Islamic Studies Democracy and Islam
by
Abdelwahab El-Affendi
  • LAST REVIEWED: 10 May 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 14 December 2009
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195390155-0018

Introduction

Just as there are numerous versions of democracy (which is why it is called a “contested concept”), the debate on Islam and democracy has polarized participants within Muslim communities and scholarly communities in equal measure. The debates raging in this area fall into two broad categories. At one level, there are internal debates that have been going for over a century within the Muslim world with regard to governance in general and the merits of democracy and its compatibility with Islamic norms in particular. These debates are multifaceted, involving religious scholars endorsing or attacking democratic ideals, politicians advocating or opposing democratization, and secular intellectuals arguing for or against liberal democracy from different ideological perspectives. At another level, there are the academic debates, taking place mainly in the West, but increasingly within numerous institutions with Muslim countries. In addition to tracking and assessing the primary debates, these ‘secondary’ debates often contribute to them. On many occasions, scholarly input (such as early Orientalist writings) has triggered some of the primary debates. The scholarly writings also include a number of empirical studies on the status of democracy in particular regions or countries. The output in both sets of debates has been growing exponentially in recent years, with interesting evolutionary changes and (at times) remarkable shifts in the positions of the major participants.

General Overviews

The bulk of writings on Islam and democracy emerged after the end of the Cold War. Prior to that, democratization in the Muslim world tended to be treated as a subcategory of political development in the Third World, while the internal debate was overshadowed by other ideological debates (over nationalism, socialism, etc.). Works that place the debate within a global context, such as Held 1993 and Keane 2009, thus offer insightful overviews of the ongoing debates from a global perspective, while Taji-Farouki and Nafi 2004 places the debate within the overall context of the evolution of modern Islamic thought. More specific introductions with a focus on Islam and the Middle East include Salamé 1994, Hinnebusch 2006, Ayubi 1995 and Bayat 2007. Binder 1988, by contrast, focuses on liberalism and its prospects. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has published many reports on democratization and democracy promotion in the region.

  • Ayubi, Nazih N. Over-stating the Arab State: Politics and Society in the Middle East. London: I.B. Tauris, 1995.

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    Ayubi’s ambitious attempt to theorize the Arab state within a Gramscian framework overstretches the point at times, but the book offers many insights into the authoritarian nature of the modern state.

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  • Bayat, Asef. Making Islam Democratic: Social Movements and the Post-Islamist Turn. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2007.

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    Argues that questioning the compatibility of Islam and democracy misses the point, since the interpretation of religious injunctions is a matter of struggle and competing readings. Basing his work on contrasting political developments in Egypt and Iran, Bayat shows that even the conservative and often antidemocratic Iranian Islamic constitution has been reinterpreted in response to an exuberant democratic movement.

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  • Binder, Leonard. Islamic Liberalism: A Critique of Development Ideologies. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988.

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    Comprises a direct intellectual engagement with Islamic thought from a liberal perspective, advocating liberalism to Muslims and desperately searching for (and finding) indications of a homegrown “Islamic liberalism.”

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  • Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

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    The Carnegie Endowment has put out a number of interesting publications on democratization in the Muslim world. It also publishes the monthly Arab Reform Bulletin, which covers many issues dealing with democratization.

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  • Held, David, ed. Prospects for Democracy: North, South, East, West. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1993.

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    Offers an overview of the current debate on the nature of democracy and where it is heading. Special attention is given to the links (and tensions) between democracy, liberalism, and the free market. The chapter on the Middle East concludes that problems to do with state-building and economic development, rather than religion, are to blame for the “bleak prospects” for democracy there.

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  • Hinnebusch, Raymond. “Authoritarian Persistence, Democratization Theory and the Middle East: An Overview and Critique.” Democratization 13, no. 3 (2006): 373–395.

    DOI: 10.1080/13510340600579243Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Offers a summary and a critical overview of standard theories of democratization.

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  • Keane, John. The Life and Death of Democracy. New York: W. W. Norton, 2009.

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    A historical overview of the rise and evolution of democracy from a leading authority on the subject, with an incisive analysis and critique of recent developments.

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  • Salamé, Ghassan, ed. Democracy without Democrats? The Renewal of Politics in the Muslim World. London: I.B. Tauris, 1994.

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    Explores the lag of democratization in Muslim regions. The contributors reject the cultural-religious explanation of Muslim “exceptionalism,” and, drawing of a number of case studies from Tunisia to Iran, provide analysis of rates of political change based on diverse factors, including petroleum wealth, population growth, the role of patronage groups, and the private sector.

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  • Taji-Farouki, Suha, and Basheer M. Nafi, eds. Islamic Thought in the Twentieth Century. London: I.B. Tauris, 2004.

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    Offers a broad overview of the intellectual ferment within Islam during the last century. El-Affendi’s chapter “On the State, Democracy and Pluralism” (pp. 172–194) presents a concise summary of the Muslim debate on democracy and the state, and there are other informative chapters about gender, minorities, and reformist thought.

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Bibliographies

In addition to bibliographies included in many of the works cited here (and in General Overviews), in particular the extensive bibliographies in Ayubi 1995, Bayat 2007, Cesari 2004, and Sadiki 2004, there are a number of dedicated bigliographies available online. Of these, Sarsar and Keller’s Select Bibliography on Islam and Democracy is dedicated to works on Islam and democracy, while Schrijver 2006 covers wider themes relating to Islam in sub-Saharan Africa.

