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Is Islam Pro-Democracy? - Facts & Infographic

Is Islam Pro-Democratic?

Muslim Countries in the World

Arab Spring

The greatest expression of the need for democracy among the Islamic nations of the Arab world came in the form of the Arab Spring – a wave of revolutionary protests and demonstrations bordering on civil war. The rulers of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen were ousted as a result. Bahrain and Syria saw major civil uprisings. Apart from these Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, and Sudan broke out in major protests while countries such as Lebanon, Mauritania, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Djibouti, and Western Sahara have been the scene for minor protests and clashes.

Democracy has been the biggest agenda in these revolutions that broke out on December 18, 2010 and are ongoing in many countries. The slogan that has united the demonstrators in all these Arab countries is Ash-shab yurid isqat an-nizam ("the people want to bring down the regime").

Governmental changes that the Arab Spring brought about -

  • In Tunisia, President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was ousted, and government overthrown. Democracy was instituted.

  • In Egypt, President Hosni Mubarak was ousted, and the autocratic government was overthrown. Democratic elections were held and a news president elected.

  • Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was killed after a civil war. Foreign military intervention became necessary.

  • In Yemen, President Ali Abdullah Saleh was ousted; power was passed on to a national unity government.

  • The full-scale civil war in Syria is ongoing. The autocratic government has garnered international opposition in addition to indigenous protests.

  • The government of Bahrain faced a civil uprising despite ordering reforms and changes.

  • Kuwait, Lebanon and Oman faced a number of protests and implemented governmental changes.

  • Morocco, Jordan implemented constitutional reforms.

  • Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and some other countries faced protest.

What Muslim Nations Say…

In July 2012, over a year after the start of the Arab Spring, Pew Research Center published a report called “Most Muslims Want Democracy, Personal Freedoms, and Islam In Political Life”. Among the countries surveyed were Egypt Jordan, Lebanon, Tunisia, Turkey, and Pakistan – all nations with majority Muslim populations and with democratic governments. Most of the nations showed an increase in preference for democracy. In 2011 the percentage of respondents preferring democracy was – Lebanon 81%, Turkey 66%, Egypt 71%, Jordan 72%, and Pakistan 42%. In 2012, the percentage was Lebanon 84%, Turkey 71%, Egypt 67%, Jordan 61%, Tunisia 63%, and Pakistan 42%. Egypt and Jordan had taken a negative dip and Tunisia had been surveyed for the first time in 2012.

In five of these nations, most of the respondents believe that Islam has a very large and important role to play in politics. In 2010, the percentage of respondents who agreed that Islam played a major role in politics was – Egypt 47%, Pakistan 46%, Lebanon 59%, Jordan 35%, and Turkey, 69%. In 2012, respondents agreeing to the question were - Egypt 66%, Pakistan 62%, Lebanon 61%, Jordan 31%, Turkey, 64%, and Tunisia 84%.

Islamic extremist groups are largely rejected by these nations, says the poll. While there is some support most respondents were not radical in their views. Palestinian organization Hamas and Lebanese Shia group Hezbollah received most support from the respondents.

 

Supporters (%)

 

Hamas

Hezbollah

al Qaeda

Taliban

Turkey

10

6

6

7

Egypt

39

20

19

19

Jordan

44

29

14

10

Lebanon

30

40

2

2

Tunisia

50

46

16

12

Pakistan

15

15

13

13

 

Islam, Economics, and Democracy

Democracy is clearly the preferred form of government according to the Pew Research Center poll of 2012. The majority of the respondents in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Tunisia, and Pakistan have expressed a strong desire for democratic rights and institutions such as freedom of speech and a multi-party system. Democracy and political stability, however, seem to fall back when it comes to the need for economic stability.

In Turkey 37% respondents expressed a desire for a strong economy while 58% thought that a good democracy was the need of the hour. In Lebanon while 46% desired a robust economy, 53% desired a good democracy. In Egypt 49% preferred a healthy economy while 48% preferred a democracy. 59% Tunisians preferred a strong economy to the 40% who chose a strong democracy. In Pakistan 58% prefer a strong economy to the 34% who prefer a good democracy. In Jordan, 61% prefer a strong economy while 33% prefer a good democracy.

The outlook of the respondents about the economic situation in these countries is majorly negative. While about 57% of the Turkish respondents believe that their economy is robust, over 70% of Pakistanis, Lebanese, Tunisian, Egyptian, and Jordanian respondents are negative about their country's economy and would like to see major improvements. The Tunisian and Egyptian respondents, however, showed a lot of optimism about the change in governance. 75% of the Tunisian respondents and 50% of the Egyptians believed that the economy would improve in the next 12 months.

Sharia and Democracy

"The reintroduction of sharia is a longstanding goal for Islamist movements in Muslim countries, but attempts to impose sharia have been accompanied by controversy, violence, and even warfare such as the Second Sudanese Civil War. Some in Israel and other countries in Asia have maintained institutional recognition of sharia..." - Wikipedia

Sharia is the moral code of conduct and the religious law of Islam. It designates a code to many aspects of social living including crime, politics, and economics apart from matters of personal concern such as sexual intercourse, diet, prayer, and faith. The interpretations of sharia vary between cultures and in different countries.

