Defeat the modernity

Sadly the Dutch are turning back:

In cities across the Netherlands,
mayors and town councils are closing down shops where marijuana is
sold, rolled and smoked.  Municipalities are shuttering the brothels
where prostitutes have been allowed to ply their trade legally. 
Parliament is considering a ban on the sale of hallucinogenic "magic
mushrooms."  Orthodox Christian members of parliament have introduced a
bill that would allow civil officials with moral objections to refuse
to perform gay marriages.  And Dutch authorities are trying to curtail
the activities of an abortion rights group that assists women in
neighboring countries where abortions are illegal.

The very interesting article ascribes these tendencies to growing unease about globalization and immigration.  Here is another shift of opinion:

"In the past, we looked at legal prostitution as a women’s liberation
issue; now it’s looked at as exploitation of women and should be
stopped," said de Wolf, sitting in the offices of the medical complex
where he works as an HIV-AIDS researcher.

This article can be read as illustrating many different points of view.  I’ll start with two points.  First, people [voters] need to feel they are in control, even if they indulge this preference irrationally.  Second, Europe will sooner become like the United States than vice versa.

Comments

As decadence leads to boredom, the search for meaning
returns to the traditional.

Care to elaborate on the closing line? I happen to hold the opposite view, and very strongly at that.

I'll start with two points. First, people [voters] need to feel they are in control, even if they indulge this preference irrationally. Second, Europe will sooner become like the United States than vice versa.

I think both are very true, but not for any reasons to do with immigration. It's this scary religious fundamentalism that seems to be on the march, and I fear we're heading back to the Middle Ages. Unfortunately, we secularists aren't organized and we certainly aren't mobilized; we're letting our freedoms and our national agendas be shaped by zealots.

Have to agree with you there about natural selection, Adrian. History shows there was a lot of
homosexuality in ancient Greece and now there are absolutely no homosexuals in Greece as natural selection
has had time to weed out that gene that causes all gayness.

And I didn't actually know Dutch families were disintergrating. At times I wish my Dutch family would
disintergrate as they can be pretty annoying.

As for Europe becoming more like the United States, I can't imagine the Dutch adopting U.S. attitudes
towards sex. I figure why on earth would they want to do that? And unfortunately I can't imagine a
majority of people in the United States adopting Dutch attitudes towards sex anytime soon, despite the
advantages it would bring in lower teen pregnancy rates and lower rates of sexually transmitted diseases.

"In the past, we looked at legal prostitution as a women's liberation issue; now it's looked at as exploitation of women and should be stopped"

Banning prostitution to benefit prostitutes would seem akin to banning drug dealing to benefit the drug dealers.

I don't know about the Netherlands in particular but in much of Europe (and in the US) prostitution is deeply tied up with forced trafficing of women.

Why is stopping this different to stopping any other form of slavery? If it is illegal whether you use slaves or not, that would presumably shift the economics of the trade to favour the use of slaves. After all, there would be less to lose.

whats so uninvigorated about Europe? I was there a couple of weeks ago. It was nice.

Ad, I think the question the Dutch are asking themselves is the opposite one: if legalizing prostitution was supposed to improve the lives of the prostitutes themselves, and what we see in reality is continued abuse of and trafficking in women, then why are we keeping it legal? After all, making it illegal would almost certainly reduce the total amount of prostitution going on, while (apparently) not making much difference in the lives of the remaining prostitutes.

As to why that is, I'd guess it has to do with the legal status of the women willing to work as prostitutes in the Netherlands. This is just speculation, but I'll bet prostitution by non-EU citizens is still illegal and subject to deportation, so the women who would have been willing to work as legal prostitutes (Russians, Africans, etc.) can't get into the country. This leaves an opening for criminal organizations to bring women in from outside, and also gives them the leverage to keep them under control and hence control the industry as a whole.

There's another problem with being the first to legalize alcohol, drugs, prostitution, gambling, etc.. You tend to attract all the worst elements of that trade - the junkies, addled potheads, creepy sex-tourists, and the rest - from neighboring areas, who bring their problems with them. It's one thing to say in the abstract, "things would be better if X were legal," quite another to actually take the plunge and legalize it in a small area. I'm surprised the backlash took this long to form, actually.

adrian: "natural selection will weed out the progressives and gays because they don't have babies - the future is conservative, in Europe as well."

adrian is a pretty primitive conservative troll. Let's check some simple facts about Europe and fertility. The source for the following is Eurostat (2005 data).