Textbooks

Given the intensity of scholarly controversies (as outlined in Introduction, General Overviews, and Bibliographies, as well as addressed specifically in its own section), and the equally intense contests between the reformists and their opponents, it is not easy to identify introductory textbooks that offer “impartial” views on the debate. It is fair to say the majority view within the scholarly community opposes the Orientalist/neoconservative stance, which argues vehemently that Islam is inherently hostile to democracy. Similarly, the majority view within Islam rejects the view of the hard-line Islamists and conservatives who voice a similar opinion that democracy is not acceptable from an Islamic point of view. The views of more conservative and militant 20th-century thinkers are sampled in the chapters on Maududi, Qutb, and Khomeini in Esposito 1983. Abootalebi 2000, Esposito and Voll 1996, and Brynen, et al. 1995 show commendable rigor and thoroughness in surveying the progress of democratization in various Muslim communities. Kramer 1997 presents a more pessimistic view on the same topic. Inoguchi, et al. 1998 is useful as a general introduction to the contemporary democracy debate, while Kamrava 2006 introduces the current reformist scene.

  • Abootalebi, Ali Reza. Islam and Democracy: State-Society Relations in Developing Countries, 1980–1994. New York: Garland, 2000.

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    A wide-ranging introduction to the topic with the self-proclaimed purpose of filling in the theoretical deficit that areas studies have generally been accused of.

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  • Brynen, Rex, Bahgat Korany, and Paul Noble. Political Liberalization and Democratization in the Arab World. Vol. 1. Boulder, CO: Lynne Reinner, 1995.

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    With a focus on Arab politics, a group of leading experts debate four areas impacting democratization: religion and culture, civil society, political economy and the international order. The contributors do not agree on how decisive the role of political culture (religious or secular) is for democratization, but they tend to regard internal factors as more important than international ones.

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  • Esposito, John L., ed. Voices of Resurgent Islam. New York: Oxford University Press, 1983.

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    In addition to a discussion of modern Islamic reformism and studies on such key modern Muslim political theoreticians as Khomeini, Maududi, Shariati, Iqbal, and Qaddafi, the book also includes original contributions by a number of leading Islamist thinkers on democracy and the state.

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  • Esposito, John L. and John O. Voll. Islam and Democracy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.

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    In this early important introductory work, the authors argue that the processes of Islamization and democratization have become closely intertwined in most Muslim areas, and that they are often mutually reinforcing. They examine the role of what they term the “new-style Islamic movements” and their role in the political process.

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  • Hashemi, Nader. Islam, Secularism, and Liberal Democracy: Toward a Democratic Theory for Muslim Societies. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

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    If liberal democracy requires a secular society, and if Islamic societies continue to be attached to religion, how can democracy ever flourish in Muslim societies? Hashemi sets himself the task of unraveling this paradox.

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  • Inoguchi, Takashi, Edward Neman, and John Keane, eds. The Changing Nature of Democracy. Tokyo, Japan: United Nations University Press, 1998.

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    The authors agree that the international diffusion of democracy across cultures must give it different meanings in different contexts. On Islam, they accept that some interpretations may clash with democratic values but conclude that the experience of countries such as Turkey and Indonesia indicate that the Islamic revival could actually further democratization.

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  • Kamrava, Mehran, ed. The New Voices of Islam: Reforming Politics and Modernity; A Reader. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006.

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    Offers a selected sample of contributions from leading reformist voices from across the Muslim world on democracy, gender, liberalism, and related issues. Contributors include Amina Wadud and Liela Ahmed (USA), Gulen (Turkey), Ramadan (UK/Switzerland), Soroush and Kadivar (Iran), among others.

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  • Kramer, Martin, ed. The Islamism Debate. Tel Aviv, Israel: Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, 1997.

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    Offers a largely pessimistic take on the democratizing potential of Islamism. Kramer accuses mainstream academia of alleged bias for showing optimism on this score, but his colleague Satloff admits that power politics is a crucial influence when making such assessments.

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Journals

There are literally thousands of available articles on issues relating to Islam and democracy, published in a wide array of journals. The Arab Studies Quarterly and the Middle East Quarterly have a steady stream of such articles, and so does Foreign Affairs. A selection of articles that appeared in the Journal of Democracy can be found in Diamond, et al. 2003. The Policy Review also continues to publish articles on the topic, such as the interesting debate on Arab liberals in Volume 125 (2004). It is thus not only specialized journals on the Middle East and the Muslim world that are brimming with articles on the subject, other journals have entered the fray as well. For issues dealing with Muslims in the West, journals of European Studies or International Relations have also been wading in on the debate. These include the British Journal of Politics and International Relations and Ethnicities, among others. The Journal of Islamic Studies covers affairs of Muslims both in the West and in the wider Islamic world.

