The topic for the next paper assignment in PLSC240 is “Democracy and Culture”. You will be required to assess the democratic potential of various cultural orientations for democracy, using the Diamond and Morlino volume as a guide. In Assessing the Quality of Democracy, various essential components of democracy are analyzed, including responsiveness, equality, freedom and accountability. Your task will be to comparatively assess the quality of democracy in two countries, one of which is “Western” in its cultural orientation, the other of which is “non-Western.” I’ll have more information for you on the specifics of the assignment when you get back from break on the 18th.
For now, I’ll remind you that on Thursday, those of you who did not leave early for spring break watched a Frontline documentary on Muslims and the democratic potential of Islam. You were shown the diversity in the manner in which Islam is practiced across five different countries–Egypt, Iran, Malaysia, and Turkey, and Nigeria. You were also able to begin to understand the varied roles and treatment of women across all of these predominantly Muslim countries. This tied in well with the Steven Fish article [you have to be on campus to access the article] that you were assigned to read in advance of viewing the video. What is Fish’s argument about the link between women in Islamic societies and democracy? I’ve attached a preview of the documentary below. You can watch the whole documentary online, by clicking here.
The Gallup Polling outfit has a new book out based on a massive (over 50,000 respondents) recent poll on attitudes amongst the world’s approximately 1.3 billion Muslims. Let us allow the publishers to describe the content themselves:
Gallup’s largest study of Muslim populations worldwide challenges conventional wisdom and the inevitability of a global conflict as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue. Despite widespread media coverage of global terrorism from America and Europe to the Middle East and Asia, little is known about what majorities of the world’s Muslims really think and feel. What do Muslims say about violence and terrorist attacks? What do they say about democracy, women, and relations with the West? What are their values, goals, and religious beliefs?
Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think by John L. Esposito and Dalia Mogahed (Gallup Press; March 2008; hardcover) sheds new light into the “increasing hostility” that Archbishop Tutu characterizes.
In the wake of the terrorist attacks on 9/11, U.S. public officials seemed to have no idea whether or not many Muslims supported the bombings. This troubled Gallup Chairman and CEO Jim Clifton, who felt that “no one in Washington had any idea what 1.3 billion Muslims were thinking, and yet we were working on intricate strategies that were going to change the world for all time.” Clifton commissioned his company to undertake the enormous job.
The result is Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think, based on six years of research and more than 50,000 interviews representing 1.3 billion Muslims who reside in more than 35 nations that are predominantly Muslim or have sizable Muslim populations.
Some of the more intriguing findins?
- Muslims and Americans are equally likely to reject attacks on civilians as morally unjustifiable.
- Large majorities of Muslims would guarantee free speech if it were up to them to write a new constitution AND they say religious leaders should have no direct role in drafting that constitution.
- Muslims around the world say that what they LEAST admire about the West is its perceived moral decay and breakdown of traditional values — the same answers that Americans themselves give when asked this question.
- When asked about their dreams for the future, Muslims say they want better jobs and security, not conflict and violence.
- Muslims say the most important thing Westerners can do to improve relations with their societies is to change their negative views toward Muslims and respect Islam.
Note: the map above is from Professor Juan Cole. The colors refer to the percentage of inhabitants of each state who are Muslims.