Apologies Chuka! there really is racism

high ukip rankers

A few months ago, I wrote a blog-piece here in response to claims by Chuka Umunna who said there was racism at the heart of UKIP. This is a party I know well and I was, until two days’ ago the Parliamentary Candidate for South Northants.

Review of recent events

humza

About 10 days ago I learnt of a comment tossed off by David Corburn, UKIP’s only MEP in Scotland, who compared the Scottish Minister for Europe, Humza Yousaf to convicted criminal Abu Hamza, a man who is serving a life sentence in New York for terrorism. I immediately requested a meeting with Mr Farage which was denied- I am too much of a small-fry! I was told to go through the hierarchy and approach my “Regional Organiser” whose name is Paul Oakden. Oakden had already revealed himself to be a thug who threw his weight around, and never returned telephone calls. Time dragged on and I spoke to Humza early the following week to ask what I could do to help, talked to the Daily Mail and found myself resigning. For the next few days, I was at the centre of a media circus that was actually located somewhere in Edinburgh.

Bits of the furore tricked down to Northampton, and Oakden went in for the kill, accusing me on live radio of behaving like a brat, throwing his toys out of the pram. He questioned my competence as a candidate and so on, which meant I was obliged to answer back and the thing duly had a more local manifestation. But I was at pains to stress I had no evidence nor suspicions about any member of the local party being racist, homophobic or prejudiced.

And then came Adam Collyer’s blog which was a nasty attack on my partner- suggesting that he was not the victim of a torture event in Greece but probably the aggressor. It undermined my integrity, of course, and seriously upset my partner who had suffered 11 years’ of a legal battle for proper redress through the ECHR.

adam

Adam Collyer, like David Coburn is an elected UKIP politician, one of the current high ranking and experienced leaders of the party. As a UKIP ranker, I think he must be held to higher standards than ordinary members who might aspire to but have not attained elected office. In other words, he is on the same rank as David Coburn and I hold him to the same standards. If he wants to lambast me, well I am fair game of course, but if he wants to attack my family, he should check his facts first and also make sure that what he writes is unambiguously clear.

One significant fact was wrong: Necati did not enter the UK as an asylum seeker. Another fact was presented in such a way as to be misleading: here is the offensive phrase: “… Necati Zontul, a Turkish asylum-seeker who has been involved in allegations of torture against the Greek police.” I was first alerted to this by a Greek friend who sent me a message : Κάποιος κύριος γράφει άρθρα σε “blog” για εσάς και τον Necati. Αυτός ο άνθρωπος δηλώνει πως Ο Necati δεν είταν’ το θύμα αλλά ο κατηγορούμενος της υπόθεσης. Αυτή την εντύπωση μου δίνει.
This person tried to leave comments on the blog, but was unable to do so. Adam does not like feedback.

Two points: firstly I am proud of what we did to bring Necati’s case to a successful conclusion – against the odds and under serious pressure to keep silent, and secondly, I do not doubt that Adam might have intended to write something else, and I agree what he writes is also open to a number of interpretations, but one of them is utterly wrong. We are in the business of using words to change people’s lives: that is what we do in politics. It’s also what we do when we make films and work in the media. That gives us a responsibility to do the job properly. We cannot make stupid jokes and get away with it. We cannot write things and say we did not mean it. People have lost their jobs for less- and today a bad tweet can cost us everything. Adam and Coburn just were not careful enough…And moreover, there was no reason at all to bring the story of Necati’s torture back into the public arena.

Anyway, where does this lead us?

The bottom line is very simple- the ordinary activist in UKIP may not be racist or homophobic, but it is quite clear that senior UKIP rankers will do anything they can to seize or hold on to power, often with personal abuse or inuendo. They are also equipped with the sort of thuggish views that should never be expressed or even considered – and Farrage will endorse the lot! Roger Helmer was excused for making a series of homophobic comments, Coburn was excused for making his racist attack on Humza, Collyer remains undisciplined for attacking a torture victim and on it goes.

