Yannis Varoufakis


Very odd that everyone misrepresents what Varoufakis is actually offering or, as the TV claims, “threatening”.

The BBC says he refuses to talk to the Troika. In fact, he seems prepared to talk to anyone. The only thing he does not accept, it seems is to be bullied into a position by people who claim to know better.


As a pretty distinguished  academic, Varoufakis seems perfectly positioned to comment on the last 5 years and Greece’s debt. He says, “The disease that we’re facing in Greece at the moment is that a problem of insolvency for five years has been dealt with as a problem of liquidity.” Thank God this is a man who can express himself perfectly well in both Greek and English. His appearances and explanations on the News’ channel Al Jazeera were excellent too! This is a man we can afford to take seriously.

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Mrs Merkel meanwhile says she is not prepared to discuss anything and wants Greece nevertheless to stay in the Eurozone. I cannot see that she can have it both ways, poor lass. The fact that someone repeats herself does not make what she says any clearer or more certain- she is just repeating something.


Amjad Bashir

amjad Here is a paragraph from today’s Spectator: It is part of Nigel Farage’s diary: It is entertaining and informative.

our conversation throughout the night was dominated by Amjad Bashir and our growing concerns about him, especially the rumours beginning to permeate about a gerrymandered selection in Keighley. Dan Hannan, the MEP who took Bashir as a defector into the Tory party, had no idea that a number of serious allegations against him had been coming to a head for some time. Bashir knew we’d had enough of him, and decided to jump. And I was relieved that he went, too. He was the basis of numerous furious rows in MEP meetings. His political agenda appeared to be different from ours, and now he can lobby for an expansion of EU foreign policy including Turkey joining the EU, and for Palestine to be recognised as a state, from within the Tory party. Perhaps he’ll also get a more sympathetic hearing for his views on Pakistani blasphemy laws. I joked on Friday to Paul Nuttall that Bashir knew the end of the road had come, and that the other parties were welcome to him. I never for a second thought that the Tories would accept him. Caveat emptor.

I am sure there is alot waiting to spill out about this man. I worry when someone shifts too often and Bashir is clearly a bit shifty. However, some of the issues he has raised are valuable. We must never dismiss what someone says because he is himself unreliable. Bashir has some reasonable concerns about Palestine and maybe he has something to say about Pakistan: I do not know what his views on the blasphemy laws might be. Mine, obviously, tend towards the liberal, though of course I wince at the thought that one might ever cause another offence by taking the name of God in vain or mis-representing the Prophet. I certainly do not think such activity merits the death sentence or is an excuse to bomb people, That is absurd- God gave us intelligence to use it to convince our friends and our enemies to change their minds and change their behaviour. And the told we have at our disposal: come on- they are better than bombs: wit, academic scrutiny, questioning, analysis, humour, memory. Wow! What an arsenal!

There is an issue, however, that lies behind this paragraph and that needs attention. I worry that people still misunderstand the nature of Islam and try to impose a 19th Century western critical apparatus on the Koran- those verses we can and cannot “accept”. This is in fact what marks out the extraordinary letter sent by Eric Pickles in the wake of the Paris attacks to Imams throughout the UK and I wrote rather pointlessly to the Times about this. But let me repeat-


Two points need criticism in Pickles’ letter: What is missing from the letter is a reassurance that, while free speech is protected and promoted in the UK, it also comes at a price. Free speech is only truly possible when it is accompanied by mature responsibility and kindness (انظر أيضاً  or חסד /XSD in Hebrew). Without these qualities, free speech can easily be abusive and descend into a form of bullying. Secondly, and maybe more worryingly, it should not be necessary for anyone who lives here by right to define or defend their “Britishness”. I am not even sure what Pickles even means by “promote a positive image of British Islam”. Not since the dark days before the Roman Catholic Relief Act of 1829 did a group of British subjects have to prove they were not “5th Columnists”. And years later, when Pugin designed and decorated the Palace of Westminster, that was never quite enough, was it! Yet today, the Queen reads her speech from the throne he created.

(I thought about this a bit and realised a few things: the first is that, left to its own devices, the Catholic Church in England has embraced many of the features assumed to be distinctive of the Anglican communion, as well as a particularly english form of triumphalism. Check here for a video of Benedict’s entrance to Westminster Cathedral. It is a stunning piece of music by James MacMillan, quintessentially British, though admittedly with a touch of Hammer Horror about it all.

and on the subject, check out this setting of Lux Aurumque: simply stunning and, I would argue, absolutely British! Do remember that Latin was the sacred language of the West and that Queen Elizabeth I was an expert , holding conversations and reading in Latin! In other words, here is a manifestation of a faith that  shows “a positive image of British Catholicism”, but it was an organic development, not a packaged promotion. Pugin’s churches, likewise, promote “a positive image”, though the language that he used to promote this in “contrasts” was written when he was still an Anglican. This is about faith, not about a supermarket selection, and Pickles is absolutely wrong in the way he writes and what he expects. It is insulting, demeaning and futile. It serves only to breed resentment. By definition an British imam in a British Mosque is already “promoting a positive image of British islam”. In a way, he has to do nothing more.)

Here is the man who designed the Houses of Parliament. His son fought an uphill battle to get his father recognised as the designer, but until the 20th Century it was barely acknowledged by the establishment. A great shame.


Now, of course, there are 5th Columnists hiding in the Muslim community, but they are hiding in plain sight- and it should not be necessary for all Muslims to “prove” themselves because of the activities of a minority. Instead, the majority should be given support, not forced on to the defensive to say how they are promoting a “positive image”. Should we bother to read what are promoted by liberals as worrying texts of the Koran in context and within the context of helpful hadiths and commentaries, then we would never have a problem with Islam at all.

Today, it seems to me that Islam is going through a transition and there are three distinct forms of “interpretation”- the Wahabi (which we might see as a puritanical sect but which is also influenced by its cultural context – and of course is very wealthy), the Iranian model (which goes well beyond Shia and fuses radical politics with a fairly aggressive and expansionist ideology) and a version of Islam which has already reconciled itself to co-existence with the West and which the West long-ago accepted. We owe our Renaissance and advances in Astronomy and Medicine indeed to the links we already had 1000 years ago with Islam! There are various sub-catagories of course; the least “fundamentalist” of these is the Iranian version which interprets so much, it manages to reconcile the impossible- elevating the idea of “sahid”/martyrdom to such a level that it obliterates the absolute command in the Koran against suicide and against injuring women, children and the sick; that ignores appeals for peace. Islam is the only world religion that has a specific prohibition in the primary scripture against suicide.

What we need to do today is to encourage the third way- and to accommodate any group that fosters what Blair called “moderate” Islam. The Wahabi model and the Iranian model are, however, influencial and so appeal to a community that feels pressured. So, in this context, any links that can be fostered with Turkey are to be encouraged. Turkey is an example of a State that espouses the “third way”, and while some of its discussions seem arcane (the headscarf thing, for instance, which is actually, in part, a political statement- you can tell which party someone belongs to by the way she wears her scarf), it is on the right track and has dealt well with business. Indeed, it only took Turkey 4 years to build an excellent High speed rail link from Istanbul to Konya, further I note than the link proposed between London and Birmingham! Links with Turkey are within the UKIP remit which is to set up our own bilateral agreements rather than to have these agreements and associations imposed by the EU. Would we want Turkey in a wider trade association of European states- certainly, but would we want Turkey to be part of the EU as it currently stands? I think even Turkey has reservations about that one! Should it be treated by Brussels in the way it is currently treated? Absolutely not! But then Brussels treats too many nations with utter contempt – and the Greek debacle is the natural result (more on that later). To push Turkey aside is a silly and short-sighted vision, and in the end, the more it makes Turkey wait, the weaker the European project (in whatever form it finally emerges) will become. Turkey has a natural home within the European community- and we desperately need Turkey’s help if we are to deal with Islamic terrorism.

As for the Keighley thing- it is quite astonishing the way little people run around causing chaos when they are given a bit of power. Even without looking at the specific allegations, the range of Bashir’s affections from Galloway to UKIP is astonishing. Our job in politics is to create harmony and to get things done. Amjad Bashir has misunderstood his job and it augurs ill as Nigel Farage says that the Tories now want him.”Buyer beware” indeed!

We must find a more positive voice to speak about Islam and to promote those forms of Islam, in fact the dominant forms, that have co-existed with us already for so long and that today are threatened especially by the Iranian interpretation of Islam. This means that we must have a better relationship with Palestine and Pakistan as well as with Turkey. Only when we speak in one voice with Islam can we ever hope to confront the dangers of the Iranian experiment and the surge towards terrorism.