Scholarly Controversies

The debate on democracy in Muslim societies has often been far from tame, with intense polarization at every level. This has also been the case within the scholarly community, where a controversy has raged between those who argue that Islam and democracy are inherently incompatible and those who have a more open mind about the issue. The skeptics come mainly from those influenced by the traditionalist Orientalist schools and include figures such Bernard Lewis, Ernest Gellner, and Martin Kramer. While the skeptics often focus on whether political groups inspired by Islam could possibly play a positive role in democratization, they sometimes see Islam itself as the problem (see Gellner 1994 and Kedourie 1994). Kramer 1996 mounts a spirited attack on what the author sees as academics chasing the mirage of Islamic democracy. Sadowski 1993 offers a critique of this school of thought, which, according to Hirsch 2004, was at times influential in shaping Western foreign policy. By contrast, Mousalli 2001, Sulami 2003, and Feldman 2003 see Islamic democracy as the goal of the majority of Muslims.

  • Feldman, Noah. After Jihad: America and the Struggle for Islamic Democracy. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003.

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    Feldman deplores the obsession in Western discourse on Islam with the tiny minority of violent Islamists, arguing that the majority of Islamic groups are becoming increasingly supportive of democracy. He believes that all indications point to the emergence of an “Islamic democracy,” though it may not be as liberal as the West would wish.

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  • Gellner, Ernest. Conditions of Liberty: Civil Society and its Rivals. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1994.

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    Gellner upholds the uniqueness of the Western political experience, arguing that the secret of the emergence of democracy can be found in the evolution of an autonomous and vigorous “Civil Society.” The Muslim ummah is the historical antithesis of this uniquely Western invention, as religion and politics are fused in Islam and the individual is locked into a tyrannical society.

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  • Hirsch, Michael. “Bernard Lewis Revisited: What if Islam Isn’t an Obstacle to Democracy in the Middle East, But the Secret to Achieving It?” Washington Monthly, November 2004.

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    Explores the idea that certain academic misrepresentations may have been responsible for the American debacle in Iraq. Available online.

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  • Kedourie, Elie. Democracy and Arab Political Culture. 2d ed. London: Frank Cass, 1994.

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    Kedourie departs from the belief that “the idea of democracy is quite alien to the mind-set of Islam” to offer a very pessimistic prognosis for Muslim or Arab democracy.

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  • Kramer, Martin. Arab Awakening and Islamic Revival: The Politics of Ideas in the Middle East. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1996.

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    See in particular the chapter “Islam vs. Democracy,” pp. 265–278. Kramer launches a sustained attack on academics and policymakers he regards as naively optimistic about the prospects of democracy in the Middle East, arguing that since democrats are weak, only Islamists would benefit from democratization. He also dismisses any hope that Islamists could turn into moderate democrats, as many theorists and politicians believe.

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  • Moussalli, Ahmad S. The Islamic Quest for Democracy, Pluralism, and Human Rights. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2001.

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    The author analyzes in detail the ideas and writings of selected modern Islamic leaders, stressing the diversity in modern Islamic thought and its openness to democracy.

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  • Sadowski, Yahya. “The New Orientalism and the Democracy Debate.” Middle East Report 183 (Jul.–Aug., 1993): 14–21, 40.

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    An analysis of Orientalist discourse on Islam and democracy, with an emphasis on the subtle shift in justifying the thesis of incompatibility of Islam and democracy, from arguing that Muslim societies are too weak vis-à-vis the state to saying they are too strong.

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  • Sulami, Mishal Fahm. The West and Islam: Western Liberal Democracy versus the System of Shura. London: Routledge, 2003.

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    Contrasting the traditional concept of shura (and some of its modern reinterpretations, such as those offered by Sudan’s Hasan Turabi) with the ideals of liberal democracy, the author concludes that shura (consultation) can form the basis of liberal democratic politics within Muslim societies.

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Islamic Reformists

An increasing number of Muslim voices have risen since the 1980s, arguing from within the Islamic thought paradigm in favor of democracy and democratization against the traditionalists or dogmatic opponents of democracy. They advance religious, rather than secular, arguments in favor of democracy, thus appealing to the influential Islamist constituency. A large proportion of these authors live in the West, but not all. Most prominent among the latter is the Iranian philosopher, Abdolkarim Soroush (see Soroush 2000), A former firebrand activist within the Islamic revolution who turned into a vocal critic and a proponent of “religious democracy.” Another author from within the Shiʿi tradition, United States-based Abdulaziz Sachedina (see Sachedina 2001), offers a spirited defense of pluralism from an Islamic perspective. A second United States-based Muslim scholar, Abou El Fadl, et al. 2004, advocates democracy from the perspective of classical (Sunni) juristic Islamic thought. A more diverse approach is adopted by M. A. Khan, who advocates democracy from different but complementary perspectives (Khan 2006). These interventions follow earlier, but equally vehement, pleas for incorporating democracy in Islamic thought, such as those of Abdelwahab El-Affendi (see El-Affendi 2008), and even earlier ones such as those of Muhammad Hussain Naʾini (1860–1936) at the dawn of the 20th century (see Kurzman 1998). Tamimi 2001 documents the contribution of a leading and influential Islamist figure, the Tunisian Rachid al-Ghannouchi, to the debate.

  • Abou El Fadl, Khaled, Deborah Chasman, and Joshua Cohen. Islam and the Challenge of Democracy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004.

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    Abou El-Fadl looks at the question of the compatibility of Islam and democracy by asking, “How, then, can a democratic conception of the people’s authority be reconciled with an Islamic understanding of God’s authority?” He proposes an elaborate answer based on classical juristic formulations, which can be summed up in the assertion that God has in fact delegated his authority to humanity in general and to the Muslim community in particular.

