Rethinking Islam and Democracy

Robert W. Hefner

in Rethinking Religion and World Affairs

Published in print April 2012 | ISBN: 9780199827978
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199933020 | DOI:
Rethinking Islam and Democracy

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This chapter examines the question of Islam and democracy by way of four arguments. First, when empirical measures rather than imagined civilizational traits are referenced, it turns out that there is no democracy deficit in the broader Muslim world; a significant number of non-Arab Muslim countries have made impressive headway toward consolidating electoral democracy. Second, survey data also indicate that in most Muslim-majority countries, even those where the government is undemocratic, the Muslim public views democratic institutions favorably, indeed at rates comparable to those in Western countries. Third, notwithstanding their expressed support for democracy, a significant proportion of these Muslim publics has “un-liberal” ideas on women, non-Muslims, and matters of religious freedom. Fourth and last, the accumulated research suggests democratization is alive and well in the non-Arab portions of the Muslim world. However, the evidence also suggests that, as the process moves forward, its accompanying political culture may more closely resemble what some have referred to as a “civil Islamic” or “Muslim” democracy rather than the Atlantic-liberal variety familiar and favored in the U.S. and Western Europe.

Keywords: Muslims; democratic institutions; women; non-Muslims; religious freedom; democratization; political culture; civil Islamic democracy

Chapter.  8838 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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