Here is a report by Will Kilner on the original allegations made in Yorkshire:

ALLEGATIONS of interference in UKIP candidate selection in Keighley are at the centre of a continuing row between Bradford businessman Amjad Bashir and his former party. An investigation is currently underway into the selection of UKIP’s local election candidates in the three Keighley wards at a hustings event held last week. E-mails outline how there were a dozen new membership applications at the beginning of the month, and there were question marks over a dozen new faces who appeared at the event claiming to be members. This saw complaints about “infiltration” by people not committed to UKIP and led to an internal party investigation over the selection process. Confirmation as to who will represent UKIP in the Keighley Central, Keighley East and Keighley West seats at May’s Bradford Council elections is expected in the next week. It comes as Yorkshire and Humber MEP Mr Bashir was suspended by UKIP over allegations of a “grave nature” shortly before announcing his defection to the Conservatives on Saturday. UKIP leader Nigel Farage said: “The final straw on Friday, was the hustings meeting that took place in West Yorkshire where gerrymandering appears to have taken place.” When Mr Bashir’s denials were put to him Mr Farage added: “He can deny that, but I tell you what he can’t deny and that’s his continuing association with political extremists from Pakistan despite us saying please, please, keep away. “Whichever way we look at this, he had reached the end of the road with us, he knew that.” Mr Farage expressed his surprise that the Conservative Party had accepted him, but Chancellor George Osborne insisted he was “not aware” of any reason why the Tories should have turned Mr Bashir away. Mr Bashir has dismissed his former party’s move as a “desperate attempt” to smear him to distract from the news of his decision to join the Conservatives and said there was “not a shred of truth” to the claims. Meanwhile Respect MP George Galloway has also claimed that Mr Bashir once joined his party, but was de-selected as a candidate for Bradford Moor prior to the council elections in May 2012 after concerns were raised about his fitness to stand. The Bradford West MP would not specify what the issues were, “but they were sufficiently grave to make us realise that he was not a fit and proper person to represent Respect. Clearly both UKIP and the Tories have lower standards,” he said. Mr Galloway has also tabled a parliamentary motion calling on the Government and Conservatives “to declare to the voters of Yorkshire and the Humber that Amjad Bashir’s relentless party switching and misrepresentation of his past makes him unfit to represent them, whatever party’s colours he temporarily wears”.

There is perhaps one final point: earlier I made reference to “5th Columnists” and this needs qualifying because while the Muslim Community is not harbouring or even encouraging a secret Cabal of terrorists in this country, it is quite true that many terrorists use the language of Islam and hide behind some of its doctrines. We will not find these people by shining a torch of suspicion on the whole community. That is childish and absurd. The only way we can eradicate this terror is to enlist the support of people who understand what Islam is about and who themselves would be shocked at the way it is perverted. It is as absurd to accuse Islam of harbouring terrorism as it was to accuse Catholicism of harbouring the IRA throughout the 1970s. Of course, there were links, and of course religion was used as a tribal weapon- of course most IRA were catholic as the UDA would have been Protestant, but religion itself was an incidental element in the troubles and as a British Catholic boy, I did not feel I had anything in common at all with the people planting bombs in London or Belfast.
I worry that in the West, Islam has been pushed into a position of defensiveness and I worry that because of media manipulation, many people have confused the tragedy of the Palestinians, for instance and the assault on Iraq with some sort of Western attack on Islam. What is more likely, of course, is that the West is indifferent to Islam in the same way that it has become largely indifferent to Christianity. There is no crusade here! There is certainly misunderstanding but, believe me, no crusade at all. I will write more on this at a later stage, but it is high time Western leaders stood up and saluted Islam for its persistence in the face of  secularism.

some worrying articles about modern Russia

One of the main characters in War and Peace is Pierre Bezukov who embraces masonry, frees his serfs and observes Borodino. He learns the value of freedom, however, only when he is in prison. One the the themes of Tolstoy’s War and Peace is the beginning of social emancipation and the freedom of the Serfs. Tolstoy had inherited a vast estate (Yasnaya Polyana) and 200 serfs and the guilt of this inheritance drove him into preaching reform. The book refers to about 160 real people and there is enviable research throughout. Tolstoy had fought in the Crimean war so he knew something about battles.


Russia’s Chief Justice Advocates A Return To Serfdom

by Elena Holdny: Business Insider  Sept 30 2014

Alexander_IIafter Lavrov

There are always politicians who say that things were better in the past.

And the top judicial official in Russia is one of them — he appears to be advocating a return to serfdom.

Valery Zorkin, the head of Russia’s Constitutional Court, wrote an article that was published in the Rossiyskaya Gazeta in which he praised Serfdom.

(In Russia, Zorkin is the equivalent rank of the US Supreme Court’s Chief Justice John Roberts)

In the article he says the global situation is becoming increasingly more dangerous and that the system of international law is now based on “free interpretations from a position of strength.”

He doesn’t agree with the “free interpretations” of international law and suggests that it must be corrected by increased legal authority.

And then he switches gears to serfdom.

He advocates for serfdom and says that it was the main “staple” holding Russia together in the 19th century. He justifies his argument by saying that serfdom is beneficial for the serfs.

In the article he writes (translated from the original Russian by Business Insider):

Even with all of its shortcomings, serfdom was exactly the main staple holding the inner unity of the nation. It was no accident that the peasants, according to historians, told their former masters after the reforms: ‘We were yours, and you — ours.’

The significance of Zorkin’s serfdom advocacy

The roughly translated term “staple” (in Russian “скрепа”) is significant. It’s an older word that has become popular in recent years after Putin used it in a News Conference in 2012.

Prior to the conference, that word was basically never used in speech.

In the news conference, Putin said there was a “lack of a spiritual staples” among Russians — meaning there was no spiritual unity. And he subsequently indicated that Russia needed a “spiritual cleanse.”

“Putin essentially used the term ‘скрепа’ to mean the ‘spiritual staples that unite the Russian society.’ He was saying that we need a spiritual unity amongst the whole Russian society,” a Moscovite told Business Insider.

Following Putin’s news conference, Russian politicians and citizens have started using the word all over the place.

And Zorkin is following suit by using the Putin terminology to indicate that serfdom is the “spiritual staple that unites the [Russian] society.”

Zorkin also compares the repeal of serfdom to Boris Yeltsin’s reforms

Agrarian reforms were led by the former prime minister Pyotr Arkadyevich Stolypin. Serfdom was officially repealed in 1861 in Russia.

Zorkin argues in his article that: “Stolypin’s reform took away communal justice from the peasants in exchange for individual freedom, which almost none of them knew how to live and which was depriving their community guarantees of survival.”

He closes the piece by comparing the “abrupt” repeal of serfdom to the “abrupt” changes of the late 20th century following Boris Yeltsin’s reforms.

In case your history is a little shaky, Boris Yeltsin is the former Russian president who transitioned the country from the communist Soviet Union to the pre-Putin capitalist Russia.

Путин: В России дефицит духовных скреп

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Владимир Путин. Фото: ИТАР-ТАСС

Президент России Владимир Путин заявил, что российское общество сейчас испытывает “явный дефицит духовных скреп”. Президент пояснил, что имеет в виду дефицит милосердия, сострадания и сочувствия.

“Мне больно сегодня об этом говорить, но сказать я об этом обязан. Сегодня российское общество испытывает явный дефицит духовных скреп“, – сказал российский лидер. По его словам, под этим подразумевается “дефицит того, что во все времена делало нас крепче, сильнее, чем мы всегда гордились”, то есть таких явлений, как милосердие, сострадание, сочувствие.

Сложившаяся ситуация стала следствием того, что 15-20 лет назад были отвергнуты “идеологические штампы прежней эпохи”. “К сожалению, тогда же были утрачены и многие нравственные ориентиры. Мы в известном смысле вместе с грязной водой и ребенка выплеснули. Сегодня это проявляется в равнодушии к общественным делам часто, в готовности мириться с коррупцией, с наглым стяжательством, с проявлениями экстремизма и оскорбительного поведения. И все это порой приобретает безобразные, агрессивные, вызывающие формы”, – констатировал глава государства.

“Мы должны всецело поддержать институты, которые являются носителями традиционных ценностей”, – считает Путин. – “Закон может защищать нравственность, и должен это делать, но нельзя законом установить нравственность. Попытки государства вторгаться в сферу убеждений и взглядов людей – это, безусловно, проявление тоталитаризма. Это для нас абсолютно неприемлемо. Мы и не собираемся идти по этому пути. Мы должны действовать не путем запретов и ограничений, а укреплять прочную духовно-нравственную основу общества. Именно поэтому определяющее значение приобретают вопросы общего образования, культуры, молодежной политики. Эти сферы – это не набор услуг, а прежде всего пространство для формирования нравственного гармоничного человека, ответственного гражданина России”.

Для возрождения национального сознания Путин предлагает “связать воедино исторические эпохи и вернуться к пониманию той простой истины, что Россия началась не с 1917-го и даже не с 1991 года, что у нас единая, неразрывная тысячелетняя история, опираясь на которую мы обретаем внутреннюю силу и смысл национального развития”.