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  • El-Affendi, Abdelwahab. Who Needs an Islamic State? 2d ed. London: Malaysia Think Tank London. 2008.

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    When this book was first published in 1991, it stirred a fierce controversy for advancing a conceptual and ethical critique of the concept of the Islamic state from within the Islamic tradition and advocating an unequivocal commitment to democracy. The second edition comes with a summary and partial documentation of that controversy and updates the argument in view of recent developments.

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  • Khan, M. A., ed. Islamic Democratic Discourse: Theory, Debates, and Philosophical Perspectives. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2006.

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    Khan states that the aim of this volume is to search for “an authentic formula for good and ethical self-governance” from within the Islamic perspective. Contains contributions by leading Muslim thinkers and one non-Muslim academic, who either map the debate on democracy, contribute to it, or do both, and includes discussions of political developments in Malaysia, Sudan, Turkey and Iran.

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  • Kurzman, Charles. Liberal Islam: A Source Book. New York: Oxford University Press 1998.

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    Offers a treasure trove of seminal texts tracing liberal and democratic tendencies within indigenous Islamic thought over the last century and beyond, bolstering the author’s arguments against the facile stereotyping of Islamic thought as stagnant or inherently antidemocratic. The areas of democracy, women’s rights, freedom of thought, and minority rights, among others, are covered.

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  • Sachedina, Abdulaziz. The Islamic Roots of Democratic Pluralism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

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    Using direct and extensive quotations from the Qurʾan and Prophetic tradition, the author seeks to demonstrate that pluralism is an authentic part of Islamic teachings. Sachedina challenges orthodox interpretations and historical practices that treated non-Muslim minorities on unequal terms, arguing that interpretations which exclude other religious traditions are not valid from the perspective of Islamic core beliefs.

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  • Soroush, Abdolkarim. Reason, Freedom, and Democracy in Islam: Essential Writings of Abdolkarim Saroush. Translated and edited by Mahmoud Sadri and Ahmad Sadri. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

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    This selection of essays by this renowned scholar shows why he is one of the most celebrated advocates of democracy in the Muslim world today. Using deep theological reflections and powerful philosophical arguments, Soroush argues that only in democracy can the true spirit of religion in general, and Islam in particular, find true expression.

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  • Tamimi, Azzam S. Rachid Ghannouchi: A Democrat within Islamism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

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    Originally a doctoral thesis, Tamimi’s work examines the thought and political biography of the now exiled Tunisian Islamist leader, Rachid al-Ghannouchi, and concludes that he was one of the first Islamist leaders who vehemently and unequivocally advocated de mocracy.

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Democracy Promotion

The question of democracy promotion has come to prominence in recent years, particularly following the 9/11 attacks in the United States. Western countries once voiced support of democratization in the context of the Cold War polarization, but as President George W. Bush noted in his November 2003 speech to the National Endowment for Democracy, actual policy tended toward supporting authoritarian regimes. In the ensuing years, America’s newly declared determination to spread democracy in Muslim countries was mired in controversy, in particular due to the link with the invasion of Iraq. It was also resisted by United States allies in the region, and by some European Union countries that favored their own low-key involvement with the region’s governments. The evolution, philosophy, and practical implementation of those policies has been outlined and assessed in works such as Carothers and Ottaway 2005, and criticized in others, including El-Affendi 2005. Albright, et al. 2005 makes the argument for Arab democracy from the perspective of United States interests.

  • El-Affendi, Abdelwahab. The Conquest of Muslim Hearts and Minds? Perspectives on U.S. Reform and Public Diplomacy Strategies. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, Saban Center for Middle East Policy, 2005.

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    Challenges the democracy promotion strategies of the United States and its allies on a number of points, in particular for being undertaken for the wrong reasons (to combat terrorism), and thus using democratization as an adjunct to the war effort, and for being pursued half-heartedly and lacking in credibility. Available online from the Brookings Institution.

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  • Albright, Madeleine K., Vin Weber, and Steven A. Cook. In Support Of Arab Democracy: Why and How; Report of an Independent Task Force. New York: Council on Foreign Relations, 2005.

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    The task force led by Albright, Weber, and Cook concluded that the promotion of democracy in the Arab world will serve United States interests, but that it must be pursued cautiously, taking into account the specific situation in each country.

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  • Carothers, Thomas, and Marina Ottaway, eds. Uncharted Journey: Promoting Democracy in the Middle East. Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2005.

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    Explores the consequences of the perceived shift in United States (and to a lesser extent EU) policy away from an alliance with regional dictators and toward support for democratization in the Middle East. The various authors debate whether positive trends towards democratization in the region exist and what is the best way to support them externally.

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Quantitative and Empirical Perspectives

The works selected in this section offer good examples of empirical investigations into the status of democracy in the Muslim world. While al-Braizat 2002 and Tessler 2002 use survey data from a large number of Muslim countries to rebut familiar arguments made about Muslim attitudes to democracy, Çarkoğlu and Kalaycioğlu 2007 offers an interesting analysis of Turkish voters’ attitudes and choices. El-Badawi and Makdisi 2007 offers a statistically backed analysis of the problems of Arab democracy.