Countries with HIGH fertility & LIBERAL/secular culture:
UK (TFR = 1.8), Denmark (1.8), Norway (1.84), Sweden (1.77), Finland (1.8), Netherlands (1.73), Belgium (1.72), France (1.94), Iceland (2.05)

Countries with LOW fertility & LIBERAL/secular culture:
Germany (1.34)

Countries with LOW fertility & catholic/conservative culture:
Spain (1.34), Italy (1.34), Portugal (1.4), Greece (1.28)

Countries with HIGH fertility & catholic/conservative culture:
Ireland (1.88)

The outline is that the northern liberal countries do not have a fertility problem while the catholic south does. The only notable exception is Ireland. Secondly, northern liberals have about the same fertility rate as the US whites, despite US whites being much more religious & conservative.

The fact is that we now live in a world where the number of children depends on what _women_ want them to be, and the society has to accommodate to that. The northern liberal countries have been much more successful in this, with policies like free childcare, long maternity leaves etc. In fact the liberal, secular, godless women that you so much despise, _want_ (according to surveys) to have on average 2.3 children. Only difficulties with career/family adjustments prevent them from realising this.

And a final shocking point. Over the last 10 years, Europe has been the ONLY major area in the world, where fertility rates have increased. Everywhere else, they have been decreasing.

It's this scary religious fundamentalism that seems to be on the march, and I fear we're heading back to the Middle Ages.
I'm a libertarian agnotheist, but I have to say, you're off your freaking rocker. Put down the Chris Hedges and take a chill pill. The United States isn't nearly as religious as it was in the first half of the 20th century or throughout the 19th, and the US has never been anything like a theocracy (Plymouth colony predated the United States). You made quite a fool of yourself in the unintelligent design thread, so maybe you shouldn't be throwing stones at the glass houses of the unwashed masses.

weed out that gene that causes all gayness.
Recent studies by Bailey show the concordance among identical twins to be only about 20%. Natural selection has had way more than enough time for such a huge fitness drain, that's why I find Greg Cochran's pathogenic theory the only plausible one I've heard so far. He recently popped up to discuss the subject in this thread at Gene Expression.

Just curious what in particular you have against Islam when fundamentalist Christianity will look pretty similar if these people have their way.
Where are the theocracies that exist today? Well, there's Iran, there used to be the Taliban and maybe the Sudan qualifies. When was the last time any country was ruled by a Christian theocracy? Zwingli? Even the Puritan Yankees of Massachussets can be seen as the direct ancestors of modern, Ivy League unitarian-style liberalism. Mencius Moldbug has been discussing that for a while.
http://unqualified-reservations.blogspot.com/2007/05/our-planet-is-infested-with-pseudo.html
http://unqualified-reservations.blogspot.com/2007/06/short-history-of-ultracalvinism.html
http://unqualified-reservations.blogspot.com/2007/06/some-objections-to-ultracalvinism.html

UK Econ, within each country the most fertile people are also the most religious. I don't think this will bring about adrian's dream society (it will most likely latch onto some new variant of Christianity rather than old-line Catholocism and have plenty of Muslims to boot) but I do agree with him that secular liberals are demographically doomed in the long run. I'm thinking a less-absurd and more functional "Idiocracy".

TGGP - I foresee a Catholic Europe. The Protestants have embraced the progressive cause, British elites are converting a lot, the thinking people have united around Pope Benedict, opinion polls showed over 90% of Europeans agreed with his speech on the barbarism of Allah.

"I foresee a Catholic Europe." I do hope not. My Catholic ancestors wanted to burn my Protestant ancestors at the stake.

When was the last time any country was ruled by a Christian theocracy?

Spain under Franco, for starters: when all children's names had to have a biblical root. Learn your history before you spout your big mouth off.

Adrian and Fustercluck: as is often the case, I don't know myself whether I was being serious or sarcastic, when I said that I admire Adrian's flexibility.
The real question is: what has logical priority, Christianity or natural selection?
I am a radical Darwinist, and therefore I approve of Judaism and Christianity because they have survived and prospered. I approve of classical liberalism even more. Marxism and Nazism have not survived: enough said. American "liberalism" and European corporatism might survive, but I am skeptical.
The way I see it, Dawkins is not a real Darwinist: apparently, he doesn't see any role for natural selection in the evolution of morality memes. He believes in Intelligent Design of morality.

