Party System Religiosity and the Quality of Democracy in Predominantly Muslim Countries
The literature on the relationship between Islam and democracy explains the rarity of democratic occurrences in predominantly Muslim countries either through the destructive role of religion or the incompatibility of Islam and democracy. Arguing against this sweeping "Islamic democratic deficit" idea and taking a “dynamic” approach instead, this study looks at this diversity of democratic outcomes in Muslim-majority countries and asks what exactly leads to these differences. In this process, it focuses on party system religiosity as the key explanatory factor. Instead of combining all religiously oriented political parties under the same category and making a blanket assessment of some negative impact of their participation in politics, it argues that there are different degrees of party religiosity, ranging from religious extremism to hostile secularism, and that each type has different effects on the democratic quality of their countries. Through a statistical analysis of an original dataset on party system religiosity, it demonstrates that the parties with a more fundamentalist understanding of Islam usually have a negative impact on democratic quality, whereas parties that highlight inclusive and tolerant aspects of Islam contribute to the deepening of democracy in their respective countries. It then adds analytical depth to the findings with more qualitative and thickly descriptive research conducted in Turkey and Tunisia. By tracing the processes of democratization in several Muslim majority countries and using a large number of data sources (including information from field research, elite interviews, party statements and official documents), it constructs a causal story that showed how exactly these different types of religious parties interacted with the state, society and other parties, and how the constraints and political opportunity structures in which they worked affected their attitudes towards democracy, liberal values and plurality within their political systems. Overall, the study challenges the common assumptions about Islamic parties, secularism and democracy in the Muslim world, and changes the focus of debates on these issues from essentialist and neo-Orientalist arguments to actual practices on the ground and the day-to-day politics in predominantly Muslim countries.
Using a mixed-method approach, Liebermann's "Nested Analysis" (2005), this study examines the Islamic party participation in democratization efforts