  • al-Braizat, Fares. “Muslims and Democracy: an Empirical Critique of Fukuyama’s Culturalist Approach.” International Journal of Comparative Sociology 43, nos. 3–5 (2002): 269–299.

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    Offers a systematic empirical repost to claims made by Fukuyama about Muslim hostility to liberal democracy, using extensive survey data to prove that theory wrong.

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  • Çarkoğlu, Ali, and Ersin Kalaycioğlu. Turkish Democracy Today: Elections, Protest and Stability in an Islamic Society. London: I.B. Tauris, 2007.

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    Provide a meticulous survey and an in-depth analysis of voters’ choices and attitudes in recent Turkish elections.

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  • El-Badawi, Ibrahim, and Samir Makdisi. “Explaining the Democracy Deficit in the Arab World.” Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance 46, no. 5 (2007): 813–831.

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    The authors try to provide empirical answers to questions about the causes for the “Arab democracy deficit.” Using a complex statistical method, they find that two variables appear to be responsible: oil and conflict.

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  • Sarsar, Saliba. “Quantifying Arab Democracy: Democracy in the Middle East.” Middle East Quarterly 13, no. 3: (Summer 2006): 21–28.

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    Sarsar makes an ambitious attempt to construct and apply a democracy index to measure and compare progress towards democracy in all Arab countries. The success of her attempt to improve on existing indices, such those of Freedom House or Polity IV, remains an open question. Available online from the Middle East Forum.

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  • Tessler, Mark. “Do Islamic Orientations Influence Attitudes Toward Democracy in the Arab World? Evidence from Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and Algeria.” International Journal of Comparative Sociology 43, nos. 3–5 (2002): 229–249.

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    Using extensive survey data from selected Arab countries, Tessler shows conclusively that religious inclinations do not negatively affect preferences for democracy.

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Democracy in Specific Regions

The debate on democracy and Islam has been criticized for generalizing too much about the “Muslim world,” a vast and diverse region with different histories and cultural traditions. No less serious is the tendency to generalize from the Arab Middle East to the rest of the Muslim world. This tendency neglects the fact that the vast majority of Muslims live outside this area, and it overlooks the great diversity of Muslim peoples and regions. For most of the period from 1999 to 2009, the Freedom House index recorded Mali and Senegal (both in sub-Saharan Africa) as the only “free” Muslim-majority countries. Indonesia, the largest Muslim country, was added to this category in 2006. A number of works attempt to highlight this fact and provide the broader picture. In this regard, Diamond, et al. 2003 and Hunter and Malik 2005 are interesting in their scope of coverage, which is not restricted to the Middle East but takes account of the Muslim world’s diversity. Garnham and Tessler 1995 do indeed dwell on the Middle East, but from a perspective seeking to explore the links between democracy and peace.

  • Bellin, Eva. “The Robustness of Authoritarianism in the Middle East.” Comparative Politics 36, no. 2 (2004): 139–158.

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    Offers a penetrating theoretical analysis of the phenomenon of durable authoritarianism.

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  • Diamond, Larry, Marc F. Plattner, and Daniel Brumberg, eds. Islam and Democracy in the Middle East. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003.

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    Consisting of articles previously published in the Journal of Democracy, this book covers both theoretical (authoritarianism, secularization, reform, terrorism, modernity, etc.) and regional themes. The ups and downs (more downs than ups) of democratization in Turkey, Iran, the Arab Gulf, and most major Arab countries are discussed.

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  • Garnham, David, and Mark A Tessler. Democracy, War, and Peace in the Middle East. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995.

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    While expressing cautious optimism about the prospects for Arab democracy over the long term, the contributors voice apprehension about the commitment of Arab opinion to tolerance and diversity, especially if democracy brings Islamist groups to power. The authors do not reach agreement about whether liberalization and democratization in Arab countries could further the prospects for peace in the region.

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  • Hunter, Shireen T. and Huma Malik. Modernization, Democracy, and Islam. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2005.

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    Discusses modernization, development, gender, culture, and, of course, Islamism and democracy. The authors follow the Arab Human Development Report (United Nations Development Programme 2002–2005, cited in the section Arab world) in seeing development and democracy as closely interconnected. But the book also incorporates a number of interesting case studies, ranging from Indonesia to Iran, Turkey, and the Arab world, and includes sections on Central Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

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Africa, Sub-Saharan

In spite of being home to some of the Muslim world’s most successful democratic experiments, sub-Saharan Africa has not received sufficient attention in the debates on democracy and democratization. Africa itself is a very diverse continent, and Muslim political involvement in its affairs reflects this diversity. In many countries, Muslims are a minority, often a substantial one. In others, they form the majority but still share the country with others. Writings on democracy and democratization tend to reflect these complex realities, as in Bratton 2003, which used survey data to discuss Muslim attitudes to democracy in countries that are geographically and politically diverse. Beckett and Young 1997 focuses on Nigeria, Africa’s largest country, which is evenly balanced between Muslims and Christians but has witnessed fervent Islamization in its northern Muslim regions. Cruise O’Brien 2004 uses the author’s extensive expertise on Senegal to shed light on a country that has become a model democracy, and it attempts to compare Senegal with developments elsewhere on the continent.

  • Beckett, Paul A., and Crawford Young, eds. Dilemmas of Democracy in Nigeria. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 1997.