Uh, sorry about that weird link. Don't know where it came from.
Was writing "having kids in Scandinavia".

" Obsessed for so long with irrelevant secular fads like gay marriage and dope legalization, they ignored the wider, more important issues, like the disintegration of the family and the Islamic conquest of their country."

Precisely so. Gay marriage and marijuana shouldn't even be an issue i.e. obviously they should be 'legalized' and without a great deal of wasteful huffing-and-puffing. (I assume that is what Adrian meant.)

Better we should be spending social capital on (as one example) figuring out early childhood education.

Well, yet again, I have spent non-trivial time in Amsterdam.
So, getting back to what might actually happen there. Something
in the depths of the cited article but not advertised by Tyler is
that even the Christian Unity Party does not expect to change any
of these things in a serious way at the national level. Their model
is the US Christian Right attack on abortion rights, chipping away here
and there to alter the framework of the discourse. Open prostitution
and certain aspects of the "coffee shops" will be increasingly limited
and regulated, especially in the hinterlands outside of Amsterdam, but
we are not going to see a complete shutdown of all this anytime soon.

Clearly there are changes of attitude here, with the bigger ones about
the prostitution issue. It has indeed become common in feminist circles
in US circles, if not universal, to view prostitution as an oppression of
women. And, when actual outright slavery is involved, which unfortunately
is increasingly frequently, then clearly it is. I do not blame the Dutch
for wishing to circumscribe the influence of international gangs involved
in clearly nasy activities.

On the drug front, I make no forecasts. An obvious move would be to become
increasingly protectionist. If the problem is international gangs, then, well,
just ban foreign pot and mushrooms (although I suspect the latter will get banned
anyway, just too "out there"). But, to be practical, it is my understanding
that a substantial amount of the cannabis sold in the "coffee shops" is locally
produced. There are clearly some reasonably legitimate local groups that can
exercise influence in the political process to defend their interests. What this
may come down to is the extent to which these local producers have been taken over
in one way or another by the international gangs.

Europe will sooner become like the United States than vice versa

This is a rather wooly statement and, as these comments attest, people can find in it what they like.

More concretely, western Europe (taken as a whole) tends to be about a decade behind the U.S. economic development (see GDP/head). It follow that whatever economic growing pains the U.S. is experiencing now, Europe will likely be facing about a decade hence, and in that sense Europe is always becomming more like the U.S. In the 1980s, my European friends were pointing to exploding homelessness as evidence of the social bankruptcy of American capitalism; 10 years later their countries were facing a similiar explosion. In the 1990s, my European friends were laughing off the anti-smoking movement as evidence of American neo-fascism; 10 years later their countries are experiencing the same trend.

As Marx taught us, it's often hard to dis-entangle the socio-cultural form the economic. (Most people tend to think of the rise of Feminism in the 1970s as a cultural phenomenon. I maintain it all happened when median daily wages finally covered the cost of a day's child care.) But there are clearly cultural mores that are not purely economically determined. Japan and Europe are at broadly similiar stages of economic development, and yet are culturally dissimiliar in many striking ways.

So social conservatives shouldn't read too much into a fine-tuning of Dutch drug and prostitution policies as that country graples with immigration. This does not portend a return of secular Europe to the Christian fold. The religious divide between Europe and America has been growing steadily for a half-century, and although economic forces have nudged in one direction or the other at various times during that period, there is clearly a difference here that is exogenous to economic influences, and which we should not expect economic developments to erase.

