For love and honour

I believe — in my own limited understanding — that I fell foul of the defenders of a young woman’s honour thrice in my youth.

The first time, I didn’t really notice because I was preoccupied with my own humiliation. In this case, a group of young men took it upon themselves to protect a girl from me or whatever they assumed my intentions were.

The second time, I was subject to a threat I took so seriously that it imprinted an indelible trauma on my soul. In this case, I was informed that a young man had promised to snap my spine and break it into a hundred pieces if I spoke to his sister.  

The third and final occasion culminated in me becoming a total recluse, steaming off to find faith. This mostly consisted of a young man following me around at university, addressing me as “boy” and harassing me due to my friendship with a student studying the same subjects as me.

It took me a long time to come to terms with those events, or to really understand them. Rejection I could have accommodated quite easily, but intimidation and threats were difficult to comprehend. Difficult, particularly, because I believe I knew more about honour than any of my harassers. It is literally the meaning of my name: to honour God. I was raised to live that way.

It was ironic too, because many of my harassers weren’t themselves very honourable. Their actions seemed to be more about putting nerd-face back in his place, while they got up to all sorts on the nightclub dance floor.

The reality is that I was easily bullied, based on my appearance, my stature and character. In those days I was an easy target, whereas a popular young man well known for his serial conquests could get away with anything, embraced by my harassers as a friend.

People speak of honour, but what they are really talking about is control. I was never seeking conquests. Companionship and mutual respect within the bounds of marriage, sure. Without a doubt, I was seeking an honourable relationship like that.

Only, the honour police — male and female — were always on hand to abort nascent overtures at source. For me, the mere act of speaking was made a heinous crime. No, the mere act of glancing around was reason enough to lambast me. Perhaps that’s why I later took the art of lowering the gaze to the extreme.

I accept that it was the right of all those young women to flee my youthful gaze and unwanted attention. I accept I got so much completely wrong, misinterpreting glances and interactions, and transgressing boundaries. They absolutely had the right to say, “Go away!” Instead, people chose to either threaten me with violence or make my life pure misery.

The last of those experiences ultimately sent me off in another direction completely. Shortly after smashing up my own face with a bottle, I decided something had to change. That’s when I set out on my pursuit of the One, seeking faith. From that point on, I simply chose patience.

Which brings me to yet more irony. Four years after the last assault on my character and three years after embracing a path capable of elevating mankind to a state of honour, an honourable couple on the edge of Southall introduced me to a woman they thought might become my wife. We were married four months later. Twenty-one years on, she remains my best friend and soulmate.

For the honour police, I suppose I must be grateful. Unknowingly, they defended my honour. Unbeknownst to themselves, they guided me to this path. With their harassment, bullying and mockery, they saved me for my true destiny.

Thank goodness for that honourable couple who insisted on safeguarding our honour all those years ago. There, a true defence of honour, grounded not in intimidation and threats, but borne of care, kindness and respect. There, a better way.

As it is said: “To practice truth, contentment and kindness is the most excellent way of life.” If only those who had threatened me had had any grounding in their faith.

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