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    See, in particular, the chapter “Muslims, State, and the Struggle for Democratic Transition in Nigeria: From Cooperation to Conflict.”

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  • Bratton, Michael. “Briefing: Islam, Democracy and Public Opinion in Africa.” African Affairs 102 (2003): 493–501.

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    Bratton uses survey data from four African countries (Mali, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Uganda) to show conclusively that there is no foundation to the often-repeated claims that being Muslim entails hostility to democracy.

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  • Cruise O’ Brien, Donal B. Symbolic Confrontations: Muslims Imagining the State in Africa. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.

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    Provides background to recent political developments in Africa, with special emphasis on the transformation of Muslim communities in Senegal and Kenya. Author is a seasoned expert on the region.

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  • Quinn, Charlotte A., and Frederick Quinn. Pride, Faith, and Fear: Islam in Sub-Saharan Africa. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.

    DOI: 10.1093/0195063864.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Discusses the politics of both Muslim minorities and majorities in five African countries (Senegal, Sudan, Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa). There is an emphasis on the negative aspects of Muslim political involvement (conflict, “extremism,” foreign influence from Iran and the Middle East, etc.), leading some commentators to accuse the authors of “essentialism” and anti-Muslim bias.

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Arab World

The Arab world is disproportionately covered in the democracy debate. This is due to the international salience of the Middle East in world politics, and also because it is here that authoritarianism has shown astonishing durability. This (and actual developments on the ground) have led some analysts to argue that the democracy problem is an Arab, rather than an Islamic, one. Arab dictators have not only proved puzzlingly tenacious, but also exceptionally brutal. Abuses of human rights occur here on an unprecedented scale. The tenacity of Arab authoritarianism has provoked searching questions, such as those posed in Heydemann 2007 and Pratt 2007, which attempt to explore the surprising adaptability of the autocrats. The pessimist view is expressed in Rubin 2005, which is unenthusiastic about democracy promotion in the region, preferring a more cautious approach given what the author sees as the region’s antipathy to democratic values. The Arab world is far from monolithic, as Entelis 1997, on North Africa, indicates. There is also a diversity of voices and a newfound vibrancy in civil society, as both Sadiki 2004 and Lynch 2006 try to show, sounding a more optimistic note. Lynch also discusses post-invasion Iraq, which the Bush administration wanted to be a model for positive change, although things have not gone precisely as was intended. The Arab Human Development Report (United Nations Development Programme 2002–2005) is, by contrast, mercilessly self-critical.

  • Entelis, John P., ed. Islam, Democracy, and the State in North Africa. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1997.

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    Focuses on the “crisis of authoritarianism” in North African states, employing the “competing but complementary perspectives of political culture and political economy.” Includes a concise but illuminating outline of how scholarship on the region developed from the early optimism of modernization theory to the despair and confusion of the current phase. The contributors advance both cultural and economic explanations to account for the stubborn resistance to democratization in the states concerned.

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  • Heydemann, Steven. Upgrading Authoritarianism in the Arab World. Analysis Paper 13. Washington. DC: Brookings Institution, Saban Center for Middle East Policy, 2007.

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    A revealing report about how Arab autocracies have adapted to the internal and external pressures of democratization without doing any. Available online from the Brookings Institution.

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  • Lynch, Marc. Voices of the New Arab Public: Iraq, Al-Jazeera, and Middle East Politics Today. New York: Columbia University Press, 2006.

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    No discussion of contemporary Arab politics is complete without reference to the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera satellite channel, and Lynch presents a fascinating introduction to the topic by combining it with the other earth-shattering event of the region: the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. The emergence of the relatively open Arab media, Lynch argues, has helped shape a “new Arab public,” preoccupied with identity politics and eager to see political reform.

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  • Pratt, Nicola. Democracy and Authoritarianism in the Arab World. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2007.

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    Examines the elements underpinning the durability of Arab authoritarianism, arguing that part of the problem is that civil society appears to be complicit, or at least acquiescing, in the hegemonic project and its “normalization.”

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  • Rubin, Barry. The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley, 2005.

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    Rubin, the director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center in Israel, offers a pessimistic perspective on democratization and councils caution in democracy promotion. While he celebrates the small band of Arab liberals, he argues that the main impediments to Arab democracy are internal.

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  • Sadiki, Larbi. The Search for Arab Democracy: Discourses and Counter-Discourses. New York: Columbia University Press, 2004.

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    Combines theoretical explorations (including polemics with Orientalists and others) with empirical investigation in attempt to map the current discourses on Arab democracy. These discourses are followed from their roots in the 19th-century nahda (renaissance) to present debates, and the contributions of feminists and Islamists to the debate are highlighted.

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  • United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Arab Human Development Report. New York: UNDP Regional Bureau for Arab States, 2002–2005.

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    Since its launch in 2002, this series of reports, authored by a group of prominent Arab intellectuals (four in all), has received worldwide acclaim and stirred controversy for adopting a savagely self-critical approach. The reports link the lag in development in Arab countries to three causes: knowledge deficit, lack of freedoms, and failure to empower women. Only if these three deficits are addressed can proper human development proceed.