Spain under Franco, for starters: when all children's names had to have a biblical root. Learn your history before you spout your big mouth off.
Franco held a military position, not a clerical one. Even in Russia, where the Tsar did hold a clerical position, that was caesaro-papism since he was head of the church by virtue of being head of state rather than the other way around. Iran is a theocracy because of the government power held by mullahs, clerics, ayatollahs and what-have-you, despite the rules (or lack thereof) they have for naming babies. I don't see Spain in Wikipedia's list of theocracies, nor do I see any reference to religious laws in their pages on Franco and Francoist Spain. It is possible that his regime was the reincarnation of that of Girolamo Savonarola (I admit I do not know much about it) and nobody at Wikipedia noted it, but that does not strike me as being very likely. I did a google search for "franco spain theocracy" and glanced at the first results. None of them actually said that Francoist Spain was a theocracy and even then most of the pages using all three words appear rather fringe. In comparison, do a search for "iran theocracy" or "zurich theocracy". Could it be that a man who came to power commanding a force of Moroccan Muslims and never held a clerical position did not actually run a theocracy? Imagine you are an ignorant person like me. That possibility would then seem plausible to you. Find me some reputable sources (ie people who both do not consider the dictatorship of Chimpy W McHitlerburton to be a theocracy and don't truck with the confused meme of "islamofascism") who describe Franco's Spain as a theocracy, and we'll continue the conversation.

We're slouching toward theocracy because Catholics are criticizing a guy who donates to Planned Parenthood while saying he abhors it? It's fitting that "fervency and zealotry" can't be quantified, because it helps you make unfalsifiable statements without being called on it. I can claim "fervency and zealotry" are way down, and how can I be proved wrong!?

beyond the pale.
That phrase, I do no think she a mean what you a think she does. If I wanted to say I hate murder or that our society does not approve, I might describe it as being "beyond the pale" (I'm guessing the phrase originates from the pale of Russia where Jews were required to live, since it is the only other instance I know of where "pale" is used as a noun). That would say noting about the current level of murder. Verstehen Sie?

he fact also remains that no other president in my memory ever dared claim that "God instructed him to do something" (as in, invade a sovereign nation.)
Yes, McKinley and Wilson were never president. I think you could do with reading some Rothbardian historical revisionism, possibly with some revisionism from the New Left to give a more rounded perspective. You might also want to pay a bit more attention to Cheney, Rove and the neo-conservatives who have not much more piety than I and played a much more significant role than Bush's pastor, and also what David Kuo has to say about his time in the White House.

Pull up some Scalia quotes about the separation of church and state. He doesn't believe in that.
It might come as a shock to you, but nowhere in the Constitution or any of the amendments does that phrase appear. It was in a letter Jefferson (who was in France during the writing of the Constitution) wrote to reassure some Baptists (those are the worst kind of Christians, aren't they?), which was first referenced by the Supreme Court in 1878 to define marriage as between a man and a woman (oh, the irony!) and second in 1947 by a former Klansman as a stick to beat Catholic schools (irony abounds!). Pardon me if I do not enlist in the benevolent brigades of the laicite secularists who want to ignore the failure of the Blaine Amendment to be ratified and the numerous examples of religious establishment in place at the time of the Constitution's ratification while they quiver in fear over some Alabama judge putting stone tablets in a court-house, because surely that will bring about The Handmaiden's Tale or V for Vendetta, just as the dark night of fascism is always hanging over America while only descending on Europe. It's just fine and dandy when the government is spending about three trillion dollars, but I'm supposed to be alarmed that a few crumbs of that mammoth went to groups that worship an old man in the sky? I should be "all in a tizzy that the Justice Department under Bush has hired eight lawyers from conservative Christian law schools (Ave Maria and Regent). Of course, in the same period, it hired sixty-three from Harvard and Yale, but once the camel's nose is in the tent, etc. It invites contamination". I'm sure that would seem sensible in the bizarro-world in which we are a hairs-breadth from "living in the British Empire, under the rule of Queen-Empress Victoria, but of course a hundred years later. Prancing lords and ladies, cardinals and their catamites, sneer at us as they slide past in their Porsches, crushing the poor under their great alloy wheels", but to anyone actually paying attention and not willfully deluding themselves it sounds as laughable as the dire warnings the RNC puts out of what will happen if Hillary Clinton gets back in the White House.

Some of you are at the wrong MR, this isn't MajorityRights.com.

It's Lilja 4 ever, not Lila. I wouldn't mind, but it's harder to google.

