Mark Tessler’s “Islam and Democracy in the Middle East: The Impact of Religious Orientations On Attitudes Toward Democracy in Four Arab Countries” is an article based on the analysis of the surveys made in different Islamic countries about the relation between Islam and democracy. Tessler explains two dimensions of democracy: first political institutions and processes like elections, the type of government etc, and the second is citizens’ attitude that is to say the political culture of this country. The writer points out the importance of political culture in the establishment of a healthy democracy and indicates that making institutional changes is not enough for creating a democracy. Like Inglehart said "democracy is not attained simply by making institutional changes or through elite level maneuvering. Its survival depends also on the values and beliefs or ordinary citizens". Tessler also explains the aims of the article as clarifying the relation between Islam and democracy and assessing the influence of religion on the political attitudes of Middle Eastern and also some North African countries. The writer also criticizes the prejudiced ideas of some Western scholars about the incompatibility of Islam and democracy. He then passes on to explain different features of this survey and begins to make the analysis of the required data.
After analyzing the statistics collected from four Arab countries (Palestine, Morocco, Algeria, Egypt), in the last part of the article, Tessler starts to draw conclusions. First of all, what surveys tell us is that "Islam appears to have less influence than is frequently suggested by students of Arab and Islamic society". The writer mentions that Islam should not be used as the only variable when explaining the political attitude of people and countries in the Middle East because it does not play an excessive role. Secondly, women seem to be more religious than men and they are more likely to use Islam as a reference in their political behaviors. This may be surprising because women seem to suffer more from Islam because of the oppressions and sexism applied to them in Middle Eastern countries, but the writer has a different opinion about this subject. "In all probability, women are discontented with the socioeconomic status quo more than men and thus favor policies guided by the values they associate with Islam, including justice, equality, social welfare, and the protection of the weak". Thirdly, Tessler argues that statistics show us that Islam is not incompatible with democracy. Tessler might be right in saying that Islam or any other religion is not a barrier for democracy but the interpretation of Islam or any other religion and the deepening of secular political culture is a crucial aspect in the development of democracy.
- Tessler, Mark, “Islam and Democracy in the Middle East: The Impact of Religious Orientations On Attitudes Toward Democracy in Four Arab Countries”, Comparative Politics 34 (April 2002)