Westminster

These people are ready to pontificate about our lives, and look set to be thoroughly electable, many of them have already been elected to represent us in Brussels. UKIP will achieve a powerbase in Westminster in May. I wanted to ensure that among those elected were some reasonable individuals and they certainly exist too- I have met many of them. Douglas Carswell is a fine example, Tom Rubython, Rose Gibbins, Michael Gerard – all people who I am sure are as appalled at the racist stuff emerging from the ill-toothed mouth of Coburn, and yet I was the only one to resign.

This is it: the thugs have bullied their way to the top and they are the ones who, regrettably, control the destiny of the party. And racists attract racists – we should not be surprised by some of the astonishing things written on pro-UKIP websites and facebook pages. Bile against Islam features prominently.

The Black hole and personal Regret

My great regret about resigning the other day is this- that the media storm focused a little too much on the resignation rather than the reason. I thought I might stimulate debate on racism, but what happened was alot of questions about why I took this so seriously when Farage did not. I take it seriously because it is almost the most important thing in life- to have respect for the person sitting next to you. Humza and Coburn may be in different parties, and be political opponents but Coburn does not have the sense or the prudence to realise he is in the same business – and that fact alone should command proper respect. Coburn used his mass and stupidity in an attempt to belittle a good, no a great man. If we take an astronomical image, Humza is the rising star and Coburn is a black hole and the sooner he implodes completely, the safer we will all be.

Chuka Umunna

Apologies 

So, apologies Chuka – you are not entirely wrong. But racism is not found at the heart of UKIP, it is found at the head (the Greeks say the fish smells from the head). The heart of UKIP, I think, beats with a passion that questions the wisdom of Brussels and the efficacity of the Brussels bureaucracy, something any Greek would be eager to applaud. But the UKIP rankers look down from their turreted fortifications – oddly for the most part in Brussels not the UK- and wince when they hear people on the train who do not speak english, whose skin is a different colour, whose religion is not anglican. There really is a danger that these people will have power.

And across the way will be the Scottish nationalists – I cannot say I favour a fractured Kingdom at all, but I have never met an SNP politician I do not like. It’s odd- it’s obviously nothing to do with being Scottish- because I detested Gordon Brown in a way I can barely describe in words. (I will add a picture of him in a few minutes to entertain). I think it is something about being fresh and having a very specific message. It does not matter whether we like that message- we have to admire the way it is presented. Now, UKIP also is relatively fresh and focuses on a single message. In so many ways, there are parallels, except that UKIP is top-heavy with racist, homophobic “has-beens” and the SNP is quite free of these. Even Alex Salmond is endearing. And just think back to the speed of his resignation: that is a picture-book demonstration of honour and integrity.

We hear all this nonsense these days about the importance of policies, but UKIP has yet to publish a manifesto and the election inches forward. I rather fancy making my mind up on the basis of who is the most polite, the most honourable, who has the most integrity and is the most personable. I think I would fill the whole of Westminster with the SNP!

Coda:

Despite claims by Adam Collyer to have resigned and to have left UKIP, after a short illness during which he said he felt his family was under attack, he has returned to work as usual. He was assisted in this process by none other than Paul Oakden.

Screen shot 2016-03-08 at 10.11.39

 

Kerry Smith (and Neil Hamilton)

Rather shocked to read that UKIP high command are supporting this plonker. The choice is not ideal – on the one hand there is a man given to homophobic, racist and disloyal remarks and on the other, a man accused of asking questions for cash in Parliament and making a nazi salute which he eventually admitted was “a small one” in the Reichstag. It is disappointing.

basildon and Thurrock ukip choice

Here is the report from Rowena Mason in the Guardian just now:

“Ukip is backing one of its parliamentary candidates who described gay people as “fucking disgusting old poofters” and referred to a woman with a Chinese name as a “chinky”, saying he was on sedatives for pain relief at the time.

Kerry Smith, who was recently reinstated as the party’s candidate for South Basildon and East Thurrock, has apologised unreservedly for his remarks.

On Sunday Ukip stood by Smith, with the party’s economic spokesman, Patrick O’Flynn, telling the BBC’s Sunday Politics that the remarks had been made while Smith was not thinking rationally.

“This was a phone call some time ago while he was on sedatives by his own account, not really speaking, thinking rationally. He was on prescription sedatives after suffering an injury,” O’Flynn said.”

What was the injury that required sedatives: an contagious rash of rank stupidityor maybe the fellow just knocked his knee up a bit?

