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Under My Wig

Jonathan Fryer

Jonathan Fryer

Few people have the opportunity to be a witness to a great sweep of history, let alone get the chance to be part of it. But Dr Jamal Nasir, who launched his autobiography “Under My Wig” (Gilgamesh. £19.95, with an foreword by myself) at Daunt’s bookshop in Holland Park Avenue this evening has had a truly outstanding life and career.  He grew up in Palestine during the British mandate before studying at the American University of Beirut during the Second World War. He then pursued legal studies in England before being called to the Bar at Lincoln’s Inn in 1948 and going on to have a distinguished legal practice not only in London and Amman — having acquired Jordanian citizenship after the catastrophe of Palestinian dispossession — but also in Oman, China, Nigeria and elsewhere. He became Legal Advisor to His late Majesty King Hussein, working closely with Britain’s favourite foreign monarch for a quarter of a century. This led to his becoming Minister of Justice in Jordan, reorganising the whole legal system, and for a while he was Acting Foreign Minister. His travels as a Minister or accompanying the King meant that he had first-hand encounters with the good, the bad and the bizarre of the world’s leaders, from Germany’s Willy Brandt to China’s Chairman Mao and Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi. Accounts of such meetings enliven the content of Dr Nasir’s autobiography, as does his intimate insights into the nature and workings of the Jordanian royal family. Dr Nasir is already well-known in the legal profession for important works on the Status of Women in Islam and the Islamic Law of Personal Status, but this new work will introduce him to a wider audience. This evening he gave an impassioned speech about the ongoing injustices against the Palestinians (the subject of an earlier book, “Israeli Occupation and the Law of Belligerency”) and the way that Israel’s rulers act with impunity because of US and other Western support. But he also paid tribute to Jewish figures such as Dr Judah Magnes of the Hebrew University and Dr Avi Shlaim of Oxford who understood the reality of the situation. Even one of the founders of Israel, David Ben Gurion — who the young Jamal Nasir met on the London Underground — once declared, “If I were an Arab leader I would never sign an agreement with Israel. It is normal; we have taken their country.”

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