Democratization in the Middle East: Experiences, Struggles, Challenges

By Amin Saikal; Albrecht Schnabel | Go to book overview

6
The influence of Islam on attitudes
toward democracy in Morocco and
Algeria
Mark Tessler

Both academic and policy discussions about democracy in the Arab world, as well as inquiries about the relationship between democracy and peace, usually include attention to the political orientations of ordinary men and women. In particular, questions are raised about whether popular attitudes and beliefs constitute an obstacle to democratization, possibly because the religious or cultural traditions that predominate in most Arab countries inhibit the emergence of a democratic political culture.

Although questions are frequently raised about the views of ordinary citizens, about what is sometimes described as “the Arab street,” answers are most often based on impressionistic and anecdotal information. Indeed, some analyses appear to be influenced by Western stereotypes about Arabs and Muslims. By contrast, systematic empirical inquiries into the nature, distribution, and determinants of political attitudes in the Arab world are rare.

Similarly, there is a growing body of scholarly (and popular) literature devoted to the relationship between Islam and democracy. Again, however, there has been almost no systematic research at the individual level of analysis, and so there is little evidence with which to answer questions about whether, and if so how, religious attachments influence the political orientations of ordinary citizens.

Against this background, this chapter examines the influence of Islam on attitudes toward governance in general and democracy in particular through the analysis of public opinion data collected in Morocco and Al-

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