Debate: The Reality of Muslim Exceptionalism

Issue Date October 2004
Volume 15
Issue 4
Page Numbers 133-39
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Alfred Stepan’s contention that the “democracy gap” in the Arab world is due not to religion but to other influences is provocative but not persuasive. Almost all Muslim-majority states score low on surveys of freedom. Several of the more populous states listed as Muslim-majority states of a democratic tendency are dubious candidates for that rubric. Both mainstream and radical Islamic clerics contend that the faith is incompatible with democracy. Various pressures may lead to change, as happened in Christian Europe, but one way or another Islamic beliefs will need to be reconciled with democracy, in Arab and non-Arab Muslim countries.

About the Author

Sanford Lakoff is professor emeritus of political science at the University of California–San Diego. He is the author of Equality in Political Philosophy (1964) and Democracy: History, Theory, Practice (1997).

View all work by Sanford Lakoff