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Democracy in Muslim Countries Versus Christian Countries

In my last blog, I compared the birthrates of Muslim-majority countries to Christian-majority countries. This time, I followed the same procedure and analyzed the adoption of democracy in Muslim countries and Christian countries. In my book, Muslim Mechanics, I argue that Muslims are weak on democracy. Democracy is essential because it is the fertilizer for a market-based economy to prosper. Christianity is linked to individual and personal rights and freedoms necessary for a robust capitalist economy. The best way to achieve those God-given rights is through democracy. While capitalism is not the magic elixir that will make our financial blessings grow wildly, it is the best use of market forces for resource allocation. God put us on this planet to steward the earth's resources, and untethered market forces will help us achieve this purpose.


Democracy Defined

First and foremost, there is no consensus on how to measure democracy. It is one of those situations where "I know it when I see it." Much academic thought has pursued the concept, and it is accepted that democracy comprises several distinct findings. For example, it is commonly thought that to prevent an authoritarian government; there must be three equal but distinct branches of government, the executive, the legislative, and the judicial, each having checks and balances over the other two branches. Most observers believe that government should be based on majority rule, free and fair elections, the protection of minority rights, and respect for fundamental human rights. There should be equality before the law, due process, political pluralism, and separation of church and state. All of these issues are needed to constitute a democracy. Much like a house that has a foundation, roof, walls, doors, and windows, an HVAC system, carpet, paint, and lights, a democracy has multiple components needed to make it work efficiently. An index measures each piece and tallies it to produce an overall score.


Over the years, several attempts have measured the nebulous concept of democracy. The US-based Freedom House organization produces the best-known measure of democracy. It maintains that there can be several degrees of democracy. The Freedom House Index originated in the early 1970s and was used to develop empirical relationships between political structures and various economic and social variables.


In 2006, The Economist magazine started a new survey to sell data to interested parties to judge political risk and consumer sentiment. One of the tools they developed was their measurement of democracy. Their Index was based on 60 indicators grouped into five categories, measuring pluralism, civil liberties, and political culture. Currently, the Economist Intelligence Unit provides a snapshot of the state of democracy in 165 independent states and two territories. They post only the averages for each category for each country, and the Index ranges from 0 through 10. A 10 is considered good. For example, a country with an average of 8 or above is regarded as a full democracy; 6 to 8 is considered a "flawed democracy; 4 to 6 is labeled a "Hybrid Regime," and a country with four or less is considered authoritarian. (In 2022, the U.S. scored 7.85 and is regarded as a "flawed democracy.") Their 2022 report is online and can be downloaded for free.


Two Samples – Muslim vs. Christian

I used The Economist Intelligence Unit data for 2022 and 2012 to show how democracy ebbed and flowed in different countries over ten years. In addition, I identified the Muslim-majority countries where 50 percent or more of the population is Muslim and the Christian-majority countries where 50 percent or more of the population is Christian. I will not say that this is a scientific study, but I will say that the information gives us some good talking points.

The Pew Research Center recognizes 51 Muslim-majority countries, while the US CIA World Factbook shows 49 countries. Numbers may differ depending on recognizing territories such as Western Sahara or Palestine. My sample included 43 countries only because some countries were missing democracy statistics. Remember that some countries like India, with a substantial Muslim population, were not included, as India is neither a Muslim-majority nor a Christian-majority country.


I followed the same procedures for identifying Christian-majority countries. In my sample, there were 93 Christian-majority countries. One hundred ninety-three countries are United Nations member states, and my two sample groups totaled (43 +93) 136 countries, representing 70 percent of the world's countries. Considering that Muslims and Christians combined make up a little more than 50 percent of the world's population, I would say the sample I'm using represents what's happening worldwide.


My data calculations show the average democracy rate for all Muslim and Christian countries between 2022 and 2012. The democratic index scores are not in proportion to the country's size. In this study, small countries carry the same weight as large countries. However, the averages and trends represent the world because the samples are so large.


For example, the 2012 democracy index score for Australia is 9.22. In 2022, this number slid down to 8.71. The averages for both samples, Muslim and Christian, declined about a quarter point over those ten years. I guess that the Covid -19 response worldwide caused countries to implement authoritarian policies to deal with the virus.


Muslim-majority countries versus Christian-majority countries

Forty-three Muslim-majority countries had an average 3.7 democracy index score in 2012. Ten years later, in 2022, the Index dropped to 3.4, a 10 percent decline. Some Muslim countries with high democratic scores included Malaysia with 7.3 and Indonesia with 6.7, labeled like the U.S. as a "Flawed Democracy." No surprise about the lowest score, Afghanistan, with a .32 rating. An interesting note about Iraq: The U.S. helped to implement a democratic government back in 2018. The democratic Index score in 2022 is 3.1, a dismal failure to achieve democracy.


In comparison, 93 Christian-majority countries had an average 6.0 Index rating in 2022. Ten years earlier, the rating was 6.25, indicating a four percent decline, probably due to policies stemming from the Covid -19 virus. The highest-rated countries were all Nordic, while the lowest was the Central African Republic at 1.35.


Explanation

There are several reasons why Islamic countries would have lower democracy scores:

  • No separation of religion and state

  • All political parties are Muslim; pluralism is dead

  • Monarchs in the West are figureheads; Monarchs in Muslim countries exercise political power

  • Fewer individual rights; restrictions on free speech; Sharia law focuses on the community.

Summary

I stand by my observation that Muslim democracy is weak. Many Jihadists and Salafis see democracy as blasphemous. They believe that all laws should emanate from Sharia. Muslims in the West have patiently endured democracy and have worked within the system to achieve some of their goals. If the system lasts long enough, they may find that democracy works to achieve equality in ways better than any government policy can.


Credit to Wikimedia Commons: Takver for image entitled "Egypt Uprising Solidarity Protest," Feb. 4, 2011.

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