“Мы должны беречь уникальный опыт, который передали нам наши предки. Россия веками развивалась как многонациональное государство – изначально так было, – государство-цивилизация, скрепленное русским народом, русским языком и русской культурой, которые для всех нас родные, которые нас объединяют и не дают раствориться в этом многообразном мире. Для планеты мы, независимо от нашей этнической принадлежности, были и остаемся единым народом“, – отметил президент.

Важно с вниманием и уважением относимся к каждому этносу и народу Российской Федерации и не забывать, что любой национализм и шовинизм наносят ущерб прежде всего тому народу и тому этносу, интересами которых якобы и озабочены националисты. “В нашем многообразии всегда была и есть наша красота и наша сила”, – заявил российский лидер.


Суд скорый, правый и равный для всех

Судебная реформа Александра II: уроки для правового развития России

Глобальная ситуация, в которой мы сейчас находимся, становится все более опасной. События вокруг Украины показывают, что система международного права становится сферой все более вольных интерпретаций с позиции силы.

И это, как мне представляется, диктует нам острую необходимость форсированной модернизации очень многих сфер нашей жизни. Не хотел бы драматизировать, но боюсь, что вскоре форсированная модернизация потребует активной – и коллективной! – мобилизации сил и духа самых широких российских масс.

А это возможно лишь в том случае, если нормы законов, качество законоисполнения и вся государственная политика окажутся в согласии с представлениями широких масс о благом и справедливом.

И, добавлю, если на названные цели всерьез и по большому счету будут работать не только все ветви российской власти, но и решающая часть отечественного – на глазах вызревающего – гражданского общества.

Более 150 лет назад император Александр II начал первые в истории России системные и целостные модернизационные реформы государственной и общественной жизни. Те реформы, благодаря которым он получил в отечестве нашем почетное именование “Александр Освободитель”.

Открыв этот – не побоюсь высокого слова – судьбоносный процесс в марте 1861 года Манифестом “О даровании крепостным прав состояния свободных сельских обывателей”, император далее начал незамедлительно и настойчиво развивать другие направления реформ – военное, земское, судебное, образовательное и другие.

Эти реформы вызревали и исподволь готовились несколько десятилетий, причем в сложной борьбе очень разных социальных и политических сил. Начались они в тот момент, когда были осознаны почти всем обществом как насущная и неотложная необходимость.

Эти реформы – при всех их трудностях и дальнейших “контрреформистских” откатах назад – фундаментальным образом изменили социальное, государственное, политическое, экономическое, военное лицо России.

Нельзя не признать, что мы, сегодняшние, до сих пор в существенной мере пользуемся плодами этих реформ во всех сферах нашей жизни. В том числе в сфере правовой и судебной системы.

И потому я позволю себе сжато остановиться на предыстории, истории и уроках этих реформ.

Попытки судебного реформирования России, пути от которых вели к реформам Александра II, предпринимались задолго до этого.

Так, например, на фоне ввода в действие государственного акта “Учреждение о губерниях” 1775 года, которым в основном определялось судопроизводство к началу царствования Александра II, в 1785 году в России была утверждена “Грамота на права и выгоды городам Российской империи”. Этот государственный акт вводил в большинстве городских центров империи самое передовое для той эпохи европейское Магдебургское право с соответствующими элементами судопроизводства.

В начале XIX века Михаил Сперанский по поручению Александра I подготовил фундаментальный документ государственной и правовой реформы – по сути дела, план модернизации государственного устройства и правовой системы, под названием “Введение к Уложению государственных законов”. В плане Сперанского содержались и существенные элементы трансформации империи в направлении конституционной монархии, и проработанные идеи реформ правовой и судебной систем, позволяющие обеспечить принцип верховенства права над господствовавшим тогда полуфеодальным правовым произволом.

В частности, Сперанский считал необходимой выборность существенной части чиновников и законодательное установление их ответственности (включая ответственность министров перед законодательным органом). А также – при безусловной силе и приоритете императорской власти – повышение роли судебной власти и соблюдение принципа разделения властей.

Отметим, что представленный Сперанским в 1809 г. проект реформы сначала был благосклонно принят императором. Однако в 1812 г. Сперанский оказался в опале, его проект был положен под сукно. Почему – историки и правоведы спорят до сих пор. Одно из объяснений – якобы на фоне войн с Наполеоном никакое радикальное реформирование системы власти было неуместно.

Но наиболее правдоподобным представляется другое объяснение: Александр I согласился с главным доводом своих сановных советников о том, что ни массы народа, ни опорное дворянское сословие империи к подобным переменам не готовы. А значит, нет в стране того активного слоя, который может всерьез и заинтересованно проводить реформы. А значит, попытка их учредить сверху, волей императора, скорее всего, приведет к смуте.

При Николае I Сперанского вновь приблизили ко двору, император даже поручил ему продолжить работу по систематизации действующего российского законодательства. Однако реформаторским проектам Сперанского хода не дал. И, более того, в 1831 г. Николай I своим указом отменил Магдебургское право во всех городах империи, кроме Киева.

В 1844 г. свои предложения по реформе правовой и судебной систем представил императору один из самых влиятельных сановников, недавний министр внутренних дел граф Дмитрий Блудов. Но и к этим – гораздо более умеренным, чем у Сперанского – реформаторским предложениям Николай I отнесся скептически. Хотя дальнейшую работу Блудова над идеями судебной реформы не запретил.

(picture of Tsar and Tsarevitch-)

Реальный и мощнейший толчок реформированию всех сфер государственной и общественной жизни России дало сокрушительное поражение страны в Крымской войне 1854-1855 годов. После которого почти вся влиятельная, в том числе подчеркнуто верноподданная часть российского общества осознала катастрофическую внутреннюю политическую и социальную слабость государства. И начала требовать от императора Александра II, взошедшего на трон после смерти Николая I, радикальных перемен.

Так, историк и публицист Михаил Погодин в обращении к царю писал: “Свобода! Вот слово, которое должно раздаться на высоте самодержавного русского престола! Простите наших политических преступников… Объявите твердое намерение освободить постепенно крестьян… Облегчите цензуру, под заглавием любезной для Европы свободы книгопечатания… Медлить нечего… Надо вдруг приниматься за все: за дороги, железные и каменные, за оружейные, пушечные и пороховые заводы, за медицинские факультеты и госпитали, за кадетские корпуса и училища мореплавания, за гимназии и университеты, за промыслы и торговлю, за крестьян, чиновников, дворян, духовенство, за воспитание высшего сословия, да и прочие не лучше, за взятки, роскошь, пенсии, аренды, за деньги, за финансы, за все, за все…”

Погодину вторил Константин Аксаков: “Правительство не может, при всей своей неограниченности, добиться правды и честности; без свободы общественного мнения это и невозможно. Все лгут друг другу, видят это, продолжают лгать, и неизвестно, до чего дойдут. Всеобщее развращение или ослабление нравственных начал в обществе дошло до огромных размеров”.

Одной из первых сфер, в которой начались перемены, стала система российского права. В 1858 г. Д. Блудов, главноуправляющий II отделением Собственной канцелярии императора, получил высочайшую поддержку своих идей судебной реформы. И в июле 1860 г. была реализована одна из его главных задумок: следствие было изъято из ведения полиции, и был учрежден особый институт судебных следователей, подчинявшихся палатам уголовного суда. А затем началось широкое профессиональное обсуждение других реформ права и суда: судоустройство, широкое право подсудимых на юридическую защиту и организация адвокатуры, совершенствование уголовного и гражданского процесса, критический пересмотр множества законодательных норм.

Далее идеи реформы были вынесены на рассмотрение Государственного совета, который предложил разработать и утвердить единую концепцию судебной реформы, а затем заново подписал Судебные уставы. В октябре 1861 г. Александр II согласился с этим мнением Госсовета и предписал Государственной канцелярии составить “общую записку обо всем, что может быть признано относящимся к главным, основным началам предположений для устройства судебной части в империи”.

Для этой работы была создана большая группа специалистов и государственных деятелей, которые понимали необходимость реформы и всерьез рассчитывали на ее быструю реализацию. Фактическим “мотором” группы стал сенатор Сергей Зарудный – крупный юрист и знаток основных современных европейских судебно-правовых систем.

Весной 1862 г. император получил на рассмотрение “Соображения” этой группы, а затем Госсовет учредил специальную Комиссию для разработки новых судебных уставов. И уже к осени 1864 г. четыре основных устава – “Учреждения судебных мест”, “Устав уголовного судопроизводства”, “Устав гражданского судопроизводства”, “Устав о наказаниях, налагаемых мировыми судьями” – были утверждены Соединенными департаментами и Общим собранием Госсовета.

