A short drive takes in some of the region’s famous vineyards and finest churches, writes Giles Milton.
THE DIJON CIRCLE
This 129-kilometre drive will take you through some of the world’s greatest vineyards. It also passes two spectacular chateaux and a succession of Burgundian villages.
You could do the entire circuit in a day, but it’s far more enjoyable to spread the journey over two days. This will allow you to stop at some of the vineyards and try their latest vintages. It will also give you time to do justice to Commarin, one of Burgundy’s greatest chateaux.
Head out of Dijon on the D122 (and not the parallel D974). This will set you en route for visiting the region’s most famous vineyards: Gevrey-Chambertin, Nuits-Saint-Georges, Chambolle-Musigny and Aloxe-Corton. Most of the wine producers sell from their wineries . Simply knock on the door (most are closed between noon and 2.30pm) and you’ll be invited in for a degustation or tasting.
This will involve a lot of sniffing, swilling and – if you’re not the one behind the wheel – drinking. Drivers can spit the wine into a spittoon. It’s great to listen to the enthusiasm with which the vignerons talk about their wines. Note that it’s polite to buy at least a couple of bottles at the end.
If you’re daunted by the degustation experience, then head to Le Caveau des Vignerons in Morey-Saint-Denis. You’ll find more than 170 different appellations on sale at the same price as the winemakers charge in their wineries.
Alternatively, you could head to Beaune, the next stop on the route, where you’ll find an array of restaurants. You’ll certainly want to allow an hour or more to visit the magnificent Hospice de Beaune, the town’s best-known attraction.
From Beaune, head out on the D974 towards Pommard and Meursault. The latter village is world-famous for its rich and buttery white wine. It’s also a good place to park the car and take a wander through the vines. From Meursault, you need to double back onto the D973 toward La Rochepot, with its mediaeval Burgundian castle that looks as if it’s been fashioned by Disneyland.
Then head north on the D906, and then the D17, towards Bligny, continuing to the village of Chateauneuf-en-Auxois, perched on a bluff of limestone. You’ll certainly want to visit the mediaeval castle and may want to have lunch at the L’Auberge du Marronnier.
From here it’s just a short drive toward Commarin, one of the most beautiful chateaux in the region, where very little has changed since the 18th century. After Commarin, you can take the small, cross-country routes back to Dijon.
THE PILGRIM’S TRAIL
Some of the greatest religious monuments in Burgundy are found on this 201-kilometre route. Start at the basilica of St Mary Magdalene in Vezelay, one of the most magnificent Romanesque edifices ever constructed.
Built to house the relics of the saint after whom it is named, the basilica’s pure lines and simple stonework belie the dazzlingly complex architecture of the building.
Head out of town on the D957 and after a few kilometres you’ll reach Saint-Pere, with its ravishing Gothic church, overlooked by many who come to Vezelay. If you’ve got €200 ($283) to spare, you could pop into the Michelin-starred L’Esperance for lunch. It’s one of France’s finest restaurants.
From Saint-Pere, head south on the D958 towards Pierre Pertuis, pausing at Les Fontaines Salees. Here you’ll find the remains of a Gallic-Roman thermal bath with water said to cure rheumatism.
Pierre Pertuis – with its huge pierced rock and nearby river – makes a fine place for a picnic.
The road heads south towards Chateau de Bazoches and the Morvan national park.
From this point you’ll need a map to negotiate the country roads across the Morvan towards Quarre-les-Tombes. Don’t miss Abbaye Sainte-Marie de la Pierre-qui-Vire; it’s still a functioning monastery and famous for its creamy cheese.
From the abbey, head east and then north, passing through the market towns of Saulieu, with its bustling weekly market, and Semur-en-Auxois with its ramparts, towers and old houses.
Head north on the D980 toward Montbard and then the D32 to Fontenay Abbey, one of Burgundy’s most spectacular sites. The church, cloisters, dormitory and dovecotes have been preserved. This allows visitors to get a glimpse of what life was like in a mediaeval Cistercian abbey.
You’ll want to spend an hour or more here – but it’s best to visit early while the coach tourists are still munching on their croissants.
Next, head south-west from Fontenay along the D957, passing through Avallon, with its spectacular mediaeval ramparts. Return to Vezelay for the evening and don’t forget to visit the basilica. At that time, you might have the majestic building all to yourself.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.
