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Islam and Authoritarianism

  • M. Steven Fish (a1)

Are predominantly Muslim societies distinctly disadvantaged in democratization? If so, why? The article presents a straightforward cross-national examination of the link between Islam and political regime. The evidence strongly suggests that Muslim countries are in fact democratic underachievers. The nature of the causal connection between Islam and political regime is investigated. Many conventional assumptions about Islam and politics do not withstand scrutiny. But one factor does help explain the dearth of democracy in the Muslim world: the treatment of women and girls. The rudiments of a provisional theory linking the treatment of females and regime type are offered and the implications of the findings for democracy, both in Muslim societies and elsewhere, are discussed.

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27 Huntington (fn. 23), 256–58.

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30 Huntington (fn. 23), 70. For a similar argument, see Lewis, Bernard, “Islam and Liberal Democracy: A Historical Overview,” Journal of Democracy 7 (April 1996).

31 Khalil, Abu, “Against the Taboos of Islam,” in Butterworth, Charles E. and Zartman, I. William, eds., Between the State and Islam (Cambridge:Cambridge University Press, 2001), 115.

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33 Stepan, , Arguing Comparative Politics (New York:Oxford University Press, 2001), 222.

34 Goodwin, Jan, Price of Honor: Muslim Women Lift the Veil of Silence in the Islamic World (New York:Penguin, 1995); Sharabi, Hisham, Neopatriarchy: A Theory ofDistorted Change in Arab Society (New York:Oxford University Press, 1988), 68, 32–39; Zay'our, Ali, The Psychoanalysis of the Arab Self (Beirut:Dar al-Tali'ah, 1977), cited in Sharabi, 41–42; Mayer, Ann Elizabeth, Islam andHuman Rights: Tradition and Politics (Boulder, Colo.:Westview, 1998); Mernissi, Fatima, Beyond the Veil: Male-Female Dynamics in a Modern Muslim Society (Bloomington:Indiana University Press, 1987); Arat, Yesim, “Feminists, Islamists, and Political Change in Turkey,” Political Psychology 19 (March 1998); Arab Human Development Report 2002 (New York:United Nations Development Programme, 2002).

35 Norris, Pippa and Inglehart, Ronald, “Cultural Barriers to Equal Representation,” Journal of Democracy 12 (July 2001); Meyer, Katherine, Rizzo, Helen, and Ali, Yousef, “Islam and the Extension of Citizenship Rights to Women in Kuwait,” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 37 (March 1998); Tessler, Mark, “Islam and Democracy in the Middle East: The Impact of Religious Orientations on Attitudes toward Democracy in Four Arab Countries,” Comparative Politics 34 (April 2002).

36 Population Reference Bureau, Women of Our World 2002 (, accessed June 2002). See also Phillip, Mini and Bagchi, Kathakali S., The Endangered Half” (New Delhi:Vedams, 1995); Miller, Barbara D., “Female-Selective Abortion in Asia: Patterns, Policies, and Debates,” American Anthropologist 103 (December 2001); Gu, Baochang and Roy, Krishna, “Sex Ratio at Birth in China, with Reference to Other Areas in East Asa,” Asia-Pacific Population Journal 10, no. 3 (1995); Larsen, Ulla, Chung, Woojin, and Das Gupta, Monica, “Fertility and Son Preference in Korea,” Population Studies 52 (November 1998); Berkowitz, Jonathan and Snyder, Jack, “Racism and Sexism in Medically Assisted Conception,” Bioethics 12 (January 1998); Sudha, S. and Irudaya Rajan, S., “Female Demographic Disadvantage in India, 1981–1991: Sex Selective Abortions and Female Infanticide,” Development and Change 30 (July 1999).

37 For a more extensive comparative discussion of women in high government, see Reynolds, Andrew, “Women in the Legislatures and Executives of the World: Knocking at the Highest Glass Ceiling,” World Politics 51 (July 1999).

38 United Nations Development Programme, Human Development Report 2000 (New York:Oxford University Press, 2000).

39 For example, Afkhami, Mahnaz, ed., Faith andFreedom: Women's Rights in the Muslim World (Syracuse, N.Y.:Syracuse University Press, 1995); Afkhami, Mahnaz and Friedl, Erika, eds., In the Eye ofthe Storm: Women in Post-Revolutionary Iran (Syracuse, N.Y.:Syracuse University Press, 1994); Ahmed, Leila, Women and Gender in Islam (New Haven:Yale University Press, 1993); Baker, Alison, Voices of Resistance: Oral Histories of Moroccan Women (Albany:State University of New York Press, 1998); Haddad, Y. Y. and Esposito, John L., eds., Islam, Gender, and Social Change (Oxford:Oxford University Press, 1997); Skaine, Rosemarie, The Women ofAfghanistan under the Taliban (Jefferson, N.C.:McFarland, 2001); MacLeod, Arlene E., Accommodating Protest: Working Women, the New Veiling, and Change in Cairo (New York:Columbia University Press, 1990); Mir-Hosseini, Ziba, Islam and Gender (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999).