4 ноября 1864 года Александр II эти уставы подписал: “Рассмотрев сии проекты, мы находим, что они вполне соответствуют желанию Нашему утвердить в России суд скорый, правый, милостивый и равный для всех подданных Наших, возвысить судебную власть, дать ей надлежащую самостоятельность и вообще утвердить в народе Нашем то уважение к закону, без которого невозможно общественное благосостояние”.

Описывая процесс подготовки судебной реформы столь подробно, я хочу показать, насколько насущной ее ощущал высший слой имперской власти. И насколько быстро, фактически за три года, немыслимо быстро для очень инерционной и неповоротливой бюрократической системы тогдашней империи, был создан правовой каркас новой системы российского судопроизводства. Причем системы, которая могла считаться вполне либеральной в сравнении с ведущими современными мировыми образцами. Не случайно многие исследователи называют эту реформу важнейшей российской “революцией сверху”.

Новые Уставы предписывали:

– полное отделение судебной власти от административной;

– процессуальную независимость судей;

– единый суд для всех сословий (исключение – крестьянский суд по самым мелким делам);

– гласность судопроизводства;

– устный и состязательный характер судопроизводства;

– право сторон и подсудимых на защиту в суде, право на представление в суде корпорированным адвокатом;

– открытость для подсудимых всех доказательств, выдвигаемых против них.

То есть речь шла о вполне современных и глубоко демократических принципах ведения судопроизводства.

Но не менее важно здесь и другое. А именно, слова императора о “суде равном для всех подданных наших”, о “возвышении судебной власти и ее самостоятельности”, а также об “уважении к закону, без которого невозможно общественное благосостояние”. И содержание принятых в 1864 г. судебных Уставов, и эта фраза, под которой, видимо, готов подписаться каждый нынешний правовед и каждый гражданин, убедительно показывают, какой рывок к современному правосознанию наметила Россия 150 лет назад.

Наметила, но, признаем, далеко не реализовала.


Император Александр Второй” (1818 – 1881). Репродукция Хромолитографии или литографии 1877 года. Государственный Исторический музей.

Во-первых, внедрение новых Уставов в российское судопроизводство заняло не запланированные четыре года, а более 25 лет.

Во-вторых, из “равенства перед судом” были изначально исключены все действия и распоряжения государственных должностных лиц, полиции, органов земского и городского самоуправления, не имеющие состава уголовного преступления. Они принципиально не могли быть обжалованы в судах и рассматривались только во внесудебных губернских комиссиях или департаментах сената. Ссылка и высылка граждан (на срок до 5 лет) считались административными мерами, а не наказаниями, и также оказались вне компетенции судов. Причем решения о ссылке или высылке принимались заочно, без объявления причин и возможностей защиты и обжалования.

В-третьих, в Уставы почти сразу после их принятия начали вносить подзаконные изменения. Так, в июле 1866 г. Комитет министров принял специальное “Положение” об укреплении власти губернаторов. По нему судьи оказались подчинены губернатору, а он получил право закрывать без объяснений любые собрания (обществ, клубов и т.д.), показавшиеся “вредными”, и не утверждать в должности чиновника, показавшегося “неблагонадежным”. А в 1871 г. Александр II своим указом вернул III (жандармскому) отделению производство дознаний по всем государственным преступлениям и право создания для расследований “чрезвычайных комиссий”, а далее и “Особого совещания по выработке мер по борьбе с крамолой”.

Все эти меры по ограничению или даже выхолащиванию либерального и демократического содержания судебной реформы были, по сути, симптомами глубокого процесса сначала как бы локальных, но со временем все более явных провалов и неудач общего курса реформирования.

Уже в середине – конце 70-х годов XIX века в России все громче заговорили об остановке или развороте реформ. Начали оспаривать двуединую формулу “охранительного либерализма”, выдвинутую нашим крупнейшим правоведом Борисом Чичериным: “либеральные меры – сильная власть”. Мол, именно либеральные меры подрывают силу власти и толкают народ к смуте. Мол, к такого рода реформам был не готов народ, чье правовое сознание было уничтожено “веками крепостного рабства” и “идиотизмом крестьянской жизни”.

Сегодняшние историки и правоведы, рассматривая ту российскую эпоху, нередко склонны оценивать реформы Александра II в духе каких-либо теорий исторических циклов. Якобы реформы всегда сменяются контрреформами по причине экономической цикличности, как знаменитые хозяйственные “волны Кондратьева”, или по причине “усталости от перемен”, как у американского историка Артура Шлезингера-младшего, или из-за “смены поколений”, как у Ортега-и-Гассета и других теоретиков.

А наш бывший соотечественник, а ныне американский профессор Александр Янов договорился до того, что Россия обречена на контрреформистские откаты по той причине, что она много веков назад приняла решение отказаться от “правильного” западного христианства в пользу “неправильного” православия. И потому, мол, православный народ, подчиняющийся догмам всевластной церкви, никогда не одолеет барьер правовой цивилизованности.

Мне уже не раз приходилось высказывать простой тезис: если реформы не удались, провалились, привели к неожиданным негативным последствиям, виноват не народ, а реформаторы. Никогда в истории никакому реформатору не был предложен для успеха реформ другой, более подходящий народ. И мы, отдавая дань уважения великой работе реформаторов, не имеем права уклониться от попытки понять их ошибки.

О том, что значительная часть реформ “царя-освободителя” действительно была неуспешна, спорить не приходится. И, значит, вопрос, почему это было так, по-прежнему требует ответа.

Наиболее провальной, по общему мнению специалистов, стала крестьянская реформа. Прежде всего она была очевидно половинчатой: формально даровала свободу, но не создала условия для того, чтобы крестьяне смогли этой свободой реально воспользоваться; освободила крестьян от власти помещиков, но усилила зависимость от общины (ведь земля не принадлежала крестьянину на правах собственности, ею распоряжалась община); дала личную свободу, но обесценила ее жесткой экономической зависимостью и т.д.

Но дело было не только в этом. Что-то такая реформа очень болезненно обрушила в российском обществе. Некрасов очень точно выразил эту мысль так: “Распалась цепь великая, распалась и ударила одним концом по барину, другим – по мужику”. Какую “цепь великую” разрушила реформа? Она разрушила уже и без того заметно ослабевшую к этому времени связь между двумя основными социальными классами нации – дворянством и крестьянами. При всех издержках крепостничества именно оно было главной скрепой, удерживающей внутреннее единство нации. Не случайно же крестьяне, по свидетельству историков, говорили своим бывшим господам после реформы: “Мы были ваши, а вы – наши”.

Разорвав внутреннюю связь между элитой и массами, реформа окончательно закрепила за царем как носителем власти статус главного объекта народных чаяний, или, говоря современным языком, социальных ожиданий. Таким образом, основная линия социального напряжения – между властью и крестьянскими массами – лишилась важнейшего амортизатора в лице помещиков. И это стало одной из существенных причин роста “бунташных”, а затем и организованных революционных процессов в России на исходе XIX и в начале ХХ вв.

Нельзя не сказать и о темпах реформ, которые были воистину беспрецедентными. Эти темпы предопределили не просто болезненный, а шоковый характер преобразований. Сама по себе болезненность для общества реформ такого рода не уникальна. По социально-культурному содержанию она очень близка к тем – крайне болезненным и кровавым – процессам перехода от феодализма к рыночному капитализму, через которые ранее проходила Европа. Но в Европе эти процессы все-таки были менее шоковыми, чем в России. Ведь европейская городская буржуазия, вышедшая в основном из крестьянских масс, еще в феодальную эпоху обеспечила себе и крестьянству определенные гарантии свободы от феодального произвола, а также возможности судебно-правовой защиты. И очень постепенно освобождалась от опеки общинного коллективизма, а также очень постепенно вырабатывала те моральные нормы и обычаи, которые облегчали переход к классической правовой и судебной системе типа Кодекса Наполеона.

В России ни таких предпосылок, ни такого времени для адаптации реформы Александра II не давали. И потому погружение широких масс в новую нормативность жизни было исключительно шоковым. И здесь тоже была заложена мина замедленного действия, потому что скорость изменений не соответствовала культурным ресурсам общества, необходимым для быстрой адаптации к новой реальности.

Реформа законодательно отменяла старую систему социальных норм в условиях, когда новая система норм еще не была не только овнутрена и принята, но даже еще не была вполне осознана.

Реформа одновременно упраздняла устоявшуюся, привычную систему горизонтальных и вертикальных социальных связей, то есть создавала мощную сетку отчуждения между массами и элитой, между массами и государством как творцом такой реформы, и в немалой степени между элитой и государством. То есть создавала достаточно массовое ощущение погружения в нормативный и социальный хаос.

В этом хаосе стихийно возникало многое. Возникали те ростки новых и эффективных хозяйственных укладов, научно-технологических достижений, культурных прорывов, которые воспользовались обретенной новой свободой и позже становились гордостью России. Но – одновременно и заодно – возникали те эксцессы малых и больших бунтов, которые размывали державные скрепы и угрожали существованию устойчивой государственности. И именно поэтому хаос начали подавлять контрреформистским откатом. В том числе откатом в продвижении “суда скорого, правого, милостивого и равного для всех”.