John Clarke and Bryan Dawe in brilliant disguise as themselves.Television is a medium of imitation. If something is successful, a flood of imitators will flow over the viewing public in its wake. This is why, for example, there were more than 7000 shows in the 1990s that ripped off Friends, and why Australia now has more celebrity chefs per square inch than any country on Earth. If there’s one iron law of TV, it’s that anything that works gets copied. It’s a good system, which ensures huge amounts of content are generated without anyone having to think too hard for too long.
Which makes it curious that since 1989, John Clarke and Bryan Dawe have been performing mock interviews, first on A Current Affair and continuing on the 7.30 Report (now just 7.30), that have been widely acclaimed as the very best political satire Australia has to offer, without anyone really having a crack at copying them.
There are a few reasons for this. First, they’re just too damn good. Anyone trying to do what Clarke and Dawe do would be climbing a very high peak – the chances of reaching the top are remote.
Second, they’re too simple. Clarke and Dawe’s interviews are quickfire affairs, just a few minutes of two men in suits sitting in chairs talking to each other in their own voices. Anyone trying to copy them wouldn’t have much to latch onto without making the facsimile way too obvious.
But it’s still strange that in all that time, nobody seems to have learnt any lessons at all from Clarke and Dawe, even while they are almost universally acclaimed as geniuses. Not that there’s been no other great satire on Australian TV – the Working Dog and Chaser teams have done their bit – but nobody has recognised what the brilliance of Clarke and Dawe should be telling us.
First of all, it’s important to note what John Clarke does when impersonating a politician: he doesn’t impersonate a politician. That is, he sits in that chair, and he is playing the role of the prime minister or the opposition leader or the foreign affairs minister, but he’s doing it with his own face and with his own voice and with not the slightest attempt at disguising the fact. In every interview, he is John Clarke. This is a method harking back to Chevy Chase as Gerald Ford on Saturday Night Live, but one that for some reason has gone out of fashion. The ”modern” way of sending up a politician is to put on a wig, slather on some make-up, assume a voice that is a vague approximation of the real person’s, and then fail to write any decent jokes.
And despite the fact that Clarke and Dawe, by eschewing funny voices and concentrating on coming up with funny ideas instead, have lasted 24 years while a cavalcade of ”satirists” have come and gone with their wigs and vocal tics, no one seems to have cottoned on that good satire has a very specific hierarchy of needs, and ”resembling” the person you’re satirising is a long way down the list.
Clarke and Dawe’s interviews are things of beauty: hilarious, direct and pinpoint accurate. If only there were a few more people willing to recognise that genuine satire is more than impressions, we might be getting a lot more laughs out of our great leaders.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.
Friend of Feiz … Ahmed Elomar. Mate … Anthony “The Man” Mundine.
Of all the rumours I heard about Sheikh Feiz Mohammed, without doubt the most intriguing is that he worked for a time as a male stripper. Some people sniggered as they told me this: “Some sort of striptease club,” said an elderly Lebanese man. Others laughed that high-pitched “can-you-believe-it” kind of giggle. Some swore it was true. Others said it was not true, that he had actually worked as a bouncer at a strip club, while others claimed it was only partly true, that Feiz had in fact worked on a party boat, doing hens’ nights, or as part of a semi-respectable, all-male dance troupe like Manpower. “He is quite attractive,” one Muslim woman told me. “He was a bodybuilder, so he’s got a good body.”
In the recondite world of fundamentalist Islam in Sydney, firebrand sheikhs come and go like the weather, which is to say that they are often loud and sometimes unpleasant but mostly harmless. No sooner has one called for the restoration of the caliphate than another has denounced peep-toe shoes or declared a fatwa on the phrase “Happy Christmas”.
Feiz’s career, however, has endured longer than most, owing in part to his considerable appeal among youth and his formidable charisma. “You will love to talk to him,” one man assured me, “because when you talk to him you will feel like a million-dollar man.”
His most inflammatory sermons – those urging children to die for jihad and calling Jews “pigs” – appear to be behind him. Yet Feiz still has a habit of popping up, as when he was linked in April to Boston bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who had posted two of the sheikh’s video sermons on his YouTube page. In 2010, he called for the beheading of anti-Islamic Dutch politician Geert Wilders (“This Satan, this devil, this politician in Holland”). In 2011, he was asked by authorities to remove from his website footage featuring the al-Qaeda spiritual leader Anwar al-Awlaki. And in September 2012, some of his supporters were among those who rioted in Hyde Park against the anti-Islamic film Innocence of Muslims. (Feiz denounced the violence and said he told his followers not to go.) He has hosted dinners for the Ayub twins (the founders of Jemaah Islamiah in Australia), shared his home with one-time al-Qaeda confidant Rabiah Hutchinson, and tutored “Jihad” Jack Roche, Australia’s first convicted terrorist.