40 Sharabi (fn. 34); Hammoudi, Abdellah, The Victim and Its Masks (Chicago:University of Chicago Press, 1988), 4647, 150–51; idem, Master and Disciple: The Cultural Foundations ofMoroccan Authori tarianism (Chicago:University of Chicago Press, 1997); Landes, David S., The Wealth and Poverty Nations: Why Some Are So Rich and Some So Poor (New York:Norton, 1999),410–15.

41 McDermott, Rose and Cowden, Jonathan A., “The Effects of Uncertainty and Sex in a Crisis Simulation Game,” International Interactions 27, no. 4 (2001).

42 Pratto, Felicia, Stallworth, L. M., and Sidanius, Jim, “The Gender Gap: Differences in Political Attitudes and Social Dominance Orientation,” British Journal of Social Psychology 36 (March 1997).

43 Conover, Pamela Johnston and Sapiro, Virginia, “Gender, Feminist Consciousness and War,” American Journal of Political Science 37 (November 1993); Gilligan, Carol, “In a Different Voice: Women's Conceptions of Self and Morality,” in Tietjens Meyers, Diana, Feminist Social Thought (New York:Routledge, 1997); Flammang, Janet, Women's Political Voice (Philadelphia:Temple University Press, 1997); Crossette, Barbara, “Living in a World without Women,” New York Times, November 4, 2001.

44 Saad Eddin Ibrahim, cited in Iliya Harik, “Democratic Thought in the Arab World,” in Butter-worth and Zartman (fn. 31), 143–44.

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48 Arnold, Fred, Kim Choe, Minja, and Roy, T. K., “Son Preference, the Family-Building Process and Child Mortality in India,” Population Studies 52 (November 1998); George, Sabu M. and Dahiya, Ranbir S., “Female Foeticide in Rural Haryana,” Economic and Political Weekly 33, 32 (August 14, 1998), 2191–98; Gupta, Monica Das and Bhat, P. N. Mari, “Fertility Decline and Increased Manifestation of Sex Bias in India,” Population Studies 51 (November 1997); Aravamudan, Gita, “Chilling Deaths,” Week (India), January 24, 1999 (, accessed December 2001); Rozman, Gilbert, Population and Marketing Settlements in Ch'ing China (New York:Cambridge University Press, 1982); Zeng, Yi et al., “Causes and Implications of the Recent Increase in the Reported Sex-Ratio at Birth in China,” Population and Development Review 19 (June 1993); Johansson, Sten and Nygren, Ola, “The Missing Girls of China,” Population and Development Review 17 (March 1991); Eckholm, Erik, “Desire for Sons Drives Use of Prenatal Scans in China,” New York Times, June 22, 2002; Chu, J. H., “Prenatal Sex Determination and Sex-Selective Abortion in Rural Central China,” Population and Development Review 27 (June 2001).

49 Karkal, Malini, “Invisibility of the Girl Child in India,” Indian Journal of Social Work 52 (January 1991); “Female Infanticide Continues Unchecked, Unheard,” Times of India, November 6, 2000; Sudha Ramachandran, “New Technologies, Old Prejudices Blamed for India's Vanishing Girls,” Panos (London), September 2001 (, accessed March 2002); Sampath Kumar, “Changing Views on Female Infanticide,” BBC News, December 11, 2001 (, accessed April 2002); Ravindra, R. P., “The Campaign against Sex Determination Tests,” in Datar, Chhaya, ed., The Struggle against Violence (Calcutta:Shree, 1993).

50 Xingwang Zhou, “Artificial Sex Selection Can Create Disorder in Society: There Is a Natural Ratio of Males to Females,” Worker's Daily [Gongren Ribaok, August 9,1999 (, accessed March 2002); State Family Planning Commission of China, “Further Efforts to Seek Solutions for Problems in the Population Structure” (2001) (, accessed March 2002); John Pom-fret, “In China's Countryside, 'It's a Boy!' Too Often,” Washington Post, May 29, 2001; Maureen J. Graham, Ulla Larsen, and Xiping Xu, “Son Preference in Anhui Province, China,” International Family Planning Perspectives 24 (June 1998).

51 See Rahman, Fazlur, Islam, 2d ed. (Chicago:Chicago University Press, 1979), 3840, 231–32; idem, Islam and Modernity: Transformation of an Intellectual Tradition (Chicago:University of Chicago Press, 1984), 1320; Mernissi, Fatima, The Veil and the Male Elite (Cambridge, Mass.:Perseus, 1992); Esack, Farid, Quran Liberation and Pluralism (Oxford:Oneworld, 1997); Wadud, Amina, Qur'an and Woman (Oxford:Oxford University Press, 1999).

* For a great deal of help on earlier drafts, the author is indebted to Christopher Ansell, Pradeep Chhibber, Omar Choudhry, Christopher Gelpi, Andrew Janos, Matthew Kroenig, Rose McDermott, David Nasatir, Conor O'Dwyer, James Robinson, Ani Sarkissian, Jason Seawright, Valerie Sperling, Robert Tignor, Daniel Treisman, and four anonymous reviewers. The author also appreciates helpful feedback received at the conference, “The New Era in World Politics after September 11,” Princeton University, May 3,2002. The author alone is responsible for all shortcomings that remain.

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