world's reaction to that. And only just this week again we see how fragile even this legacy of King Hussein's commitment to peace is, as his son, now King Abdullah, delayed his trip to the USA to meet with President Bush and other leaders to continue discussion on Jordan's role in the Middle East peace process because of recent interventions by Israel that most arabs still see as supported by the USA.
This book can serve well for a high school history class or even as part of a Christian Bible study or a course on missions - because Lisa Halaby turned Queen Noor truly shows how the Christian and/or western mind is affecting 'the east' - and how our actions can be affected when we let our hearts see all people as just people, created in God's image - our sisters and brothers in humanity. When our hearts become open to that perspective, our worldview and the ways we reach out and interact with our foreign neighbors both close by and overseas will definitely change. No more will we want to quickly impose our ideas or see ourselves as totally superior, but we will realize that God originally created each people group and from their various cultures developed. Therefore, just as God sees good in each people and culture, so must we. As Paul said he became a Jew or Gentile and stressed tolerance and compassion, so must we know how to discern when this is proper, or when speaking openly and strongly about the Gospel when interacting with non-believers is what God requires.
While I grieve and pray most earnestly for a turnaround in the decision my sister in humanity made to deny Christ as Lord when she accepted Islam, I certainly can and do respect her and what she has done to improve her chosen country and all humanity. And most certainly I know that her upbringing in a free (Christian) America provided the foundation for the majority of values she espouses and continues to work so diligently now to spread to others. Would that each American Christian would feel the same urgency to share these values, as well as the Gospel, just as fervently. Then, I know the whole world would be a more blessed, bountiful, loving, and peaceful place - and the days til the 2nd coming of our Lord would surely be shortened. Please join me in the commitment to continue to pray for Queen Noor, to pray for true peace in the Middle East, and peace in the hearts of all Muslims which can come only when they each have a loving relationship with Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.