Впоследствии другой великий реформатор, Петр Столыпин, направил главные усилия на разрушение общинного землевладения и создание класса крестьян-собственников. “Дайте государству двадцать лет покоя внутреннего и внешнего, – говорил он, – и вы не узнаете нынешней России”. Но все дело в том, что этих двадцати лет у страны в запасе уже не было. Их не было во многом из-за ошибок предшествовавших реформ, которые подвели к тому, что напряжение между властью и обществом достигло такого предела, что великие потрясения уже невозможно было предотвратить. Но не менее важно и то, что реформаторы (и прежде всего сам П.Столыпин) недооценили значение для основной крестьянской массы той системы обязывающей взаимной общинной поддержки, которая позволяла – на основе представлений о коллективной общинной справедливости – выжить в голодные годы, после смерти кормильца или после пожара. И той устоявшейся в веках системы крестьянской общинной морали и личной нравственности, которая воспроизводила нормы этой коллективной взаимоподдержки. И создавала ощущение справедливости, разумеется, относительной справедливости, такого социального порядка.

Реформа Столыпина отнимала у крестьян эту общинную справедливость и предлагала взамен индивидуальную свободу, в которой почти никто из них не умел жить и которая лишала их общинных гарантий выживания. То есть реформа предоставляла то, что позже Эрих Фромм называл “невыносимой свободой”. Невыносимой свободой от прежних норм, прежней морали, прежних представлений о справедливом и должном.

Если эти мои рассуждения в целом верны, то нельзя не попытаться приложить их к следующим двум “великим потрясениям” на пути исторического развития России. К октябрьской революции 1917 года и к декабрьской революции 1991 года.

Конечно, революция 1917 г. была беспрецедентным “взрывом” всей прежней социальной, государственной, экономической системы. И на первых порах сполна – и ужасающими средствами – пыталась реализовать свой лозунг сноса старого мира “до основанья”.

Однако, действительно снося старое почти до основания, эта революция, во-первых, довольно быстро и решительно пресекла эксцессы революционного и послереволюционного бурления. А в ходе самой революции и особенно в послереволюционный период большевики в полной мере использовали в своих интересах издревле укорененный в широких российских массах общинный коллективизм.

Как бы ни называли это те, для кого приоритетной ценностью является личная свобода – стадностью, круговой порукой или как-то еще, – нельзя не признать, что именно эта ставка на трансформированный, приспособленный к новой эпохе общинный коллективизм и адекватную ему жесткую моральную нормативность во многом обеспечила великие достижения советской эпохи.

Чем с этой точки зрения стала новая революция 1991-1993 годов?

Эта революция, к счастью, не привела к огромной крови новой гражданской войны. Но ее экономические, политические, социальные, правовые, культурные импульсы по своим масштабам и шоковому характеру были вполне сопоставимы и с 1861, и с 1917 годом.

И здесь я хочу обратить особое внимание на сходства и различия.

Различия, конечно же, прежде всего в том, что эпоха и широкие массы стали совсем другими. Общество российское уже было глубоко модернизировано. Люди при всех несправедливостях советской бюрократической системы и эксцессах “телефонного права” привыкли к своему равенству перед законом и достаточно высокой степени личной независимости.

Однако и сходства было немало, о чем социологические исследования говорят достаточно убедительно. Был налицо отчетливый и устойчивый коллективизм, дополненный общинно-государственным патернализмом. Была соответствующая соционормативная система, в рамках которой представления о справедливости отвергали любые типы социального и экономического неравенства, не связанные с личными трудовыми, интеллектуальными, культурными достижениями и заслугами.

В этих условиях предложенный обществу президентом Б. Ельциным и его правительством “рывок в капитализм за пять лет” оказался для широких российских масс шоком, вполне соразмерным шоку крестьян российской глубинки 150 лет назад.

Особенно шоковой стала попытка “разрушить до основанья” весь комплекс “советской” моральной нормативности и советских представлений о справедливом. В том числе жесткое и навязчивое разрушение нормативных основ коллективизма и попытки его заменить как новой нормой воинственным и эгоистичным индивидуализмом, не ограниченным никакими взаимными социальными обязательствами. В том числе массированная атака на свойственные народному большинству нравственные нормы как на “совковость”. В том числе внезаконный (и ощущаемый как несправедливость) характер приватизации значительной части бывшей общенародной собственности.

Каков результат?

Как показывают социологические опросы и многие коллизии в наших судах, тот стиль и тип социальной, экономической, политической, культурной жизни, который принесла России эпоха после революции 1991 года, очень широкие массы наших граждан лишь терпят как данность. Но – внутренне не принимают как справедливый и должный.

Причем социология показывает, что наибольшая степень этого неприятия относится к тем законодательным новациям, которые атакуют морально-нравственную сферу социального бытия. Это отмечается прежде всего у людей религиозных, вне зависимости от конфессиональной принадлежности. Это в большей мере выражено у пожилого и среднего поколения. Но это в отличие от результатов социологических опросов десятилетней давности начинает отчетливо проявляться и у вполне атеистичной молодежи. Новая законодательная “толерантность” в семейных, гендерных, поведенческих, образовательных отношениях встречает растущий – и все более широкий – протест.

В связи с приведенными соображениями и историческими аналогиями хочу еще раз заявить тезис, который не раз высказывал. О том, что любые попытки “одним прыжком” преодолеть разрыв между законом (и правоприменением) и массовыми представлениями о благе и справедливости чреваты социальными стрессами, шоком, ростом всех видов отчуждения в обществе, а также между обществом и властью и в итоге социальным хаосом. Который, как правило, приходится гасить контрреформами и репрессиями.

4 ноября 1864 года Александр II подписал четыре основных судебных устава

Новые Уставы предписывали:

– полное отделение судебной власти от административной;

– процессуальную независимость судей;

– единый суд для всех сословий (исключение – крестьянский суд по самым мелким делам);

– гласность судопроизводства;

– устный и состязательный характер судопроизводства;

– право сторон и подсудимых на защиту в суде, право на представление в суде корпорированным адвокатом;

– открытость для подсудимых всех доказательств, выдвигаемых против них.

alexander II

Paul Nuttall. Question time

paul Nuttall

Here is a man who said in 2010 that he wants to ban the Burka.

As a Roman Catholic, he should be familiar with images of the Virgin Mary or nuns – almost inevitably wearing a version of the veil.

In a debate then he was challenged by Sir Christopher Frayling who said, “If someone wants to wear the badge of their faith, why shouldn’t they? It’s not harming anyone.”

The point is really that this is becoming a fairly defiant statement.

In Turkey it is a political issue and the political faction can be determined by the way the scarf is tied.

I would like to hear his views now. He was particularly good responding to questions about a dual funded private/public NHS though UKIP is committed this election to a fully free and publicly funded NHS, albeit also committed to trimming the bureaucrats and cutting back PFI contracts.

I have promised a video on the variations of Islamic veiling… somehow the video list seems to get bigger and bigger.

I am scribbling this at 2am. there never seems to be enough time!


Jihad and the threat of terror

There is a lot of nonsense talked about Islamic Terrorism, the most irritating is the confusion over the use of the word “fundamentalist”. All Islam is “fundamentalist” because Islam insists on the literal meaning of the words of scripture, the Koran. That said, in fact, there remains room for balancing one statement against another, but the 19th Century criticism that dominates Biblical scholarship is completely foreign to Islam- source criticism and form criticism, the idea that a story may be mythological, or not literally true. This is not a part of Islam. It is so much a part of Christianity that sometimes we impose our methods of interpretation and our expectations wrongly on one another.

christ 2003


As 300 years separate the active ministry of Jesus from the establishment of the canon of Christian Scriptures, there is alot of room for embellishment and textural variants. In the case of Islam, there is very little time between the institution of the Religion and the writing and dissemination of the Koran. The text of the Koran remains broadly what it was, and there is a tradition in Islam of resisting translation, and translation for all its advantages and disadvantages is something that Christianity embraced right at the beginning. So Jesus spoke in Aramaic and his words are printed in Greek, and in the UK at least, best remembered in an english translation fro the 16th Century littered with acknowledged errors.


The Jihad is a fight, not a war- the word (al-Harb) literally means “struggle”. Because of its use in modern terrorism, the word and the concept is often misunderstood. It can mean the “Great struggle”, the personal effort to conquer sin, or the “lesser struggle”, the Holy War or military Jihad. But even in this secondary meaning, the rules are very clear: Holy war must be declared by a proper authority, must not harm children, women or the sick and all peace offers from the enemy must be accepted. The Jihad should not be against Jews or Christians who are “people of the book” and must be protected and respected. At the end of a campaign, the Prophet told his followers, “This day we have returned from the minor jihad to the major jihad.” In other words, now the military campaign is over, we must get back to the proper business of fighting sin, battling our own personal daemons. That is the more important struggle and the real jihad.

