Elementary Picture: Mideast • World Value Survey (2004) indicates that levels of support for democracy enjoy considerable majority support across the Middle East (Arab World). • Studies examining the potential for democracy in the region often analyze institutional reforms that correspond with liberal democratic principles. Yet, existing institutional reforms, such as parliamentary elections and greater freedoms within civil society, have done little to enhance democracy in the region. • In fact, the liberalizing tendencies of the 1990s have further solidified authoritarian rule. Although these reforms have allowed for greater civic and political participation, they have also been accompanied by further repression and the continued monopolization of regime power.
Elementary Picture: the Rest • Secularism, implying the separation of church and state, is a discourse that the Muslim world appears to have rejected. • In countries such as Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia and Turkey, Muslim-oriented parties (not Islamist parties that demand sharia) have made significant gains in recent elections. • According to Vali Nasr (2005), “the vital center of politics is likely to belong neither to secularist and leftist parties nor to Islamists.” The center of politics will be located among those who support “Muslim values and moderate Islamic politics.”
ISLAMISM & DEMOCRACY • Yet, in most Western discourses, support for religious rule and democracy are often assumed to be diametrically opposed categories. • In the Arab World, although support for democracy is extremely high, support for Islamism is also quite high. The discourse on the compatibility of Islam and democracy is quite vibrant and nuanced.
The failure of democratization, the rising of islamism, how come? • The failure of modernization. The democratic citizen, in other words, is a by-product of successful modernization processes. • The second paradigm focuses more on monolithic politicocultural constructions. This paradigm contends that Islam—however defined—prevents people from demanding democratic change. These studies tend to emphasize the existence of antidemocratic cultural variables as plausible explanations for the persistence of authoritarianism in the region. Simply put, Muslim culture and democracy are incompatible.