I tend to believe that the Netherlands are in part learning from experience. Amsterdam is not more pleasant than Oslo, say my friends who have lived there. But also, they are also on a paranoid xenophobic spree, which is well illustrated by the fantastic conspiracy theory that adrian promotes, that "the left" and Islam are "allied" against the US (you would have to have an extremely two-dimensional world-view to believe that)

I would like to point out that the CU has only four percent of the vote, so it's not like they've taken over the country. I do think it's true that there seems to be a trend towards parties that are focused on internal affairs, against globalization and negative towards the EU (Socialist Party, Wilders).
Fustercluck: We've already had a brief debate on intelligent design, when the (christian) former minister of education stated on her blog that she thought it was 'an interesting concept'. There was a backlash from the scientific community. Luckily the current minister, Plasterk, is a molecular biologist, so I think we're safe there.

The main problem the Netherlands has faced due to its drug policy is that the neighboring countries DIDN'T legalize, and thus the Netherlands has become the central drug distribution node in that area of Europe. Its not an issue of local sales or local production. Everybody knows that the coffee houses do very little front side business, they are under the counter export shops for western europe.

With prostitution the problem is that it has become a tacky sex tourist destination, and that has tarnished the image of the country. Maybe in the 70s it seemed like female liberation, but it doesn't look like that now. Its also legal in Germany but they don't have the same reputation. I get the feeling that legalized countries have far less problems with trafficing and forced sex workers, though obviously they still have problems.

Regardless, prostitution is degrading, tacky and unerotic. But its going to happen, so you should keep it out in the open and protected.

@felix:
There are many problems associated with the gedoog status of marijuana (again: it is NOT legal to produce commercially).

TGGP,

Yes, Mullah Omar is an exception. YOu will not
be able to name another, ever, however.
None of the Caliphs were clerics.
The last set of them for half a millennium were
Sultans of the Ottoman Empire. There is no Sunni
state currently run by a cleric, although there are
several that claim to use some version of the Shari'a
as their official law code, including Saudi Arabia.

Not so laughable. The Taliban were viewed as wacko
crazies by the overwhelming majority of Sunnis, and
still are.

I think another big factor in the growing conservatism of the dutch is simply the aging population. In 1950 the majority of the population was under 35, now it is well over. Old fogies like me tend to be more conservative.

Another thing to note is that the dutch really only tolerated the coffee shops rather than embraced them . It took concerted civil disobedience action in the 70s for the first coffee shop to stay open, and the majority of dutch never visit one.

Yes, Mullah Omar is an exception. YOu will not
be able to name another, ever, however.

The lack of success islamists have had taking over countries does nothing to convince me they don't want theocracy. I can name another recent example: the Islamic Courts Union of Somalia. Note that it's not just some form of government that implements shariah, the government is is the Islamic courts (or was, since Ethiopia just drove them out). Is islamism a really unpopular ideology that only muslims in fringe countries like Afghanistan and Somalia go for? Islamists won an election in Algeria, and the only reason they aren't in power is that the nationalist military government brutally clamped down. The one islamist group still fighting there is the Salafist Group for Preaching and Armed Combat, which is now an al Qaeda franchise. If Egypt allowed real elections the Muslim Brotherhood (who al Qaeda see as their predecessors, as shown in the Harmony Documents) would win, so they don't. Same thing goes for Saudi Arabia. I haven't read anything where merely "stricter" shariah is demanded, the general idea seems to be that the Saudi royal family themselves are illegitimate and need to be kicked out so that a righteous government can take their place.

None of the Caliphs were clerics.
Usually only the first five or so are regarded as "rightly guided" and sought to be emulated by modern islamists, and at that time I don't even know if there were any people that could be called "clerics". However, if anybody could have back then it would have been Muhammad, and Muhammad was both the political and religious leader of the Ummah. If his rule wasn't theocracy, I don't know what is.

The Taliban were viewed as wacko
crazies by the overwhelming majority of Sunnis, and
still are.

If you read their communications, the members of al Qaeda did mock the Taliban for being illiterate hicks, but the idea of implementing such a government had a lot of support around the Muslim world. That's why people came from all the way over in the Balkans to Afghanistan and fight alongside the Taliban. Doing some quick googling I wasn't able to find any polls on what Muslims around the world thought of the Taliban before 9/11, and given that most governments of muslim countries don't represent the will of their people very well, I don't think we can look at the behavior of those governments toward the Taliban to determine what their citizens thought of it.