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Asia

Asia is where the bulk of Muslims live, and it is also where democracy has made the most headway, except for sub-Saharan Africa. The areas closer to the Middle East, like Afghanistan and Pakistan (which were, according to the G-8 initiative of 2004, considered part of the “Greater Middle East”) continue to have troubles in this area. The authoritarian regimes of Central Asia have also shown remarkable resilience (and a “Middle Eastern” predilection to brutality). However, countries like Indonesia and Malaysia have made considerable progress in evolving stable, consensual, and relatively prosperous systems of governance. A growing volume of literature seeks to highlight developments in these areas. Indonesia, as the most populous Muslim country, and also one that had made rather impressive progress in embracing pluralist democracy, has received well-deserved attention. Together with Malaysia, it is the focus Nathan and Kamali 2005. Both countries figure in Hefner 2005, but this time with a number of other Asian and Arab countries. Hasan 2007 takes an equally broad view of the Asian scene, including Bangladesh, Iran, and Turkey. Pakistan, which, like Afghanistan and Iraq, has become the focus of international attention and action, is the focus of Rizvi 2000, Cohen 2004, and, together with India and Bangladesh, Stern 2001. Afghanistan is discussed in Hefner’s work but is the focus of a much more detailed investigation in Morgan 2007, which combines analysis with an eyewitness account of the first elections after the invasion. Central Asia, which remains grossly underrepresented in the literature, is the subject of an interesting analysis in Peimani 2002.

  • Cohen, Stephen Philip. The Idea of Pakistan. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2004.

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    A good introduction to the complex entity that is Pakistan, and to the dangers and opportunities it faces.

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  • Hasan, Zoya, ed. Democracy in Muslim Societies: The Asian Experience. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2007.

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    One of the rare one-volume introduction to Muslim politics in Asia, discussing democracy and democratization in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Iran, and Turkey.

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  • Hefner, Robert W., ed. Remaking Muslim Politics: Pluralism, Contestation, Democratization. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005.

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    In addition to offering reflections on the impact of the new media and other recent developments on Muslim politics, this volume explores democratic politics (or its absence) in Malaysia, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Turkey, and several Arab countries.

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  • Morgan, Matthew J. A Democracy Is Born: An Insider’s Account of the Battle Against Terrorism in Afghanistan. Westport, Ct: Praeger, 2007.

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    Written by a former United States Army intelligence officer, this book is understandably upbeat about the United States-led political experiment in Afghanistan, describing it as “one of the most historic events of our time.” The hyperbole apart, the work provides important insights about the struggles going on inside Afghanistan and the United States strategy to build democracy there, albeit at the barrel of a gun.

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  • Nathan, K. S., and Mohammad Hashim Kamali, eds. Islam in Southeast Asia: Political, Social, and Strategic Challenges for the 21st Century. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2005.

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    A group of leading experts in the region debate the challenges posed by modernity to Islamic traditions, including the challenges of democracy and peaceful coexistence in the globalized post-9/11 era.

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  • Peimani, Hooman. Failed Transition, Bleak Future? War and Instability in Central Asia and the Caucasus. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2002.

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    Even by comparison with other Muslim regions, Central Asia remains a bleak desert where the green shoots of democracy have yet to appear. Peimani tries to explain why this is so.

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  • Rizvi, Hasan-Askari. Military, State, and Society in Pakistan. Houndmills, UK: Macmillan, 2000.

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    In many Muslim countries, the discussion around threats to democracy has tended to focus on Islamism, but in Pakistan the military have been seen as the main threat to democracy. This work looks at the dynamics of civil-military relations in Pakistan and how they have hampered democratic stability.

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  • Stern, Robert W. Democracy and Dictatorship in South Asia: Dominant Classes and Political Outcomes in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2001.

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    Stern tries to explain why the evolution of democracy in Pakistan and Bangladesh, in contrast to India, has been slow and uneven, in spite of the three countries sharing a history until independence. He partly blames British imperialism institutionalizing communalism, which shaped the subcontinent’s dominant classes.

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Europe and North America

Muslims now figure prominently in the politics of Western countries (Europe, North America, Australia, etc.), making the debate on Islam and democracy no longer just a foreign policy issue. A fast-growing body of literature discusses the impact of the Muslim presence on Western democracy, both from the perspective of how Muslims are dealing with this presence and how established democracies are adapting to challenges posed by Islamophobia and other problems. For some, the Muslim presence in the West is a positive development, since Western Muslims enjoy more freedoms to debate and experiment with new thinking, making them influential in the much-needed Islamic reform. Strum 2005, emphasizes this aspect of Muslim presence and participation. This is also the perspective put forth by Safi 2003. While Cesari 2004 also highlights the positive aspect of Muslim adaptation to secular Western democracy, it also notes the rising anti-Muslim sentiments on both sides of the Atlantic. Tibi 2007, while critical of the rising Islamophobic sentiments, puts the onus on Muslims to adapt by evolving a moderate “Euro-Islam” more accepting of secularism.

  • Cesari, Jocelyne. When Islam and Democracy Meet: Muslims in Europe and in the United States. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.

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    The title might give the erroneous impression that the author endorses the notion that democracy is identical with the West, and that Islam comes to it as a stranger. However, Cesari is severely critical of such essentialist approaches and provides a thoughtful and sensitive assessment of the struggle of Muslims to adapt to life in the West.