Some time in the past six months, however, something strange happened. Feiz changed. In April, federal Attorney-General Mark Dreyfuss publicly praised him for assisting authorities, noting that his most controversial videos were “some years old”, and that, in the wake of last September’s riot, the sheikh had co-operated with the federal government’s Countering Violent Extremism program.
Police also told me how, after the Boston bombings, Feiz had called them to condemn the violence and make it clear he had no prior knowledge of the plot. The sheikh, it seems, had grown, mellowed. “Life teaches you lots of things,” he said in an interview with Muslim Village website. “I am wiser than I was in the past.”
Intrigued by this, I started asking around, which is when I discovered that there is no such thing as Sheikh Feiz, only other people’s opinions of Sheikh Feiz. Many people tell me that Feiz is “a fantastic guy” and “very generous”, that he’s a father, with his wife Jacqui, to six children and several foster children.
“He took a lot of young people from drugs and the street,” says Moussaab Legha of the Islamic Welfare Centre in Lakemba, in Sydney’s south-west. “Multimillion-dollar projects from the police and government, they didn’t achieve what he is achieving.” One supporter tells me of his love of farming and of animals, especially horses, and how he takes kids to Yathrib Ranch, his property at Kemps Creek in far western Sydney, for pyjama parties and boys’ retreats.
Others are less flattering. Feiz’s new-found moderation is “camouflage”, apparently. Some accuse him of “brainwashing” local boys, of filling their heads with his hardline Salafi ideology. Most of the people I speak to – even the sheikh’s supporters – aren’t prepared to be named. “If I talk, I am scared for my safety,” one man explains. “You should be, too.”
The result, when it comes to Feiz, is a virtually impenetrable wall of silence and self-censorship. One day, after much cajoling and low-level begging, I manage to secure an interview with a prominent and well-connected Muslim community leader in south-west Sydney. The man, who I’ll call Rafik, is tall and urbane, dressed in a white skivvy and pressed trousers. His secretary, a woman in a headscarf, serves us hot sweet coffee in tiny tumblers.
“Feiz’s ideas are harmful to our society,” Rafik tells me. “He is not building institutions, he is building followers for himself.”
I explain how almost everybody I have contacted has refused to talk with me, on the record at least. “People are afraid,” Rafik says. “But he is a leader. He shapes people’s views, so he has a responsibility to talk with you. You have to ask, ‘What is he trying to hide?’ ”
Then, without warning, Rafik rises and walks to the door. I follow him, a little confused. Before ushering me out, Rafik pauses. “Just one thing,” he says, bathing me in his sweetest, warmest, broadest smile. “Don’t ever call me again. It’s nothing personal, I just can’t be talking to you about this any more.”
According to the prophet Muhammad, “charity” is a good word. Sadly, Sheikh Feiz did not have any words for me, good or otherwise. For a solid month I tried to contact him, via telephone, email, texts, Facebook – I even wrote him a letter – but he resolutely ignored me. I would drop in at Bukhari House, the Islamic bookstore and prayer hall in Auburn, western Sydney, where he is the imam, in the hope of catching him. Eventually I got a call from a man who identified himself as the sheikh’s “spokesman”. “The sheikh will not be doing an interview,” he said, so I should stop “harassing” him. “He is just a religious man who does not want to get involved with these things.”
The sheikh’s silence is regrettable, since by all accounts he has a remarkable story. Born in 1970 in St George, in southern Sydney, he grew up in a large, nominally Muslim family, to parents who had immigrated from Tripoli, in northern Lebanon. “At school he was just a normal Aussie kid,” says Muslim Village editor Ahmed Kilani, who was in Feiz’s year at Hurstville Boys High School. “He played cricket in the playground and all that. But I recall he wasn’t that religious, because he’d hardly ever come and pray with the rest of the Muslim boys at lunchtime and on Fridays.”
Feiz left school after year 10 to learn carpentry and carpet-laying. He also started hanging out on the streets, doing drugs, drinking, and getting into fights. “I got a bit nasty,” he told journalist Cameron Stewart in 2003. “A lot of drugs, a lot of evil stuff.” He took up boxing, partly to defend himself, training at the St George PCYC, where he met future Australian amateur champion Mick Akkawy. “He fought a couple of times at the PCYC,” says Akkawy, who was friends with Feiz’s older brother, Fawaz. “He’d also started bodybuilding, so he had a good physique.”
