v Islam, and a history of colonization

v  Literature review 1000

There are many obstacles to democracy in the world however, in the Middle East, religion, socio-tradition and economic issues work as barriers to the implementation of democracy. 

The reviewed literature for this paper mainly focused on what role religion Islam in particular plays in the process of democratization in countries with Muslim majority.


v  Religion and Democracy

The ambiguous relation between religion and democracy is very controversial, some scholars believe they are compatible and that religion paves the road to democracy, whilst others argue the opposite.  

The Middle Eastern countries share some features such as Islam, and a history of colonization and bad governance.

These countries for a quite long time suffered from authoritarian regimes and autocracies, although several attempts happened to reform yet, they were abolished.

In 2001, the 9/11 attacks on USA started new attempts of economic reforms and regime changes in the Muslim world. 

Islamists challenged democracy because they are unable to digest modernization, and they are restricted by the moralities of Islam; their main aim is to head back to the “golden age” of Islam.

To them democracy is a method designed by the West to destroy Islam and Muslim culture hence, they shift their anger to the West; Islamists argue that democracy means the sovereignty of people while sovereignty is for God only.

Therefore, they mobilize people to reject democratization, they accuse leaders who impose democratic principles as traitors and unable to preserve Islam against westernization (Ehteshami 2006).

The fact that Islam has resulted in political stability and economic prosperity in countries like Indonesia does not imply that the same is real for the other states.

For example, several Muslim countries still struggle to successfully adopt democracy like Pakistan, India, Egypt, and Nigeria, but this part will focus on the transition to democracy in Egypt, and Nigeria.


1. Transition to democracy in Muslim World

1.1. Egypt

Egypt under the British Mandate was a monarchy semi-liberalized and parliamentary, until the revolution by Nasser in 1952.

In the time of Nasser, Egypt headed toward a socialist system promoting pan-Arabism, Nasser was followed by Sadat who aimed at political and economic reform and restoring the market economy.

Some basic rights were given back to people, up till the assassination of Sadat when Mubarak took power and again everything was changed in Egypt.

In his time, economic stratification increased and the country lost its way for democracy.

After a decade of Mubarak’s mandate, Islamists radicals were activated as a response to his policies, civil society was restricted, and political corruption and manipulation increased, all these implications highlighted the deficit of democracy in Egypt.

It proves that a democratic process like election does not mean democracy exist for instance, in 1987, 1993 and 1999 no one could run for the presidential elections of except for Mubarak, he won and remained in power until 2011 when the Arab Spring ended his 30 years’ dictatorship (Anier 2003).

The Arab states are known survive and maintain stability under authoritarian regimes but collapse as soon as they adopt democracy.

For example, the 2011 Arab Spring or the Arab Awakening regenerated the lost hope for democracy in Egypt; its glory was democratization yet, seven years later there is not a clear prospect of democracy in the country.

The calls for democracy ousted the regime of Mubarak and resulted in the emergence of Muslim Brotherhood to power, the democratically elected Mohammed Morsi threatened the possibility of democratization in Egypt proving that not all democratic processes lead to democracy.

Luckily, the fall of Egypt to another dictatorship was prevented by the military coup d’état by Abdel Fattah el-Sisi (Ahmed 2016).

Today, Egypt is going through deep crisis, economy is fragile, escalation of sectarian conflicts and terrorist actions, unprotected religious minorities, a dormant constitution and weak judicial system, beside the high rates of unemployment and illiteracy.

Christian who make up a minority of 10% in the country fear for their lives, the terrorist attacks against Christians and the sectarian incitement have restricted them from practicing their religious beliefs.

The empowerment of the Islamist radicals and increasing discrimination and violence have stood against the process of democracy in Egypt and resulted in deep rooted strives (Raghavan 2016).


1.2. Nigeria

Nigeria is a country in West Africa, it is the biggest country in Africa in regard to its population.

Since Nigeria is consisted of Muslims, Christians and other religious and ethnic sects, transition to democracy was challenged and peace and peace was threatened in the country.

Religion has a big role in Nigeria therefore, its interference in the politics had negative implications on transition to democracy. 

In 1999, it was decided that Nigeria would transit to democracy after decades of military rule; from this point religion started to be a big part of its politics through the Sharia laws and penal codes especially in Zamfara then followed by other states.

Religious leaders supported the governor of Zamfara Ahmed Yeriman and all those who supported religious laws, through mobilizing the masses to choose the Sharia laws and demanding a religious rule.

Since all that happened in a legal voting process it meant that it was a democratic process, it proves that a democratic process results in a tyranny of majority and fails to protect other minorities.

The attempts were successful in shifting the government toward an Islamic Sharia law, that infuriated the Christians in Nigeria, 

Christians in the country were antagonized and refused to accept the Sharia laws because they believed that will marginalize them, threaten the Christian government in the North and aims at Islamizing the country.

As a result, the Christian leader Obasanjo in an attempt of protecting the Christians from the power of Muslims, he disarmed the army and the Muslim forces angering the Muslims living in the North.

That altered the balance of force, and the Sharia law was weakened, according to Obasanjo (2007), “If Sharia was from God, it will survive but if it was politically motivated it will die and this has happened”.

Till now Nigeria is in deep-rooted conflicts, the country is still divided between the North and the West.

Politicizing religion resulted in terrorist groups like Boko Haram which worsen the situation and consequently, religion is mainly used to gain political power.

The weak possibility of religious co-existence in Nigeria has largely challenged the construction of democracy in the country (Ntamu,2014). 


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