Now, while the text of the Koran is a solid and authentic text, the hadiths are not and some hadiths are judged to be more important than others. In the same way, some opinions of Islamic jurists are considered more important than others. Imran Shafi’i believed that Sura 9.5 and 9.29 permit a war against non-muslims until they repent and accept Islam. The corresponding Hadith sums this up-  Here we are: “I have been ordered to fight the people until they declare that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is His Messenger, establish prayers, and pay zakat. If they perform all that, their blood and property are guaranteed protection on my behalf except when justified by Islamic laws. Then their accounts will be done by Allah.” Fairly scary. But these verses must be seen in the context of 9.6 which proposes an alternative that non-muslims, living in an Islamic community, and therefore receiving the protection of that community, might not convert to Islam but might pay a tax instead, as compensation: “and if anyone of the polytheists seeks your protection then grant him protection…” (9:6) The next verses stress the importance of keeping the promises made to non-muslims and respecting the treaties established. Moreover, when we look at this verse from the hadith in more detail, the first sentence should be clarified because it says “I have been ordered to fight the people until they declare that there is no God but Allah”. The word fight (saws) used here is significant. It does not use the word “kill”- it is about defence against someone who is attacking the religion; it does not sanction execution, and is at a far remove from the savagery of ISIL.

In other words, while scary verses might be worrying, reading the whole Sura puts them in context. The Prophet never forced conversion and nor did his immediate successors.


Since the Iranian Revolution, there has been a rise in Islamic-sponsored terrorism. This may in part be coincidental. There are a number of purely secular organisations that have adopted suicide as a weapon of choice- the Tamil Tigers (LTTE), who used suicide bombs in their war against Sri Lanka and who famously were behind the assassination of the Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi; the PKK (Partiya Karkerên Kuridstan), the Kurdish party in Turkey though it only seems to have used the suicide option 15 times; and the pro-Syrian rebels in lebanon in the 1980s. These groups had embraced a variety of political ideologies and the works of Mao, Lenin and Guevara are significant.

But it is in Iran where the real problem lies because the Ayatollah Khomenei returned from exile in Paris, fuelled by a passion to interpret the Koran according to the political ideologies he had discovered in Paris. This led to the death of 13 year old Hossein Fahmideh in 1981, the first Suicide bomber in modern times to be hailed as a Shahid, martyr. Posters appeared throughout Iran of the boy shown together with Khomenei and the Ayatollah said that Hossein had “the keys to the kingdom”. There is nothing at all in the Koran to suggest that a suicide bomber gains automatic entry to Paradise, and indeed there is alot of very specific information to say that a suicide victim is automatically excluded from Paradise.

Today, there are ideologies that mix politics and religion- so the Muslim Brotherhood looks to the works of Sayyid Qutb, or Hasan al-Banna and Palestine to Abdullah Yusuf ‘Azzam, a man who significantly influenced bin Laden. It is not possible to divorce modern Islamic terrorism from religion, but it is certainly not true to say that Islam supports or even condones this activity. My understanding is that islam is in a process of change, embracing the challenges of the modern world. One of these is that texts can be open to a variety of interpretations, something that Islam had tried for a long time to prevent. One of these interpretations, for instance would be Wahabiyism, and another are the terrorist dictats imposed on Islam by Ayatollah Khomeini. I am sure, in time, other interpretations of Islam will emerge, many more favourable to Western values, and I am also sure that, in time, the terrorists will fail both in their overall mission and in their interpretation or hijacking of one of the world’s great faiths.


Suicide in Islam:

The body is sacred to Allah and it is God’s will alone that dictates when we live and when we die. There is, in contrast to the scriptures of both Christianity and Judaism, a clear statement against suicide in the Koran:

“And do not kill yourselves, surely God is most Merciful to you.”

— Qur’an, Sura 4, (An Nisa)
This cannot be clearer, and more to the point, is unparalleled in the Bible no matter what the later Church may have to say against suicide. Islam takes a stand on suicide that goes back to the original and fundamental text of the religion. It is there in the Koran itself: Do not kill yourself.

Suicide, moreover, is regarded as murder in Islam. There is even debate about whether the funeral prayers (janazah) can be said over the body. The image presented of the afterlife is not so different to that envisaged by Dante (canto XIII). There, the suicides occupy a circle of violence and they are denied even the dignity of human form, growing into trees and tormented by the Harpies who fly through the forest and “rend the branches off the trees”. At judgement day, the suicides alone will never be reunited with the body they once abandoned. “Wrong it is,” says Dante, “for a man to have again what he once cast off.” Instead, their bodies will be draped over the trees, to be forever a sign of what they failed to treat properly.