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  • Safi, Omid, ed. Progressive Muslims: On Justice, Gender, and Pluralism. Oxford, UK: Oneworld, 2003.

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    At one level, this a “militant reformist” tract in which the contributors (including Islamic feminists, jurists, and scholars) mount a spirited defense of democracy and pluralism based on sometimes controversial reinterpretations of Islamic doctrine. At another, it is a celebration of American Muslim identity and an audacious claim on behalf of Muslim Americans for leadership of the ummah.

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  • Strum, Philippa, ed. Muslims in the United States: Identity, Influence, Innovation. Proceedings of Conferences sponsored by the Division of United States Studies, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, 2005.

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    This work incorporates the proceeding of two conferences, held in 2003 and 2005, where leading Muslim scholars and other experts deliberated on the status of Muslims in the United States and their potential contributions to both United States politics and the international Islamic reform movement. Available online from the Wilson Center.

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  • Tibi, Bassam. Political Islam, World Politics and Europe: Democratic Peace and Euro-Islam versus Global Jihad. London: Routledge, 2007.

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    Links the democracy versus extremism debate with the debate about the future place of Muslims in Europe, arguing for a “Euro-Islam” more accommodating of European culture and democracy.

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Iran

Iran has received a great deal of attention in view of its interesting recent history, offering inspiration as an Islamic model after its Islamic revolution of 1997, and then again, during the Khatami interlude (1997–2004), as a possible democratic model. Iran’s regional influence continues to be a matter of concern for world powers as well as some of its neighbors, a point that Nasr and Gheissari 2006 takes issue with, arguing that Iran’s revolutionary fervor has long cooled, with the country turning into a “mundane” autocracy preoccupied with survival. Jahanbakhsh 2001, written during the Khatami “revolution,” expresses more optimism about an eventual democratic transition. Siavoshi 2007 explores the way Khomeini’s legacy is being deployed by the rival trends in Iran to back their divergent projects.

  • Jahanbakhsh, Forough. Islam, Democracy and Religious Modernism in Iran, 1953–2000: From Bāzargān to Soroush. Boston, MA: Brill, 2001.

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    Maps the half century of debates and contests over Islam and democracy in 20th-century Iran, with a focus on seven selected key figures. These include Ali Shariati, Abdolkarim Soroush, and, needless to say, Ayatollah Khomeini. This book was written during the heady days of Katami’s popularity and reflects the optimism of that era about the future of democracy in Iran.

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  • Nasr, Vali, and Ali Gheissari. Democracy in Iran: History and the Quest for Liberty. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.

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    Offer an up-to-date and very thorough account of political developments within revolutionary Iran, which has turned from a revolutionary theocracy into a rather mundane authoritarian regime of the familiar type. The authors conclude that while democracy survives as an ideal in modern Iran, its institutional prerequisites, particularly in the realm of state-building, are still not fully there.

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  • Siavoshi, Sussan. “Ayatollah Khomeini and the Contemporary Debate on Freedom.” Journal of Islamic Studies 18, no. 1 (2007): 14–42.

    DOI: 10.1093/jis/etl042Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Explores how rival factions in the Iran democracy debate have sought to appropriate the authority of the founder of the Islamic Republic to their respective causes.

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Turkey

Turkey’s relatively successful struggle to achieve democracy has provoked an intense debate of late, similar to the one provoked in an earlier era by its unprecedented drive toward wholesale Westernization. The country is described in Lewis 1994 as the Muslim world’s only democracy, though this was before the strides it made toward a more stable form of democracy, in particular the ascendancy to power of the AK Party in 2002. This process is described and analyzed from various angles in Yavuz 2006, while Atasoy 2005 sees in it another manifestation of capitalist-dominated globalization.

  • Atasoy, Yildz. Turkey, Islamists and Democracy: Transition and Globalization in a Muslim State. London: I.B. Tauris, 2005.

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    Explores the Islamist phenomenon in the context of globalization. Put simply (if not simplistically), the argument is that the rise of Islamism is a reflection of how the world capitalist system operates locally and within a given cultural-social setup.

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  • Heper, Metin, and Sabri Sayari. Political Leaders and Democracy in Turkey. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2002.

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    Because it was published before the recent dramatic shift in Turkish politics, this volume is slightly outdated. However, it offers indispensable background information and an insight into Turkey’s bumpy path toward democracy. The authors closely examine the political contribution of key leaders, from Ataturk to Tansu Çiller.

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  • Lewis, Bernard. 1994. “Why Turkey is the only Muslim Democracy.” Middle East Quarterly 1, no. 1 (1994).

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    This is vintage Lewis, giving the classical Orientalist take on why non-Westerners cannot even understand what democracy was about, let alone practice it successfully. He was prepared to make an exception for Turkey, though wrongly, it must be said, since Turkey did not qualify as a democracy then, let alone being the only one. and procceds to explain why Turkey was such an exception. Available online.

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  • Yavuz, M. Hakan, ed. The Emergence of a New Turkey: Islam, Democracy, and the AK Parti. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2006.

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    Reflects on the interesting changes witnessed by Turkey in the first years of the 21st century, particularly since the surprising rise of power of the pro-Islamist Justice and Development Party (JDP) under its charismatic leader Recep Tayyib Erdogan. The bulk of the authors here seem to suggest that Turkey has approached a democratic polity more than at any time in its modern history.

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