Toward Muslim Democracies–Reading Questions

Professor Saad Eddin Ibrahim, a leading advocate for human rights and democracy in Egypt (and the broader Arab world), and professor of political sociology at the American University of Cairo, delivered the annual Lipset “Lecture on Democracy in the World” in 2006. He makes a couple of interesting points regarding the link between Islam and democracy. Here are some questions related to the reading:

  1. What proportion of the world’s Muslims currently lives in states with democratic regimes? Are these states full liberal democracies?
  2. What does he term the “lagging third”, and where can it be found?
  3. What is ironic about some of the countries in the “lagging third?”
  4. What two historical events, according to Ibrahim, are responsible for putting a halt to democratization in the Middle East?
  5. What, according to Ibrahim, is the link between the creation of Israel and the presence of authoritarian regimes in the Arab world?
  6. Are Arab-Islamic regimes authoritarian due to Arab-Muslim cultural and religious exceptionalism?
  7. How does he characterize the Arab dictators’ “cynical appeal.”
  8. In the battle between “autocrats” and “theocrats” with whom should liberal liberal democrats (such as he) side? Why?
  9. How can the role of the Catholic in Poland during Communism inform the potential role of the mosque in the Arab world?
  10. What does the Arabic shura mean?
  11. How does Ibrahim view the the electoral victories of Hamas (in the Palestinian territory) and radical Shia groups in Iraq? Is the detrimental or beneficial to democracy in these places?
  12. What is the “one person, one vote, one time” phenomenon, and should we be worried about its potential appearance in the Arab world?

Ibrahim, Saad Eddin. 2007. “Toward Muslim Democracies,” Journal of Democracy, Vol. 18, No.2, 5-13.

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