UPDATE: from the BBC-

“Kerry Smith has resigned as a UKIP prospective parliamentary candidate after apologising for offensive remarks he made in a phone call.

He was selected to fight the South Basildon and East Thurrock seat after ex-Tory MP Neil Hamilton pulled out.

In a recording obtained by the Mail On Sunday, Mr Smith made offensive remarks about gay people, other UKIP members and Chigwell in Essex.

He later issued a “wholehearted and unreserved apology”.

Following his resignation on Sunday, Mr Smith said in a statement: “I want the best for South Basildon and Thurrock and I want to see the real issues discussed that touch the lives of people.

“Therefore I have chosen to resign so that UKIP can win this seat next May.”

UKIP hopes to make a serious challenge for the South Basildon and East Thurrock seat in the forthcoming general election.”

homophobic twit – Nikolopoulos

Nikolopoulos twit

Nikolopoulos twit

Here is some interesting news coming out of Greece: an independent MP, Nikos Nikolopoulos has tweeted a nasty message about the Prime Minister of Luxembourg who has just announced his plans to marry his gay partner. The twit or tweet seems fairly innocuous in English: “From the Europe of nations, to the Europe of queers. The Prime minister of Luxembourg has been engaged with his special one!” In Greek however, “Από την Ευρώπη των εθνών στην Ευρώπη των πουσταριών. Ο πρωθυπουργός του Λοξεμβούργου αρραβωνιάστηκε τον αγαπημένο του!” The word “των πουσταριών” is particularly offensive, a derivative of the word, Pousti, street-language in Greek for “gay”.  

The Prime Minister somehow heard of this tweet but did not speak enough Greek to know what was being said and contacted the MP, “Hello, I heard you want to tell me something, but I don’t speak Greek. Sorry” – now for the juicy bit that exposes the full rump of this silly man, Nikolopoulos. He said the message had been written by Kyriakos Tobras. He then modified his original tweet. What a twit!

Here are the two tweets. The understated graciousness of the second is such a contrast to the nastiness of the first.

homophobic rant in Greek

 

gracious reply in english

 

Here is Nikolopoulos’s replacement twit (it is almost as bad but does not sound as “chavish” perhaps):

the replacement text

I remember when I tried to register as self-employed in Athens back in 2001. I had been working for a company called Grivas which refused to pay me until I changed my employment status. Apparently, it was then impossible to do more than one particular type of job for any single company, and Grivas had me writing editorial, illustrating and recording vocals for their various English teaching materials, their decision, not mine. It was a horrible experience and a week of going from office to office in the then-labyrinthine bureaucracy was soul-destroyed. On the final day, with minutes to go before the tax office shut, I was asked for yet another pointless bit of paper. I am afraid I began to cry. At this point, the thug of a tax-manager started to assail me in Greek from across the room, saying that all english were “pousti”, and then listing (improbably but I remember this precisely) Thatcher, Blair, Clinton, as examples of gays in public office. This was about the time of the Monica Lewinsky affair. Incidentally, I knew that the man was the boss because he was overweight and had nothing on his desk save for a cup of coffee and a glass of water. Also, I knew enough Greek to understand what he meant, but I turned to the official next to me whose desk was heaving beneath paperwork and asked him what the word “pousti” might mean. “For example,” I added in my best Greek and as loudly as I could. “is that nice gentleman there who has so much to say about the english, also a pousti?” It shut the man up, and I got my papers quite quickly. I cannot recall if Grivas ever paid me what they owed. Probably not. Some of the other people working there seemed to have been driven to insanity and visits to an asylum in Dafni; others attempted suicide, taking a kitchen knife to their wrists. I know. I had to call the ambulance!  It was tough living in Greece back then! But also rather exciting.

I think I had found myself in the “wrong crowd”. There is certainly a “right crowd” in Greece. There was then and there clearly is now, and that crowd would wholly condemn Mr Nikolopoulos and all his fascist cronies, clerical and lay. I am very proud that I made good friends in Greece and that we remain in contact. Like me, they believe passionately that the “wrong crowd” is firmly on the way out, but like cockroaches, that wrong crowd takes its time going.

