Islam, Religious Attitudes, and Democracy

There is a lot of ink being spilled on the question of the compatibility of Islam with democracy. Here is a link to a paper by Mark Tessler, published in the journal, Comparative Politics, in 2002.

“Islam and Democracy in the Middle East: The Impact of Religious Orientations on Attitudes Toward Democracy in Four Arab Countries,” Comparative Politics, Vol. 34 (April 2002): 337-354.

If you are on campus, here is a direct link to a pdf version of the article.

From the Abstract:

“Discussions about democracy in the Arab world often include attention to the political orientations of ordinary men and women. In particular, questions are raised about whether popular attitudes and beliefs constitute an obstacle to democratization, possibly because the religious traditions that predominate in most Arab countries inhibit the emergence of a democratic political culture. But while questions are frequently raised about the views of ordinary citizens, about what is sometimes described as “the Arab street,” answers are most often based on impressionistic and anecdotal information. Indeed, some analyses appear to be influenced by Western stereotypes about Arabs and Muslims. By contrast, systematic empirical inquiries into the nature, distribution, and determinants of political attitudes in the Arab world are rare.

Against this background, the present paper examines the influence of Islam on attitudes toward democracy using public opinion data collected in Palestine (West Bank and Gaza), Morocco, Algeria, and Egypt. In surveys conducted by or in collaboration with Arab scholars, interview schedules containing questions about governance and democracy and also about conceptions and practices relating to Islam were administered to comparatively large and representative samples of adults in all four countries, including two samples in Egypt. These data provide a strong empirical foundation for addressing questions about the relationship between Islam and democracy at the individual level of analysis.”

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