It's your prerogative to remain stoic or nonplussed at the direction the country has been going in these past 7 years and to interpret the Christian right-wing neoconservative movement as harmless, but don't expect those of us who don't see it your way to react to it the way you do.
The Christian right-wing and the neoconservative movement are two very different things. The latter are smart (much smarter than the average Republican, which is why they have had such disproportionate influence) and know how to actually achieve power and change policy. The neoconservatives are largely irreligious jews, not Falwellites. I never thought of Falwell as being as threatening as Pat Robertson, because it is my impression that Falwell sincerely believes the nonsense he spouts, whereas Robertson would sacrifice an infant to Satan if he thought it would improve his position. But while Robertson was a tad more cunning than Falwell, he wasn't bright enough to avoid losing re-election in an organization Chris Hedges and TheocracyWatch say is controlled by Dominionists (if yo haven't heard of them, they are analogous to non-violent islamists). If he can't make it there, it seems to me he can't make it anywhere and I have little to fear.

If catch phases like "rapture," "divine intevention," "intelligent design," and/or "Terry Schiavo" don't send a slight shiver down your spine
AHAHAHAHAHA! Maybe if I was a believer I'd be concerned with the rapture and divine intervention, but I'm not, so why the hell would I be worried about it? The latter two are actually relevant to the real world, but as I noted before all attempts to get ID in schools (not that I'm in favor of public schooling) have been crushed and even most evolution-rejecting religious people have never even heard of "intelligent design". Terry Schiavo was one person, and I don't usually get that worked up over individuals. The issue at stake was not one I cared much about either, so if there were hundreds of Shiavos people were bickering over when it came to unplugging their feeding tubes, it wouldn't really concern me. Finally, Schiavo did get her feeding tube unplugged and the Bible-thumpers lost so why is your spine chilled? They should be the ones scared at the mention of the word "Schiavo", not only because they lost but because having such a reaction to that piddling incident is evidence of a defect of perspective common in minds befuddled by the divine.

"wake up if you care at all about personal freedoms, the Constitution, and science (in no particular order) because while they aren't going anywhere any time soon, degradation starts somewhere and it usually starts slowly."
Our personal freedoms and the Constitution took an irrecoverable hit from people like Lincoln, Wilson and Roosevelt; focusing on Falwell just serves to distract you from this. Science has been relentlessly kicking religion's ass for decades, so I have no worries there.

I wish I could be so blithely dispassionate about the world around me. Must be nice.
Yes it is nice. It really assists your thinking. People rarely do that well while they're foaming at the mouth and wailing to the sky.

You asked about Franco's Spain; you might find this interesting. Obviously this is not scholarly research. I specifically chose this as the writer is more on your 'side' than mine and he somewhat dispassionately summarizes Spain under Franco.
What do you think is my "side"? The article didn't actually say that much about Franco's Spain. All I really picked out was that there wasn't really a public education system (sounds good in my book) so instead the Church picked up the slack. It didn't say anything about religious laws though. I admit that I share the old anglo distaste for "catholic countries", and I am very thankful that catholicism in America was protestantized into its present rather benign form, even if Mencius Moldbug traces our ills to that kulturkampf victory.

TGGP - By forcibly divesting Christianity of its Roman and Pagan admixture Protestantism laid the foundations of progressivism, and for the eventual, suicidal secular application of 'do unto others' over the entire planet.

Protestantism was the first, and most successful revolt by westerners against their own culture and history. The term Judeo-Christian, questioned in the Razib article you linked to, makes sense if you consider that Protestantism was an unusual attempt to return to 'original christianity': ie that which was closest to Judaism. Protestantism defines American christianity, so the designation holds. Catholicism blended all the different parts of western civilization, from Germanic tribes to the Roman elites. Protestantism threw that in the gutter.

And do you have a link to that Mencius post? It sounds interesting.

TGGP,

Sorry, but the term for a Sunni cleric in that region is "imam." "Sheikh"
is a more generally honorific term, that usually does imply some ability
to make legal judgments. BTW, the Sunni "imam" is to be distinguished from
the Shi'i "Imam," given to Khomeini. The former is essentially the equivalent
of a Protestant minister or Catholic priest, a regular cleric. The latter is
freighted with symbolic theological and political power and authority, more
like a Catholic Pope.

Again, the end of the period of the "Rightly Guided" coincides with the
Sunni-Shi'i split, which is very much at the heart of the issue here. The
Shi'i position was, and still is, that the political leader, the Caliph,
should be a descendant of the Prophet Muhammed and a cleric, a sort of
monarchical clericalism. Moqtada al-Sadr, the radical Shi'i leader in Iraq
is a perfect example. He is Sayyid, wearing the black turban, which indicates
his descent from the Prophet Muhammed, and he seeks to become the ruler of
Iraq.