Here is a picture that was printed in the Greek newspaper eleftherotypia at the time- It shows what I looked like then!! (the article is about the shows that were on in the West End, and the closure of “Cats”)

eleftherotopia1091

I had hoped that institutionalised homophobia was a thing of the past in Greece, but apparently not. It is a shame. The younger generation of Greeks, among whom I count many good friends, are shocked by the story of Niko Nikolopoulos. But he is a dinosaur and they need to make sure his political career is rendered extinct as soon as practically possible. I have a small cartoon for this story which I will post later: my computer is in general melt-down as I write this!

Meanwhile, my hearty congratulations to the Prime Minister Xavier Bettel and his partner, Destenay Gauthier who are to be married on January 1st. He is not the first openly gay Prime Minister in Europe. Iceland’s Johanna Siguroardottir and Belgium’s Elio Di Ruppo beat him to this!

photios again

modern view

The role of Photios in sorting out St Paul!

Here is an icon of Photios, sometimes called Photius in the West and Saint Photios the Great in Orthodoxy

.photios icon

3 files about Homosexuality in the Bible: links below

We have just finished a new educational film about the 6 texts used in the Bible to condemn homosexuality.Because it is only 40 minutes long (it is divided into 3 parts on youtube) Below are parts 1 and 2:

Part 1:

Part 2:

I am afraid there are a number of glosses that i have made and which I will try to correct here over a number of blogs. I am aware that I have not really done justice (slight pun) to the text by Photios that is the lynch-pin of the main argument in the film. The issue I am discussing here occurs in the third part on youtube and the link to that part is here.

Part 3:

What Photios says

I have provided the Greek text of what Photios writes on the film, though it is on-screen fleetingly-

so here it is again:

photios on romans flat

Photios was very interested in the way Greek changes over the years from the various forms of Ancient /Attic Greek used by Homer to the Greek of the Septuagint and then the koine used in the New Testament. Photios was familiar on a day-by-day basis with the Byzantine Greek of the Imperial court and the Church but there was probably yet another more colloquial version of that in the streets of “the city”, H Polis.

Colwell’s rule

So his greatest work is probably his lexicon, which has helped scholars today to work out how words have changed their meanings and how Greek grammar has evolved. This is particularly important if you want to avoid the nonsense of the Jehovah’s Witnesses who wrongly ascribe at best an Attic grammar to the New Testament and at worst some inexperienced mumbo-jumbo. I met a man today who was sitting by the canal reading a bible. I asked which version and he said “the New World Translation”. I could not get away fast enough! There are endless errors in this Jehovah’s witness text, some simply bizarre- like the use of “torture stake” for “cross” because the Jehovah’s witnesses do not accept that Jesus died on a cross and the refusal to translate any words for hell because they do not believe in hell either. Anyway, the crucial passage is John 1:1 (in every manuscript except Codex L which has ὁ Θεός ἦν ὁ Λόγος)-

The Greek:

here is the correct version:

Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ Λόγος, καὶ ὁ Λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν Θεόν, καὶ Θεός ἦν ὁ Λόγος the last phrase of which is in Greek a form of Yoda-speak:

“And God the word he was” or some such “Star wars” jabber.

yoda

But it should be translated: “the word was God” but is translated by the Jehovah’s witnesses as “the word wasa god”. Origin thinks that John omits the article because he refers to Jesus as God and not to the Father and Origin argues, “the true God is Ho Theos” (Commentary on John Book 2, chapter 2) which comes close to the Jehovah’s witness position of denying the Trinity, but not quite. Later scholars absolutely reject this: Bultmann, for example, is incandescent at the thought that the omitted definite article means only or merely “divine”: Denn man kann doch nicht verstehen: er war ein Gott, ein Gottwesen, als ob θεός ein Gattungsbegriff wäre- (he thinks, instead, that the word THEOS has some special grammatical rules of its own) but there is another solution.

Here it is:

In koine greek, though not in Attic greek, there was an increasing temptation to omit the article when a definite noun (a name) precedes the verb or when a noun should be identified as the predicate.

This is often called “Colwell’s rule” and other instances can be found in Mark 15:39 and Matthew 27:42-

βασιλεὺς Ἰσραήλ ἐστιν.