Combat was a natural fit for Feiz, the ideal outlet for his restive ambition and wounded temperament. Adopting the ring name “Frank the Killer”, he ascended the ranks and was, by 1987, the NSW amateur welterweight champion. He then turned to bodybuilding (“Frank the Killer” became “Frank the Beast”) and, in 1989, won the national under-19 bodybuilding title. Yet his extra-curricular activities were taking a toll. “I actually feared death or imprisonment, because that was the next step in my life,” he later admitted.
And so, at 19, he turned to religion, embarking on an exploration first of Christianity, then Buddhism and, most improbably, Judaism. (He reportedly attended a synagogue in Sydney’s eastern suburbs but came to feel that Arabs weren’t welcome.) Then came Islam, and with it, said Feiz, “the truth”. But the Islam of his rebirth would not be that of his upbringing; instead of the in-name-only beliefs of his parents, Feiz pursued a purer, ultra-pious Islam, courtesy of the radical Melbourne-based Sheikh Mohammed Omran, of whom Feiz became a devoted student.
Then as now, Sheikh Omran was the emir of the Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jamaah Association of Australia (ASWJ). Established in 1989, ASWJ espouses an ultraconservative form of Islam known as Salafism, the teachings of which adhere to the practice of the first three generations of the Muslim community, beginning with the Prophet and his companions. Salafism is Islam stripped bare; puritanical, literalist and often irresistible to those, like Feiz, who crave clarity and guidance. As he explained: “I don’t believe in unclear concepts. Everything divine must be clear.”
Feiz flourished under Sheikh Omran, who sent him, in 1990, to Saudi Arabia’s Islamic University of Madinah, where he studied two years of Arabic and four years of Islamic law. He returned in 1997 as Sheikh Feiz and promptly established a musallah, or prayer centre, in Haldon Street, Lakemba. His sermons were an almost instant success. “Sheikh Feiz is a sheikh for the youth,” says former terror suspect Zaky Mallah, who was one of his first students. “He was a boxer, too, so he understood the mentality of his generation, and because of that a lot of people related to him and he related to them.”
Feiz’s following grew rapidly thanks to the fact he spoke English – a huge advantage in an area then dominated by Arabic-speaking imams, whose sermons were largely lost on the youth. But equally important was his ability as a communicator. In short, Feiz is a dynamite performer. His talks, which you can see on the web, are an oratorical roller-coaster ride, jam-packed with pregnant pauses, repetition and radical gear shifts – serene to severe in a nanosecond – not to mention the hysterical hand gestures, elaborate syntax and, perhaps his signature device, the lingering, sibilant “s” (“sinnerssss” … “tribulationsssss”).
Coupled with his glowering features – the beard, the brow, the thunderbolt eyes – Feiz’s talks are rarely less than mesmerising, scouring admonitions on the perils of everything from illicit intercourse to the USA, or “the United Snakes of America”, as he prefers to call it.
By 2000, Feiz had set up another western Sydney musallah, the Global Islamic Youth Centre in Liverpool, which regularly hosted hundreds of his supporters, including former rugby league star Hazem El Masri and boxer Anthony Mundine. Mundine would often visit Feiz’s farm and ride his horses. El Masri, whom Feiz had met in Saudi Arabia while the footballer was on pilgrimage, was a particularly vocal supporter. “[The sheikh] is a good guy, and is trying to guide a lot of the young guys along the right path,” he said. (Neither Mundine nor El Masri would comment for this story.)
Yet Feiz’s sermons were, more often than not, pure invective. He would warn his flock to avoid the dreaded kuffar, or non-Muslims (“They are evil, they are cunning, they desire to harm you severely”), as well as “filthy, disgusting” Jews. (One lecture told the story of the Jewish man who seduces and impregnates a Muslim virgin, only to then kill her and the baby.) His message was simple: Islam = good, homosexuals = cursed, women = rape magnets, jihad = great. “We want to have children and offer them as soldiers defending Islam,” he says in one video lecture. “Teach them this: there is nothing more beloved to me than wanting to die as a mujahid.”
For some in the audience, such talk proved intoxicating. “At long last we’ve got someone who has something to say about Islam,” Jack Roche reportedly told a neighbour after hearing Feiz speak. “You get sick of … listening to all the bullshit.” (Arrested in 2002, Roche was sentenced to nine years in prison in 2004 for plotting to blow up the Israeli Embassy in Canberra, the planning of which had been undertaken using a video camera borrowed from Feiz. He was released in 2007.)
