Norma Khouri wrote a bestseller about a Muslim friend of hers who had been murdered by her family as an “honour killing” for dating a Christian. It sold over half a million copies across 15 countries. The book was called “Forbidden Love” and in a western world that looks on the east with apprehension and views the world of Islam as somewhat ancient and barbaric, the story fuelled all of those misgivings. It hit a nerve.
The problem is that all the evidence points to the story being untrue. The publishers and the public had been duped. Norma had fabricated the story. Her picture of Jordan was much darker than the reality and as the documentary un-wove the story, the truth got further and further away from what had been written in Forbidden Love. What is left between the covers of Forbidden Love is not a factual biographical story, but a cleverly woven piece of fiction from a pathological liar who was able to capitalize on the fears of the west.
The filmmaker, Anna Broinowski shows patience beyond belief as she is led on a wild goose chase to find evidence of a woman who, by all accounts, probably never existed and certainly was not killed in an honour killing.
It is amazing in this film to watch the mind of a pathological liar at work. Each time she presents possible evidence and the filmmaker pursues that evidence only to be met with dead-ends, Norma simply creates another fabrication about how astounded she is or she covers it by saying that she can’t reveal all the information.
Connections are made to other people who have had contact with Norma and this only causes the rabbit hole to go even deeper.
The question that draws us to the film is about whether Norma is a liar or an artist. My personal conclusion is that she is not an artist, but a liar who touched a nerve in the western world where demonizing that which we do not properly know or understand is something we do so easily. We easily latch onto the negative and tend to believe it without rigorous questioning. Norma’s book was a best seller because of this.
The public believed with ease that a wonderful young lady had been killed in Jordan under a horrific Muslim code because this is the evil side of Islam we have been led to take as the face of the religion. The publishers did not question it and the public lapped it up.
Forbidden Lies is a very clear indictment of Norma Khouri, that is obvious, what is not so obvious is the indictment of the public that would buy into those lies. It would be easy to condemn Norma and wash our hands of the sins of the liar, but what about the sins of a public that so easily buy into the demonising of an entire religion? Where must our culture take responsibility for the runaway success of a book based on a lie?
Reviewed by: Frank Ritchie
Rating: M – Contains violence and offensive language.
Released on: April 9th, 2008
Year of Original Release: 2007
Stars: Norma Khouri, Linda Mutawi
Length (Minutes): 104
Media Format: DVD
Aspect Ratio: 1.78 : 1
Supported Audio: Dolby Digital Surround 2.0
Director: Broinowski, Anna