Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Political Science


This dissertation focuses on the following empirical puzzle: do the attitudes of ordinary educated Muslims stand as an obstacle toward the adoption of democracy? This research question calls for empirical/behavioral methodological tools that bring into focus contemporary Muslims' attitudes rather than ancient jurists' contributions. In other words, the dissertation shifts attention from ancient Islamic texts to contemporary Muslims' mindsets through written and web-bases surveys in 32 Muslim societies.

At the aggregate level, Muslim societies perplex with two types of sub-cultures: the culture of "dictator, but..." and the culture of "democracy-as-a-must." The former is the sub-couture of two groups of Muslims: (1) Traditionalist Islamists who argue that a just autocratic ruler who abides by sharia/Islamic legislation and defends its tenets is the most legitimate ruler ever. (2) Autocratic secularists who argue in favor of a Hobbeseman ruler who maintains the state's sovereignty and defends it against its foreign enemies. In both cases, Muslims behave as rational actors who find that the advantages of having an autocratic ruler outweigh having a democratically elected one.

The "democracy-as-a-must" sub-culture is the one that is adopted by modernist Islamists and liberal secularists. Modernist Islamists find democracyconsummating Islamic teachings that fight dictatorship and ensure pluralism in society. Liberal secularists find democracy as the core component ofmodernity that should be adopted on secular grounds.

At the individual level, the dissertation finds that Muslims are too heterogeneous to be studied in a lump-sum way of thinking. Not all secular Muslims are liberal and not all Islamists are anti-democracy. Some Muslim countries' political cultures are compatible with democracy while others are clear obstacles to democratization. Seemingly unrelated regression models suggest that socio-economic, demographic and cultural factors have different types of impact onMuslims' attitudes toward democratic hardware and software across societies.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access