By 2005, Feiz’s following was estimated at 4000 people – mostly impressionable, dispossessed, angry young men. “I was friends with these guys,” one young Muslim told me. “I grew up with them in Lakemba. They all came from a gangster background. And that was what attracted them to Feiz in the first place. They thought, ‘Cool, I get to keep my ways and I go to heaven.’ ”
But Feiz’s influence was not going unnoticed. “Sheikhs like Feiz ruin people,” said Mamdouh Elomar, father of Feiz protégé and champion boxer Ahmed Elomar. “I know my religion, so I can tell him when he is wrong, but these kids believe everything he says.”
In 2006, defying his father’s wishes, the 24-year-old Elomar followed Feiz to Lebanon, where the sheikh had gone to care for his ailing father. Accompanying him were Ibrahim Sabouh, a financial adviser who was said to have managed the Global Islamic Youth Centre accounts; Mohammed Basal; and a Sydney cabbie named Omar Hadba. All four were arrested in Tripoli a year later, when police uncovered a large cache of Kalashnikovs, rocket-propelled grenades and landmines in Hadba’s garage. According to Lebanese police, the weapons were intended for Fatah al-Islam, a Salafi group fighting to replace the Lebanese government with an Islamic regime. (Basal and Elomar were released, but Hadba and Sabouh were convicted in 2011.)
Lebanese authorities also wanted to interview Feiz, but the sheikh had already left, this time for Malaysia. “I know they want to talk to me but I am not afraid because I haven’t done anything,” he told Sydney newspaper The Sun-Herald. “I will leave it in God’s hands.”
Boxing teaches you lots of things: how to attack, obviously, but also, perhaps more crucially, how to duck and weave. Feiz understands this. Despite what one Islamic leader calls his “big mouth”, the sheikh has remained adept at double moves, a master of the slip and feint. As early as 2003, for example, at the same time he was comparing the West to a stinking toilet, Feiz was regularly updating ASIO on his own congregation. ASIO would return the favour, protecting him from what the sheikh alleged was police harassment. “I called ASIO and they stopped it,” he said at the time. “I haven’t had one problem since.”
In 2007, however, while still overseas, Feiz again ran into trouble, this time thanks to his Death Series, DVD lectures in which, among other things, he called for the killing of kuffar. The series was a big hit; copies turned up for sale outside mosques in London. Back in Australia they were labelled “an incitement to terrorism”; Australian federal police even raided the Global Islamic Youth Centre. For a while, the sheikh seemed close to being charged with sedition. “I would say this to Sheikh Mohammed,” then federal opposition leader Kevin Rudd said. “Do not return to Australia, you are not welcome.”
Yet by 2010, Feiz was back. For a time he stayed quiet. He gave talks, he farmed, he raised funds for charity (often this meant giving cash to the families of imprisoned Muslims). He also performed marriage counselling. “He was fantastic,” the Islamic Welfare Centre’s Moussaab Legha tells me. “He explains [to the wife] how important it is to co-operate with her husband: you are divorcing him, yes, but he is still the father and you will have reward and blessings, and so he explains what the rewards will be in the hereafter.”
Before long, however, suffering perhaps from controversy cravings, Feiz had launched a veritable fatwa frenzy, issuing rulings on everything from Harry Potter (“promotes paganism”) to rugby league (“the devil’s game”) and mixed-sex education. “If a Muslim wife, sister or daughter sits in a classroom with a male professor and other men around her, it’s as if she were cheating on you,” he said. Some of his rulings were highly problematic, such as when he declared mortgages haram, or forbidden, since they involved paying interest, a concept prohibited under Islam. (In the end, some Muslims, desperate to buy their first homes, secretly sought individual fatwas from more experienced sheikhs, giving them permission to take out loans.)
“The mistake was when he started taking stances that were much bigger than his qualifications,” says prominent Australian Muslim leader Sheikh Taj el-Din al Hilaly, who was soon fielding calls from fretful parents. “They were afraid, because their kids had changed. [Feiz] was programming them. Now they felt like only they had the truth. They’d tell their mum, ‘You are wrong!’ Or, ‘Dad, you are wrong!’ Elections were haram, parties were haram, music was haram, cinema, TV, buying your house – everything was haram.”