suicide wood

In Islam, here is the comparable punishment: “He who commits suicide by throttling shall keep on throttling himself in the Hell Fire (forever) and he who commits suicide by stabbing himself shall keep on stabbing himself in the Hell-Fire.” (Bukhari, Janaiz 84)
“Whoever throws himself down from a mountain and kills himself will be in the Fire of Hell, throwing himself down therein for ever and ever. Whoever takes poison and kills himself, his poison will be in his hand and he will be sipping it in the Fire of Hell for ever and ever. Whoever kills himself with a piece of iron, that piece of iron will be in his hand and he will be stabbing himself in the stomach with it in the Fire of Hell, for ever and ever.” Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 5442; Muslim, 109.
and again,
“Whoever kills himself with something in this world will be punished with it on the Day of Resurrection.” Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 5700; Muslim, 110.
The Sixth Imam, Jafar al-Sadiq says, “Whoever kills himself, intentionally, he will be in the fire of hell for eternity.” 
Much more telling, however, is the story of a man who killed himself: “Among those who came before you there was a man who was wounded and he panicked, so he took a knife and cut his hand with it, and the blood did not stop flowing until he died. Allaah said: ‘My slave hastened to bring about his demise; I have forbidden Paradise to him.” Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 3276; Muslim, 113. This is a serious issue: the man had been wounded in battle, death was inevitable but by killing himself, he commits a sin that puts him beyond sympathy. Surely, this is similar to the suicide-bomber who knowingly kills himself! 
In this case, the Prophet refused to attend the man’s funeral, though as a Muslim he was buried according to the proper custom. There is not in Islam the idea that existed in Christianity that a suicide should be put in unconsecrated land.
This seems to me a very touching story. The suicide victim deserves a proper burial and our prayers, but is denied the formal trappings of the funeral service. Often, today, an Imam will not attend.
islamic page 1
The english word “martyr” comes from the greek for “witness”. It is already therefore an ambiguous word. The problem comes when suicide is specifically redefined as it was by Ayatollah Khomeini as  “martyrdom” in part of his wider vision of Islamic Government “Hukumat-i Islami”, a Shia inspired vision of a state spreading from Iran, through Iraq and to Lebanon.
We must get back, first, to the idea of martyrdom itself-
Here is a hadith in praise of martyrdom,
The Prophet said, “Nobody who dies and finds good from God (in the Hereafter) would wish to come back to this world even if he were given the whole world and whatever is in it, except the martyr who, on seeing the superiority of martyrdom, would like to come back to the world and get killed again (in God’s Cause).” (Sahih Bukhari, 4:52:53)
and from the Koran itself,
“Do not consider those killed [while engaging] in God’s cause dead. Rather, they live with their Lord, who sustains them!” (3.169)
There are various other claims made about the martyr- that he or she does not feel the pain of death, (Fada’il al-Jihad, 26:1663), that his sins are forgiven and he enters Paradise. There, he can intercede for his friends and family. Powerful stuff.
But then, Christianity says much the same! Tertullian is credited with the phrases, “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” He did not quite say this but you have to check the text fro the correct wording ( Tertulliani Apologeticus Adversus Gentes pro Christianis*) Revelations 2:10 promises a “Crown of life” to the martyr. “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” Revelations 20:4 guarantees them a 1000 year reign with Christ. The account of the martyrdom of St Polycarp is an early story which suggests Polycarp was given Divine assistance to face his death. A voice is heard telling him to “man up” – “Be strong, Polycarp, and act like a man” and when he was burnt, a holy smell of incense was given off. His reward was a direct passage to Heaven (The Myth of Persecution Candida Moss 2013).
There is even a hint that martyrdom might be a career choice in Matthew 10:39: “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” and this was certainly exploited in the early Church though I fancy that the real aim of the admonitions in Matthew is to be prepared to suffer, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me”(Matthew 5:11).
The writings of Origen are a testimony to the vitality of the Church in persecution. This is what he writes,
What greater joy there can be than the act of martyrdom? A great multitude is assembled to watch the last hours of the martyr. And let each of us remember how many times we have been in danger of an ordinary death, and then let us ask ourselves whether we have not been preserved for something better, for the baptism in blood which washes away our sins and allows us to take our place at the heavenly altar together with all the companions of our warfare.”
With St Ignatios of Antioch, Origin is particularly remembered for his desire to be martyred. Instead, he castrated himself. Not quite the same thing. St Clement advises caution and recognises that, though the true Christian does not fear death, nevertheless, he must not be in a rush asking for his death. That would bot be a martyrdom but committing a kind of suicide, against God. he complains about people with a martyr-cult being like the Indian ascetics who throw themselves in fire. For St. Clement, martyrdom is a daily experience, a good witness to Christ by words and work and by all man’s life. Does this not seem very similar to Mohammed’s statement about the “Greater Jihad”? 
Once Christianity stopped being illegal under Constantine, it was harder to be a martyr, of course.
Now, what does all this tell us? That Christianity and Islam share a common interest in the idea of Martyrdom, that fanaticism lies just round the corner and that the real challenge is to wage a daily struggle against sin. And I should add that Christianity might have drawn inspiration from the martyrs in 1 and 2 Maccabees or even the death of Cato the Younger who wanted to make a point in the most dramatic fashion possible, would not even accept a pardon.
The shift from suicide to martyr:
There are stories about the early martyrs of Islam, for instance Hamza, Muhammad’s father-in-law and Husayn, Muhammad’s grandson and in later years, the concept of martrydom was extended beyond battle and execution to embrace also those who died fasting, and to those who died more ordinary or painful deaths. “The martyrs are five: the one who dies of the plague; the one who dies of stomach trouble; the one who drowns; the one who is crushed by a falling wall; and the martyr who dies for the sake of Allaah.” Again, actual death is not necessary for martyrdom: “He who asks Allah for martyrdom, Allah will raise him to the high status of the martyrs, even if he dies on his bed.” 
A similar process, incidentally, also takes place in Christianity though there the concept of monasticism and penance tends to replace that of martyrdom per se. Pope Gregory 1 speaks of “three modes of martyrdom, designated by the colors, red, blue (or green), and white”, that is torture and death, monastic or eremitic asceticism and “Blue (or green) martyrdom which involves the denial of desires, as through fasting and penitent labours without necessarily implying monasticism.”
St Clement of Alexandria thinks that provoking the enemy risks a form of suicide and in his Commentary on John, advises Christians to run away and to avoid confrontation with the authorities if at all possible, certainly if this can be done without recanting or denying the faith. He regards this as a form of Charity because this stops the enemy from committing the far graver crime of murder!
The broadening of the definition of martyr had started very early in both Islam and Christianity with a move towards asceticism. I would identify the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini as the true author of modern suicide bombing. In that sense, he is responsible for interpreting the texts of Islam so they favour suicide. That makes him an “interpreter of Islamic texts”, a long way from a “fundamentalist!” However, there is some evidence that the suicide bomber has an earlier history in  conflict in the Philippines (1500 onwards, but particularly in 19th Century) with the MORO MUSLIMS who attacked with mag-sabil and Parang- sabil. The Spanish called these suicide attacks “juramentado”. So, Khomeini could be said to be simply reviving something. Yet it is a revival he made his own and popularised.
In 1995, Sheikh Ahmad Yasin, the Spiritual leader of Hamas, and later Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi in Qatar, said that any suicide bomber who had received the blessing of a cleric, should be considered a “shahid”.
The suicide vest is not new either. This seems to have been developed by the Chinese in their fight against the japanese (1931-45) especially effective in the Battle fo Shanghai. Of course the Japanese used suicide pilots (kamikaze) in World war 2 and also kaiten submarines during the Pacific War. There is some evidence that the Germans used suicide weapons in the later stages of the War in the  West (Bachem Ba 349, Fliegende Panzerfaust, Zepplin Rapper etc…)
In 1983 a suicide bomb by Hezbollah against the West was detonated in Beirut.- apart from the bomber, 63 people were killed. The Suicide was not in the original reports but it seems to me, despite claims about a so-called P2OG secret plan, that there is no doubt that this was an early suicide bomb.
By describing a suicide bomber as a martyr, the terrorist suddently achieves the status of a saint: and here is one of the most worrying things about the cult of the “shahid” is the embellishment that has taken place –  specifically that the martyr will have access to God, can intercede for his family and the community, so he or she is a “get out of gaol free” card for all local miscreants. there is a specific hadith that refers to this: “The martyr can intercede for seventy members of his family.” (Sunan Abî Dâwûd in the Book of Jihâd) and commentators project this both forwards and backwards in time: “The members of his family include his forefathers, his progeny, his wives, and others.” Moreover, Al-Manâwî says, “It is possible that the intent of mentioning the number seventy is simply to indicate a large number.
Suddenly, it becomes clear why anyone might encourage a small child to die – if that means that poor child can sort out the salvation of his older sister who has gone astray and of his father who has fallen foul of alcohol and so on. This is a detergent with a particular and pernicious strength.
Apart from the ideology of Khomeinei, there are two other factors that are important in the modern rise of the Terrorist Jihad. There is a particular Ideology that underpins the modern Jihad. The term jahiliya describes the age of ignorance that came before Islam. This is part of what Khomenei would have seen as a world oppressive to Islam, a world dominated by non-Muslim Superpowers. Today, there are people who have claimed that this Jahillya represents the modern West. In this respect, the idea that Christians and Jews are protected (albeit at the cost of paying taxes) is no longer guaranteed because they are felt to have gone astray and left the “original religions”.The second factor is the success of the first Aghanistan war against Russia. In Join the Caravan, Abdullah Azzam offers the following slogan, “Jihad and the rifle alone. No negotiations, no conferences, no dialogue.” The success of the Mujahadeen against the USSR is made all the worse because it leaves behind an illiterate population that is picked up in Waziristan by extremist wahabist-clerics, imported at the request of General Zia, preaching a radical form of Islam. Such a population is easily brainwashed, treating women as third-class citizens, rejecting television and so on. This is the origin of the Taliban. Human trafficking, public executions, the desecration of Buddhist monuments, and the exploitation (and tax) of opium all followed. 
Again, some of the work on distinguishing real and false martyrdom has already been done by the Catholic Church which invests a good deal of time into the Canonization process and aims to be legally accurate in the way it describes its various saints. The early years of Christianity saw a number of “false” martyrs and of people who had been condemned but for one reason or another, survived and attained the status of “living saints” conferring indulgences on the gullible crowds that turned to them for help. Even today, there has been discussion about whether those who have been killed might be martyrs. We might think these discussions are obscure and academic, but it is these discussions, frankly, that need to take place in Islam, and without such discussions there will continue to be a popular confusion about the concept of “shahid”/martyr.
Three principles emerge very clearly: 1) a martyr does not kill himself or herself. So the Buddhist monks in Vietnam who douse themselves in petrol are not martyrs, nor are people on hunger strike (Bobby Sands, for example and Terence McSweeney whose bishop refused him communion and last rites because he was on hunger strike); in addition, he or she does not seek death, though accepts it when it comes. (St Thomas More, Maximillian Kolbe and so on). 2) a martyr suffers violence and does not inflict it, and 3) Finally, a distinction must be made between martyrs who die for a cause and heroes or victims who are killed in the line of duty, die to save others or are victims of murder. Martyrdom involves a specific defence of the faith. This may not be a perfect way to approach the subject but it is a point of reference and I think it can be adapted to other faiths beyond Christianity.
Certainly, these “rules” would make it clear that the suicide-bomber is not and can never be a “martyr”.
To confront Islamic terror, we must recognise that Islam is developing and will certainly develop its own language, in time, to deal with this aberration. Perhaps, we must be careful not to impose Western standards or ideologies or indeed assumptions that we might or can challenge the veracity of the sacred texts, which will serve only to inflame the crisis. We need to create the environment where a proper understanding of a tolerant and mature Islam can emerge as the primary form of the Religion. This might be critical of Western values as indeed are many Christian and Jewish writers. But criticism is not a death-threat, and criticism can be healthy.
More than that, there is lots we can and already have learnt from Islam. Our Western Renaissance is dependent on the collection of Indian and Greek texts translated by Islamic scholars, and we have a debt to Islam also for the great progress made in medicine and astronomy before the 19th century. I have no doubt that today we can learn more, but we have to pull back from this mad confrontation.

This, by the way is what Tertullian actually wrote- “But do your worst, and rack your inventions for tortures for Christians. It is all to no purpose; you dobut attract the world, and make it fall the more in love with our religion; the more you mow us down,the thicker we rise; the Christian blood you spill is like the seed you sow, it springs from the earthagain, and fructifies the more.”