The Sunnis went the other way, with leaders not to be clerics. Again,
with the possible exception of Afghanistan under the Taliban, you cannot find
a Sunni-dominated country led by a cleric anywhere in the world, and not for
hundreds of years. And, keep in mind, 85% of the world's Muslims are Sunnis.

with the possible exception of Afghanistan under the Taliban, you cannot find
a Sunni-dominated country led by a cleric anywhere in the world, and not for
hundreds of years.

Is that due to Sunni theology or is it due to historical factors, though? I mean, first the Caliph was busy being Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, then the Caliphate was abolished and Western powers set up secular states. It would seem difficult (though not impossible, see Afghanistan) to set up a theocracy under these conditions.

Arthur,

The caliphate was abolished by a local boy in Turkey, Kemal Attaturk, who also abolished
the sultanate at the same time. He set up a western-oriented secular state to compete with
the western powers that had whomped the Ottoman Empire in WW I.

TGGP,

Well, guess what. Sometimes Wikipedia is wrong. The quote you gave on imams and sheikhs has
no source and is wrong. If you link to "sheikh" from the statement there you get a long discussion
that notes that the term means an "elder of a tribe, lord, revered wise man, or Islamic scholar."
The last is the only mention of religion. It further notes that in classical Arabic the term literally
mean "a man of old age," and cam e tobe a title of a Bedouin tribal chieftain. The guys in Anbar
province in Iraq fighting salafist jihadis are "Sheikhs." They are political leaders, not people who
give sermons in mosques. The term is also used by Arab Christians. There is no mention of them doing
anything in religious services.

Wikipedia on "imam" notes that it can also be a leader, including a caliph, and it also can be applied
to a founder of a legal school. It is also "a religious leader."

Some further googling came up with this. So, in Iraq there is "Imam Fuad Rustad is an eloquent preacher,
a Sunni Muslim." So much for the imams do not preach.

Then at http://www.afic.com.au/apislam.htm we have a detailed discussion of hierarchies. In the absence
of a caliph, a mufti is the supreme leader in a Sunni country. Then there is the following: "The leader
of a mosque is known as the imam." No mention of "sheikh" at all in this discussion. None, zero, nada.

Regarding Islamist countries, try Sudan. For that matter, and this is what I have been trying to explain
to you, Saudi Arabia is "Islamist," even if its current leadership has an opposition that claims to be
even more Islamist. Saudi shows how this works. Since 1740 there has been an alliance between the ruling
Sa'ud family and the Wah'hab family, who more recently took the name "al-Sheikh." The former are the
political leaders, the latter have traditionally been the senior religious advisers. The foundation of
the alliance was the affirmation of imposing and spreading the following of the strictest of all the
Sunni Shari'as, the Hanbali code. That is what "Wah'habism" is all about. That remainds their current
ruling ideology and practice, and the al-Sheikhs are still around, although the current mufti does not
bear that name. However, the most revered of the 43 sons of the founding king of modern Saudi Arabia,
Abdulaziz, known as "Ibn Sa'ud," was the late King Faisal, whose mother was an al-Sheikh.

Also, do not fall into the widespread delusion that the Saudi monarchy is in any serious danger of falling
from power anytime soon. They have been in since 1740. The current king, Abdullah, is clean as a whistle,
unlike some other members of the family. They pay attention to popular opinion, and they do not hesitate to
hand out their oil money both to close allies and more generally to the populace. So, they are the model
of a Sunni Islamist state, officially secular leaders who let the religious hierarchy run the courts where
the ultra-strict Hanbali Shari'a is implemented, and closely related families run the religious hierarchy.

Arthur,

Let us say that it is clearly easier to set up a full blown theocracy under
Shi'ism than it is under Sunnism, but it is really more a matter of history
than theology as the there is nothing in the Qur'an that says anything about
how one chooses a caliph. This is part of why the split was so intense; there
were no grounds for making a judgment other than raw power. However, clearly
a theocracy is not impossible within Sunni Islam, just as it is not impossible
in Christianity or pretty much any other major world religion.

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