At the same time, Feiz’s “boys” began earning a reputation as Islamic enforcers; in one instance they broke into a Muslim man’s home in Silverwater and flogged him 40 times with a piece of electrical cord for drinking beer. Using Bukhari House, the Auburn bookstore and prayer hall, as a base, they would harass and intimidate local shopkeepers, particularly Shias, whom Salafis consider heretics. “They stand out the front of my shop and tell people walking past, ‘Don’t come in here, only shit people work here,’ ” said one Iraqi Shia. Jamal Daoud, a local politician and outspoken Shia, believes Feiz’s ultimate goal is to push moderate Muslims out of the area and buy up their properties on the cheap.
Before long, anxious parents were sending their kids overseas, back to Turkey in many instances, to steer them away from Salafi influences. But it was the 2011 NSW state election that really brought matters to a head, when men from Bukhari House repeatedly tore down election posters from the local shops (Salafis consider voting to be haram).
Jamal Daoud, whose posters were repeatedly targeted, followed one of the men, Milad Bin Ahmad Shah al-Ahmadzai, back to Bukhari House and confronted him. “I said, ‘Why are you taking my posters down?’ ” Daoud tells me. “And Milad said, ‘Because democracy is not allowed in Islam. You are Muslim, and you’re not supposed to take part in this election.’ He became furious with me and so I left.”
Feiz has since acknowledged that voting is a part of life in Australia. But his wife, for one, doesn’t seem convinced. Her Facebook page features a photo of bullets all lined up in a row, with the tagline: “Voting: like being able to choose which bullet you’d prefer to be shot in the head with.”
There are many words Sheikh Feiz Mohammed can’t abide, but chief among them is the phrase “non-Muslim”. “I prefer to say not-yet-Muslim instead of non-Muslim,” he told Muslim Voice in 2012. “It’s a bit more, sort of, sweeter.”
Like all fundamentalists, the sheikh is not given to notions like nuance or compromise. The world is essentially, unavoidably Manichean – a never-ending spiritual battle, a zero-sum struggle where enemies abound. The subsequent clannishness of his followers, their almost fanatical secrecy and defensiveness, is one of the hallmarks of Salafism, which is now thought to be the fastest-growing Muslim movement in the world.
In Australia, the great majority of Muslims are mainstream moderates, and just 10 per cent are Salafis. But the Salafis’ rapid spread, not to mention their unblinking fervour, makes them something to behold.
One morning, for instance, while visiting Bukhari House, I get talking to a young man behind the counter. He is wearing a black robe and the signature Salafi beard. He asks me if I have read the Koran. I say I have not.
He says he is currently in the process of memorising it. “Do you know that in the 1433 years since it was written, not one scientist has been able to disprove it?”
“Really?” I say. “Really!” he says. “The Koran explains perfectly how embryos are formed, how the stars were made. That’s why scientists have taken all their stuff from the Koran.”
Life isn’t easy as a Muslim, though. The beard makes it hard to get a job. But it doesn’t matter, since he is “put here on earth for one reason – to worship Allah. And if we don’t worship him, he has the right to put us in hellfire.”
for feiz, guys like this are a mixed blessing. They are loyal, yes, but their loyalty demands a constant diet of hardline rhetoric. “Feiz has become hostage to his followers,” Muslim Village editor Ahmed Kilani tells me. “As some sheikhs grow older and wiser, they, like everyone else, can sometimes change their previous ideas. This change is often too hard to accept for some of their followers and I sense this may have happened with Sheikh Feiz. He seems to have mellowed out over the years, but the price of this is rejection by some of his followers who have moved on to other sheikhs more in keeping with their hard-hearted approach.”
According to Kilani, Feiz lost credibility with some of his followers after the Sydney protest riot. “Some hardliners felt insulted when he criticised the rioters last year.” Others were affronted when he suggested, in 2011, that he might be able to work with Sufis, a mystic Islamic group Salafis traditionally detest. In the notoriously fractious ecosystem that is Islam in Sydney, Feiz’s former followers would have no shortage of alternative sheikhs to choose from, including the increasingly voluble clerics at al-Risalah, an Islamic bookstore in Bankstown.
Perhaps Feiz isn’t bothered by this. Perhaps he is. Perhaps, as one Muslim community leader suggests, he is simply plotting his next move, into a more political role.
In the meantime, all remains gloriously, typically, mysteriously opaque. “I am extremely comfortable with the way things have worked out, and are working,” Feiz told Muslim Village in an interview last year. “So let us forget what has happened, and let us focus on today.”
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The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.