The rule can be adjusted slightly because the “anthrous” noun, that is a noun without a definite article, can sometimes (as maybe here) simply be a way of establishing importance or prominence. The purpose of this paragraph is not so much to rebutt the Jehovah’s witness but to demonstrate that Greek was at the time when the New Testament was written in a state of flux and that Photios understood this.

In his commentary, therefore, on Romans 2, Photios considers Paul’s use of words very carefully and concludes that Paul was being specific about a particular part of the law/ the Torah.

Tracking down the fragment

Only a fragment of this commentary exists today and is found in a collection of patristic fragments so it is itself a bit obscure. I managed to track down the text but struggled with the translation and called on an old friend in Athens who sent me off to see a man he called Bill who turned out to be the same man who had first “discovered” the text and published a small article on it in the early part of this century. When looking at obscure texts, the chances are that you are dealing with just a handful of people who know about them, translate them and use them. So, I had a fruitful and entertaining correspondence with Professor Bill Berg, the very man responsible for digging up this brilliant little gem. For my part, I was struggling with elements of the paragraph which seemed to me to be deeply anti-semitic and he agreed. So that was that. They are not important to the argument but they suggest that the man who was writing was doing so quickly and with alot of passion. It is not really surprising that this was the man who single-handedly fractured the Church. Many Catholics today dismiss the “filioque” dispute as a linguistic quibble and I remember having a long debate about this over a few weeks in the letters page of the Athens News, but the Greeks and Russians still regard the issues in the filioque as central to their decision to perpetuate the schism. For Photios and the modern Orthodox one of the central issues of the filioque is its origin in the writings of Augustine and this itself taints the theology of Augustine for the Orthodox.certainly. I think this is why there is a slightly different understanding of “original sin” in the East. In the film, I make reference to a number of “Church fathers” among them St John Chrysostom and St Athanasius.

Here is St Athanasius:

athanasiussmall

St John Chrysostom who wrote the text used for the Liturgy every sunday in Orthodoxy has also got a reputation for intollerance. This needs more examination, and again may need to be put in context.

gay chrysostomos small

Romans 2: 26-27:

Back to Romans. The verse Photios is considering is Chapter 2. 26-27.

This is what it looks like in Greek:

ἐὰν οὖν ἡ ἀκροβυστία τὰ δικαιώματα τοῦ νόμου φυλάσσῃ, [a]οὐχ ἡ ἀκροβυστία αὐτοῦ εἰς περιτομὴν λογισθήσεται; καὶ κρινεῖ ἡ ἐκ φύσεως ἀκροβυστία τὸν νόμον τελοῦσα σὲ τὸν διὰ γράμματος καὶ περιτομῆς παραβάτην νόμου.

Ands this is the standard English translation:

So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? Then those who are physically uncircumcised but keep the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law.

Photios says about this:

(Photios’ words in brackets here)

“for the Jews, (them) Paul (he) talks about the Torah (the law); for the uncircumcised, he talks about the ‘justices of the law’ not the whole law but only a specific part.”

Photios has not quite gone all the way but it can be demonstrated by statements in, for instance, the beginning of Luke when Luke describes Zacharia and his wife keeping “all the jobs and justices of the law” that there are two different parts to the Torah and that these two parts were acknowledged as such at the time of Christ. Things change when the Temple falls in AD 70- and Judaism redefines itself as rabbinic or Pharisaic Judaism so this may explain why such a distinction gets lost.

traditional2

The Golden Rule is the King’s Law

“The Golden Rule” (to love one another), broadly speaking, is that part of the Torah which is endorsed by Paul as central to the Christian life and is also flagged up by Jesus. Let me explain!! The measure of our relationship with God is to be found in our relationship with one another. This is defined by Christ in the Golden Rule, (Mtt 7:12: Πάντα οὖν ὅσα [a]ἐὰν θέλητε ἵνα ποιῶσιν ὑμῖν οἱ ἄνθρωποι, οὕτως καὶ ὑμεῖς ποιεῖτε αὐτοῖς· οὗτος γάρ ἐστιν ὁ νόμος καὶ οἱ προφῆται.) but it is also found in Hillel (Shabbat 31a: What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: this is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn) and is embedded in Lev xix 18.