Clive of India and Gordon Ramsay

In defeating the Nawab of Bengal, Clive of India used a rather dodgy ruse. He had been working with a messenger, an equally dodgy businessman called Umichand who negotiated between his officials and Mir Jafar, one of the Nawab’s senior commanders who was in reality a turn-coat and who would eventually profit from the arrangement by succeeding Siraj Ud Daulah and becoming Nawab himself. To his credit, he was very generous both to Clive and to the British thereafter.

At some point, Umichand threatened to tell Siraj what was going on, so he needed to be bribed into silence. All worked out well in the end.

Still, the dodgy deal remains despite the positive outcome.

Because Umichand was untrustworthy, Clive allowed a document to be drawn up promising £300.000. However, it was signed in Clive’s absence or not signed at all…Nehru said later that Clive won the Battle of Polashi “by promoting treason and forgery”. Despite this, (and even because of this) Clive of India became a National hero.

Now, clearly, if I understand it correctly, Gordon Ramsay has been caught out today by something very similar. A deal for the York & Albany pub near Regent’s park signed in his absence by his Father in Law, Christopher Hutcheson, leaves Ramsay with a bill of £640,000 per annum. I have no doubt that Gordon knew nothing about the way his signature was being used, yet the judge did not believe him or more to the point, did not think it mattered. He called the ruse “entirely implausible”. Of course, Ramsay could say with certainty that the signature was not his- it was done by a machine, and in his absence, but despite this, he is now held to be liable for the restaurant. The Judge said, “the machine was routinely used to place his signature on legal documents.”

“I do not accept his evidence to the contrary.” Ramsay remains married to Hucheson’s daughter and they have 4 children. Hucheson was sacked as Ramsay’s  manager in 2010. The Judge concluded that, however much Ramsay regrets his association with Mr Hutcheson, he nevertheless remains committed to the lease for 25 years. He was ordered to pay about a million in legal costs.

Is it that we have learnt something from history? Who knows. These signature machines seem very ingenious. If I remember correctly, Admiral Watson refused to sign the document for Clive, so there was a second document to tease the Indian businessman – today, Clive might have used a machine. Would any judge have believed him? Would there have been statues of Clive around London had he come before Mr Justice Morgan?


Here is a drawing of Ramsay and of a slightly paunchy Clive after the famous painting by Nathaniel Dance-Holland in The National Portrait Gallery. Neither looks very happy.

Robert_Clive after Nathaniel.

Galata Bridge Galata Köprüsü

Just completing work on Galata Bridge in Istanbul

galata bridge 1

galata bridge 2

This is a bridge over the Golden Horn built in 1994. The market below was opened in 2003.

Here is the latest version:

galata bridge 3

and here is a picture that I began about 3 years ago and have started to work on again: this is a scene also for the “Following Lear” project and shows the Albanian Coastal town of Durres

durres1 a

durres 1a

yallah 2

Chris Bryant and James Blunt

Here is a letter I wrote to Chris Bryant, the MP caught in his underpants posing on Gaydar.


Chris bryant

Dear Mr Bryant,

I write as a former Director and as the Guardian to a young boy who is currently at school in Harrow, the school that was once attended by the singer James Blunt. I also write as a teacher who has a wide experience of education and who still regularly visits local state schools to give unpaid lectures about A level and University options. I believe whole-heartedly in a meritocracy.

I am appalled, therefore, at the elitist fantasy you have encouraged especially with your own background. The measure of our arts is their capacity to inform and entertain. It is not about the origin of the participants or indeed about dictating content. Content is created in a free market in response to what the public wants. So, where are the next Albert Finney and Glenda Jackson to come from? Perhaps, rather than playing the class-card and bemoaning the success of James Blunt, you should reflect on your own party’s chaotic education policy and consider the fact that both actors went to grammar schools which may have something to do with their success and with an age that was “more meritocratic”. Indeed, you should have known this fact as you wrote a very reasonable biography about Glenda Jackson- for which thanks and congratulations!
Rather than bang on about educational privilege – something which, incidentally, you have benefitted from- you should look around at the way great teachers have inspired and directly helped students to be the best. In the Arts, you could have cited Richard Burton, a man who acknowledged the help he received, turned again to his guardian and teacher to get him through “Camelot” and who endowed the Oxford Playhouse, the ETC and a studio theatre in the city that gave him an all too brief experience of an excellent University education (Check out the excellent biography by Tom Rubython). I should add that, looking at the dates, we probably shared seminars in Mansfield college.
There are so many issues from your past that should caution you against these statements, sir, whatever things Mr Blunt may write.
I welcome the opportunity to talk further with you about this and the options available to the Arts. I would be very happy to debate this issue on youtube or elsewhere and, to this effect, challenge you directly to a recorded session, even on skype, at your convenience.
I am aware you are not my local MP but you represent my broader business and arts’ interests and I am deeply concerned that, should you take the helm with these views, our theatre, film, TV and cultural lives are threatened.
(an irrelevant page of caricatures that I did a few days’ ago. Pickles is in the news today so I may add something later!)
Here is the Blunt letter. It is a bit of a rant, but I like the story about the Russian accent!
Here is the letter sent by Blunt to Bryant:

Dear Chris Bryant MP,

You classist gimp. I happened to go to a boarding school. No one helped me at boarding school to get into the music business. I bought my first guitar with money I saved from holiday jobs (sandwich packing!). I was taught the only four chords I know by a friend. No one at school had ANY knowledge or contacts in the music business, and I was expected to become a soldier or a lawyer or perhaps a stockbroker. So alien was it, that people laughed at the idea of me going into the music business, and certainly no one was of any use.

In the army, again, people thought it was a mad idea. None of them knew anyone in the business either.

And when I left the army, going against everyone’s advice, EVERYONE I met in the British music industry told me there was no way it would work for me because I was too posh. One record company even asked if I could speak in a different accent. (I told them I could try Russian).

Every step of the way, my background has been AGAINST me succeeding in the music business. And when I have managed to break through, I was STILL scoffed at for being too posh for the industry.

And then you come along, looking for votes, telling working class people that posh people like me don’t deserve it, and that we must redress the balance. But it is your populist, envy-based, vote-hunting ideas which make our country crap, far more than me and my shit songs, and my plummy accent.

I got signed in America, where they don’t give a stuff about, or even understand what you mean by me and “my ilk”, you prejudiced wazzock, and I worked my arse off. What you teach is the politics of jealousy. Rather than celebrating success and figuring out how we can all exploit it further as the Americans do, you instead talk about how we can hobble that success and “level the playing field”. Perhaps what you’ve failed to realise is that the only head-start my school gave me in the music business, where the VAST majority of people are NOT from boarding school, is to tell me that I should aim high. Perhaps it protected me from your kind of narrow-minded, self-defeating, lead-us-to-a-dead-end, remove-the-‘G’-from-‘GB’ thinking, which is to look at others’ success and say, “it’s not fair.”

Up yours,

James Cucking Funt

This is Chris Bryant’s reply:

Dear James

Stop being so blooming precious. I’m not knocking your success. I even contributed to it by buying one of your albums. I’m not knocking Eddie Redmayne, either. He was the best Richard II I have ever seen.

If you’d read the whole of my interview, you’d have seen that I make the point that the people who subsidise the arts the most are artists themselves. Of course that includes you. But it is a statement of the blindingly obvious that that is far tougher if you come from a poor family where you have to hand over your holiday earnings to help pay the family bills.

I’m delighted you’ve done well for yourself. But it is really tough forging a career in the arts if you can’t afford the enormous fees for drama school, if you don’t know anybody who can give you a leg up, if your parents can’t subsidise you for a few years whilst you make your name and if you can’t afford to take on an unpaid internship.

You see the thing is I want everyone to take part in the arts. I don’t want any no-go areas for young people from less privileged backgrounds. And I’m convinced that we won’t be Great Britain if we waste great British talent in the arts. You seem to think talent will always out. My fear is that someone like Stanley Baxter, the son of a disabled miner in the Rhondda, who rose to be one of Britain’s greatest film actors (Zulu), would have found it even harder to make it today.

That’s why we need more diversity at every level in the arts – in education, in training, on-screen, on stage and backstage – and we need to break down all the barriers to taking part so that every talent gets a chance.

Yours bluntly


Stanley Baxter’s career was in part due to his teacher Glynne Morse, though his success was more to the friendship with Emlyn Williams, a friendship also shared by Richard Burton. In the end, the role of good teachers is paramount: it is not the contacts these teachers provide, but the inspiration, encouragement and the basic skills they impart.

The Telegraph kindly printed a letter I sent to them: 21st Jan 2015:

Screen shot 2016-06-12 at 20.19.54

SIR – Mr Bryant asks where the next Albert Finney and Glenda Jackson are to come from.

Perhaps rather than playing the class card and bemoaning the success of a public school-educated pop singer, he should reflect on his own party’s chaotic education policy and consider the fact that both of the actors he refers to came from a more meritocratic age, and both attended grammar schools.

Tim Wilson
Daventry, Northamptonshire