The Sharia has been increasingly perceived as a threat to the ideals that most democratic nations honor. In 2010, an article in The Economist reported "The term is bandied about in Europe, too. Germany's chancellor, Angela Merkel, recently felt it necessary to assure her fellow Christian Democrats that, whatever steps might be needed to help immigrants, “it's the constitution that applies, not sharia.” From the other side, the word elicits knee-jerk protectiveness among Muslims. When 40% of Muslim Britons told a pollster they liked the idea of sharia being applied in parts of Britain, that was not a demand for Saudi-style beheading, but a gut defence of a faith they see as under threat"

Islamic Democracy

Democracy Index is an index put together by the Economist Intelligence Unit t attempts to measure the state of democracy in a number of countries. In 2011, 167 countries were studied, of which 166 are sovereign states and 165 are United Nations member states. The Democracy Index rates countries based on 60 democracy indicators in five different categories - electoral process and pluralism, civil liberties, functioning of government, political participation and political culture. The countries are categorized into full democracies, flawed democracies, hybrid regimes and authoritarian regimes.

Apart from this the degree of democracy and freedom in a country is also measured by Freedom in the World, an annual report by US –based Freedom House.

As of 2012, the only Muslim-majority nation designated as democratic by both Freedom in the World and by the Democracy Index is Indonesia.

The following is the categorization of Muslim- majority nations by the Democracy Index 2011 –

Country

Democracy Index Category

Afghanistan

Authoritarian regime

Albania

Hybrid regime

Algeria

Authoritarian regime

Azerbaijan

Authoritarian regime

Bahrain

Authoritarian regime

Bangladesh

Hybrid regime

Brunei

Authoritarian regime

Burkina Faso

Authoritarian regime

Chad

Authoritarian regime

Comoros

Authoritarian regime

Djibouti

Authoritarian regime

Egypt

Hybrid regime

Guinea

Authoritarian regime

Indonesia

Flawed democracy

Iran

Authoritarian regime

Iraq

Hybrid regime

Jordan

Authoritarian regime

Kazakhstan

Authoritarian regime

Kuwait

Authoritarian regime

Kyrgyzstan

Hybrid regime

Lebanon

Hybrid regime

Libya

Authoritarian regime

Malaysia

Flawed democracy

Maldives

Full democracy

Mali

Flawed democracy

Mauritania

Hybrid regime

Morocco

Authoritarian regime

Niger

Hybrid regime

Nigeria

Authoritarian regime

Oman

Authoritarian regime

Pakistan

Hybrid regime

Qatar

Authoritarian regime

Saudi Arabia

Authoritarian regime

Senegal

Hybrid regime

Sierra Leone

Hybrid regime

Sudan

Authoritarian regime

Syria

Authoritarian regime

Tajikistan

Authoritarian regime

The Gambia

Authoritarian regime

Tunisia

Hybrid regime

Turkey

Hybrid regime

Turkmenistan

Authoritarian regime

United Arab Emirates

Authoritarian regime

Uzbekistan

Authoritarian regime

Yemen

Authoritarian regime

 

Perceptions

An excerpt from “Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think” by John L. Esposito was published in the Gallup website -

Do Muslims Want Democracy and Theocracy?

"Cutting across diverse Muslim countries, social classes, and gender differences, answers to our questions reveal a complex and surprising reality. Substantial majorities in nearly all nations surveyed (95% in Burkina Faso, 94% in Egypt, 93% in Iran, and 90% in Indonesia) say that if drafting a constitution for a new country, they would guarantee freedom of speech, defined as "allowing all citizens to express their opinion on the political, social, and economic issues of the day."

While most of the western world seems to have doubts about Islam’s pro-democratic thrust, the people of most Islamic countries are increasingly embracing democratic ideals. In 2012 the International Republican Institute conducted a survey in Syria and published results that said that the members of opposition in Syria want a democratic government which protects the rights of minorities. The constitution of the country, however, must be based on Islam. Most Islamic politicians and scholars tend to believe that the religion itself has been grossly misunderstood.

In 2011, a poll among American Muslims showed that the community increasingly continued to reject Islamic terrorism and extremism. Only 21% of Muslim Americans say there is support for extremism in the Muslim American community. Among these 21%, about 6% say that there is a great deal of support and 15% say that there is a fair amount of support for extremism. Only 4% of the Muslim community in the US thinks that support for extremism is growing. This comes as a surprise since the general public believes that at least 40% American Muslims support radical extremism. Over 24% of the public think that there is an increase in support for extremism among the American Muslims.

A majority of the Muslim Americans (48%) think that Muslim leaders have not spoken out against extremism. 34% think that the leaders have done as much as they should have, 17% did not respond or were unsure. About 1% thinks that the leaders have done well.

About 68% of the Muslims in the US think that the community has cooperated with law enforcement and other agencies to support safety and security.

In a 2007 survey of the community, only 26% American Muslims believed that US authorities made sincere efforts to reduce terrorism in the country. In 2011, the percentage rose to 43%.

Sources –

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arab_Spring

http://www.people-press.org/2011/08/30/a-portrait-of-muslim-americans/

http://www.dgquarterly.com/site/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Arab-Spring-timeline.jpg

http://www.pewglobal.org/2012/07/10/most-muslims-want-democracy-personal-freedoms-and-islam-in-political-life/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Muslim_Countries

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Use_of_Sharia_by_country.svg

http://www.economist.com/node/17251830

http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Sharia&oldid=539023303#Application_by_country

http://media.gallup.com/MuslimWestFacts/PDF/GALLUPMUSLIMSTUDIESIslamandDemocracy030607rev.pdf

http://www.gallup.com/poll/104731/muslims-want-democracy-theocracy.aspx

http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/world/story/2012/09/24/syrian-rebels-said-to-seek-islamic-democracy/57826584/1

% of Votes Polled

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