Cyprus pillars and mound-shaped shrubs feature in Nicole de Vesian’s garden. Photo: Louisa JonesWhen Elizabeth David introduced us to the allure of a well-made cassoulet in 1950, she talked about making the best use of local materials and about a dish that was “genuine, abundant, earthy”. “Tinned beans and sausages served in an earthenware casserole do not, alas, constitute a cassoulet,” she admonished in A Book of Mediterranean Food.
What did make the cut though were simple (but not necessarily simply procured) local ingredients and a patient simmer. To undertake such endeavour in the Mediterranean was pointedly not a prerequisite.
It is exactly the same with the Mediterranean garden. Louisa Jones, whose Gardens in Provence was published in 1992, and who has since written numerous other books on contemporary French and Mediterranean gardens, is firmly of the view that you don’t need to be geographically located in lands of long, dry summers and mild, wet winters to take a cue from the landscapes that have been cultivated in such places for thousands of years.
Over the phone from the farmhouse in southern France she and her husband bought in 1975, Jones says that just as Mediterranean cooking is a way of thinking about food, Mediterranean gardening is a flexible approach that can be adapted to all manner of locales. As long as you observe “the logic of place”, Jones sees no reason why you can’t take a Mediterranean approach to not-so-sunny locales in the likes of Britain, northern Europe … and Victoria, which can be hot and dry but has not, strictly speaking, a Mediterranean climate (though it is home to an international branch of the Mediterranean Garden Society).
Jones will be in Melbourne to discuss the allure of the Mediterranean garden – within the Mediterranean and beyond it – at the Australian Landscape Conference in September. She says adapting Mediterranean practices to Australia, or anywhere else, comes down to observing what you have (climate, topography, flora, fauna, historical remains) and making the most of it as well as approaching the garden as a place of pleasure ”for all the senses”, rather than for visual ornament alone.
It’s a philosophy that sits well with our growing focus on sustainability, biodiversity and ”productive” plants, with the divide between utility and beauty getting ever more blurred.
But it hasn’t always been so. Jones, a Canadian married to a Frenchman, says people kept telling her 30 years ago there were no gardens in Provence. While clearing her pine-forest-invaded-vineyard of a French property and thinking about what to plant instead, all the French magazines she consulted were full of English-style summer-flowering borders.
Not convinced, she went to see what other people in the area were doing and what she found in their gardens was very much at odds with what was in the magazines.
By the time she wrote her first book, she had seen more than 200 gardens ”of every size, type and description” – gardens that were steep, stony and exposed to wind; gardens in valleys with good soil; gardens stretched out around large chateaux; and others contained outside small cottages.
These gardens didn’t represent a style so much as a way of life.
One of the places she visited was the garden that stylist Nicole de Vesian began in Provence at the age of 70 in 1986. De Vesian’s tall pillars of flat-topped cypress and rolling mounds of Viburnum tinus, Lonicera nitida, Teucrium fruticans and box (all the European varieties) have become known the world over.
De Vesian died in 1996 but her garden lives on and it, along with other gardens designed by the Hermes stylist, are discussed in one of Jones’ latest books in English. Released in Australia two months ago, Modern Design in Provence: Nicole de Vesian – Gardens shows how a Mediterranean garden can be both wild and exacting; frugal and perfectly proportioned.
Olivier and Clara Filippi’s innovative nursery near Montpellier (from which came some plants used by David Glenn in his Mediterranean garden at Lambley Nursery in central Victoria) is another example of what Jones describes as the “renewal of the countryside”.
Although Jones spends hours each day in her own garden, she says very little about it. ”I am too close to it, I don’t have the same objectivity. It’s like asking me to talk about my family,” she says.
But Jones says all she has learnt in the past 35 years has been summed up in Mediterranean Gardening: A Model for Good Living, which will be published in English in time for the Australian Landscaping Conference.
In essence a series of short essays, the book is a declaration of Jones’ belief in all Mediterranean gardening has to offer. She calls for it to be ”reinvented once again by us, for our own times” – even in the Mediterranean, where there are ”undeniable disasters and excesses” like everywhere else.
■ The Australian Landscape Conference will be held on September 20-23.landscapeconference上海夜生活m/AU.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.
With the network design done and the key agreements with Telstra and others in the bag, project management becomes the key skill for the person who takes over.Search on to fill Quigley’s shoes’There’s no crisis, my job is done’
Pushed or jumped? For the departing National Broadband Co chief executive Mike Quigley it would have been both. His two key patrons were gone. NBN chairman Harrison Young was replaced by Siobhan McKenna in March, and Kevin Rudd’s coup last month sent former communications minister Stephen Conroy to the back benches.
