Public Choice

, Volume 139, Issue 3–4, pp 273–299 | Cite as

Islam’s democracy paradox: Muslims claim to like democracy, so why do they have so little?

  • Charles K. RowleyEmail author
  • Nathanael Smith


In this brush-clearing paper, we demonstrate that there is a deficit both of democracy and of freedom in Muslim-majority countries by comparison with the rest of the world. We further demonstrate that these deficits are not fully explained by poverty or by oil but seem to have something to do with Islam itself. We further demonstrate that the democracy and freedom deficits are larger in the Islamic heartland than elsewhere in Muslim-majority countries. We show that the democracy deficit is not driven by demands for autocracy in Muslim-majority countries, and indeed, that individual Muslims value democracy more than non-Muslims. We suggest that the lack of religious freedom in Muslim-majority countries (the supreme power concept) may be a significant variable in explaining the democracy deficit.


Islam Muslim Culture Islamic heartland Islamic democracy deficit Islamic freedom deficit Islamic religious freedom deficit 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.George Mason UniversityFairfaxUSA

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