In This Review

Islam and Democracy After the Arab Spring
Islam and Democracy After the Arab Spring
By John L. Esposito, Tamara Sonn, and John O. Voll
Oxford University Press, 2015, 320 pp
Purchase

The authors are at pains to refute the idea that Islam is incompatible with democracy, citing survey data showing that Muslims everywhere aspire to it. They examine six Muslim-majority countries—Indonesia, Iran, Pakistan, Senegal, Tunisia, and Turkey—that enjoy some degree of democratic practice or tradition and also look at one autocracy, Egypt. They explain why some of these countries are more democratic than others by pointing to contingent factors involving military influence, economic conditions, and external actors. But their survey is incomplete: the vast differences in socioeconomic conditions among the seven is not systematically examined. Moreover, the authors make scant reference to the relative absence of democracy in the Arab world. Nor do they take into account quantitative analyses correlating the absence of democracy with the presence of Islam. Of the countries they study, the most stable appear to be Indonesia, where most Muslims practice a syncretic version of Islam, and Senegal, where relatively moderate Sufi orders prevail.