The NBN itself is under pressure over a delayed rollout, and its future is unclear. It should have a continuing role in a Coalition government’s less ambitious patchwork broadband rollout, in transit links between cities, greenfields rollouts to new suburbs, satellite and fixed wireless services. It also has written large long-term contracts that a Coalition government would honour.
Exactly what the NBN would look like under a Coalition government is unclear, however, and Quigley knew that in any event he would not lead a Coalition government-controlled NBN. He was too closely associated with the full-blown fibre-to-the-home rollout that Conroy created, and the politics that surrounded it.
McKenna knew it, too. As chairman it was her job to organise succession, and she has been doing so: Quigley said on Friday that the board agreed that it was time for him to leave.
After coming out of retirement from senior roles in the Alcatel group to take the chief executive role four years ago, Quigley leaves with a mixed record.
He helped forge the agreement with Telstra that made the project physically possible, almost completed negotiations with the ACCC to create a workable access regime for the company and its wholesale telco customers, and created the network’s architecture, coping with political interference that increased the complexity and cost of the project in the process, by adding to the number of network connection points, for example.
He also created a modular rollout plan that has already halved NBN’s connection costs per premise as NBN repeats and refines its processes.
Quigley said on Friday the NBN’s recent announcement that it had reached revised, downgraded targets for network coverage cleared the way for him to stand aside. There are, however, continuing concerns that NBN does not have sufficient project management skills or subcontracted construction resources to deliver the huge project that Labor launched on time and on budget.
With the network design done and the key agreements with Telstra and others in the bag, project management becomes the key skill for the person who takes over.
Opposition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull is right that the appointment surely cannot be made before the election result is known. (Quigley says he will serve until the handover occurs.) The new chief executive’s brief is heavily contingent on the election outcome.
Disclosure? What’s that
One of the lessons securities and investment regulators have learnt in the past decade is that disclosure means little if what is being ”disclosed” to investors isn’t read by them, or is not understood.
As the head of Britain’s new financial services and market regulator, Martin Wheatley, quipped late last year, what is disclosure worth if 50 per cent of the population does not understand what 50 per cent means?
Disclosure can also fail because consumers don’t use the information they get rationally, and an interesting example of that surfaced last month at a conference jointly hosted in Toronto by the International Organisation of Securities Commissions, the peak body for market and investment regulators that Australian Securities and Investments Commission chairman Greg Medcraft chairs.
Medcraft was in the audience as a US behavioural science academic, Sunita Sah, explained what happened when a group was asked to choose between two competing lottery options, one of which was objectively more attractive.
Most of those surveyed made the right choice, unaided. However, just over half of them chose the inferior option when they were advised to do so – and an astonishing 81 per cent chose the inferior option when told by the adviser that the adviser had a financial interest in them doing so.
They did so because the disclosure itself created pressure on them to act in the adviser’s declared self-interest, and regulators around the world are mulling this and other behavioural science lessons.
IOSCO’s board met last month for the first time under Medcraft’s chairmanship, and said in a subsequent statement that ways to use behavioural economics ”to build confidence and encourage informed decision-making by retail investors” were discussed.
What that means in practice remains to be seen, but the new approach could produce significant changes in the way financial products are marketed as regulators look for ways to short-circuit the behavioural traits research is highlighting.
Time-out periods between the receipt of advice and the final decision are likely to be promoted.
Investors will also, increasingly likely, be asked to pass education courses before they are allowed to invest in some products, as is becoming the norm is areas including contracts for difference.
More generally, behavioural research is being taken by regulators as an argument in favour of restrictions on the distribution of some products, with the agreement of product creators and marketers ideally, but in the United Kingdom and Europe at least, compulsorily if necessary.
Medcraft is discussing the trend here, but the new Financial Conduct Authority that Martin Wheatley heads up in the United Kingdom is leading the change.
It has been issuing briefs on how consumer behaviour affects the take-up of financial products as part of what Wheatley says is a ”greater focus on understanding consumer behaviour”. It is also armed with ”product intervention” powers that enable it to intervene and ban products unilaterally.
ASIC does not have the same banning powers here. But the FCA model has already spread to regulators in Europe, and may eventually become the global norm: something for the financial system inquiry that Joe Hockey has foreshadowed to consider if the Coalition wins the election.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.