In the epistle of James, this is called “the Kingly law”:

james 2:8:

Εἰ μέντοι νόμον τελεῖτε βασιλικὸν κατὰ τὴν γραφήν Ἀγαπήσεις τὸν πλησίον σου ὡς σεαυτόν, καλῶς ποιεῖτε·

Now, a “kingly law” was regarded in the ancient world as something that took precedence over any other existing laws. An example of this can be found in Pergamum (Deissmann) but the idea is fairly straightforward. If Christ had issued the Golden rule as a “kingly law” then that takes precedence over anything else in the Torah. The Golden rule is to deal well with others. It is not about cultic practice. In other words, the Gentile might well be able to keep the “kingly law” (which sums up the whole Torah anyway) in the knowledge that he can not keep the  Torah itself. This happens at a time when elements of Pharasaic Judaism were perhaps getting out of control. People were indulging in the cultic observances as a way to make up for their failing with one another. David Wood suggests that this is the kernel of Paul’s message- that no amount of cultic obedience can erase offences to the Golden rule. That is paramount and trumps the cultic laws, because the “kingly law” is absolute.

In terms of the two types of law, and here I think the film does an adequate enough job in part 3:

paRT 2 NEW IDEAS FROM THE NEW TESTAMENT

 Homosexuality falls into those laws defined as “cultic”: rather than into those laws that support the “Golden Rule”, what Wood calls “the Justices”. Paul might not like Homosexuality (personally) but he does not think it is something that will damn someone to eternal death, particularly if they are mindful of the Golden Rule. What is damning instead is nastiness, and spite and I suppose writing hateful things in a blog. We must be nice to Jehovah’s witnesses when they knock on the door. Be nice but do not necessarily agree with what they say. Islam!! When I began this study, I fully intended to broaden the film with an episode about Islam, partly because I had heard of a (mostly underground) gay mosque in Paris. There is a big debate in Islam about toleration. I think it comes down to three verses from the Koran which I shall print here: The first is from Sura 5.51 which says that Muslims should not be friends with people of other faiths, specifically Jews and Christians.

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تَتَّخِذُوا الْيَهُودَ وَالنَّصَارَىٰ أَوْلِيَاءَ ۘ بَعْضُهُمْ أَوْلِيَاءُ بَعْضٍ ۚ وَمَن يَتَوَلَّهُم مِّنكُمْ فَإِنَّهُ مِنْهُمْ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يَهْدِي الْقَوْمَ الظَّالِمِينَ

But if this is seen in the light of Surah 5.58, where it judges that “these people” do not take Islam seriously enough –

 وَإِذَا نَادَيْتُمْ إِلَى الصَّلَاةِ اتَّخَذُوهَا هُزُوًا وَلَعِبًا ۚ ذَٰلِكَ بِأَنَّهُمْ قَوْمٌ لَّا يَعْقِلُونَ

then, the real position is to be discovered in Surah 60.8:

 عَسَى اللَّهُ أَن يَجْعَلَ بَيْنَكُمْ وَبَيْنَ الَّذِينَ عَادَيْتُم مِّنْهُم مَّوَدَّةً ۚ وَاللَّهُ قَدِيرٌ ۚ وَاللَّهُ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ
which urges Muslims to befriend their enemy.
In other words, if you are confident enough about your own identity, it makes sense to befriend others who either reject that identity or who do not share it. The more we talk with our “enemies”, the more we both learn.
Conclusion
Nothing comes from prejudice and hatred.
A Political postscript:
drawing from earlier this year: debate on Question time about the impact of Gay Marriage:
gay marriage
Humanitarian Mosque
It is worth checking out the following link which is about a “humanitarian Mosque” in South Africa catering to gay muslims. My own instinct is that such division should be unnecessary but the fact that this debate is opening in Islam tells us just how progressive the religion has become. At the same time, of course, there is also all the nonsense promoted by ISIS. It is salutary to think that at the same time that the Crusades were being waged in the name of Christ, there was also St Francis of Assisi. Maybe the fact that the latest Pope has taken the name Francis is a reason to hope for more tolerance in a world that has gone a little crazy.
gay-muslims-find-sanctuary-in-south-africas-peoples-mosque-body-image-1432847175