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First published online December 26, 2012

Secular-Islamist Cleavage, Values, and Support for Democracy and Shari’a in the Arab World

Abstract

Public opinion polls demonstrate that Arab citizens support both democracy and shari’a. I argue that individual values related to the secular-Islamist cleavage are instrumental in explaining this joint support. The analysis of the Arab Barometer Survey shows that individuals holding Islamic values are more favorable of shari’a, whereas those with secularist values tend to support democracy. However, the bivariate probit estimations also confirm that Arab opinion about these governing principles is more complementary and less divergent. The results imply that constitutional models combining Islam and democracy, rather than strictly secular institutions, may be more acceptable to Arab citizens.

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Appendices

Appendix Table of the Variables in the Models
Variables and statisticsDescription
Support for democracy (M = 0.55, SD = 0.50)In a democracy, the economy runs badly.
 Democracies are indecisive and have too much quibbling.
 Democracies are not good at maintaining order.
 Democracy may have its problems but is better than any other form of government.
 (5 category responses of strongly agree–strongly disagree were coded as dichotomous measures for each item to create a single variable with values of 1 = strong support for democracy and 0 = no support for democracy.)
Support for shari’a (M = 0.74, SD = 0.44)The government should implement only the laws of the shari’a.
 (5 category responses of strongly agree–strongly disagree were coded as a dichotomous measure with values of 1 = strong support for shari’a and 0 = no support for shari’a.)
Nonsecular values (M = 3, SD = 1.31)Men of religion should influence the government decisions. Values of 1 = strongly disagree to 5 = strongly agree.
Islamic view (economics; (M = 4, SD = 1.14)Banks in Muslim countries must be forbidden from charging even modest interest on loans because this is forbidden by Islam. Values of 1 = strongly disagree to 5 = strongly agree.
Islamic view (legal; M = 3.31, SD = 1.43)If a Muslim converts to another religion, he or she must be punished by execution. Values of 1 = strongly disagree to 5 = strongly agree.
Political trust (mean of five items: M = 2.82, SD = 1.10)I’m going to name a number of institutions. For each one, please tell me how much trust you have in them. Is it a great deal of trust (5), quite a lot of trust (4), not very much trust (2), or none at all (1)? DKs are coded as middle category (3): prime minister, the court, parliament, the police, and political parties.
Interpersonal trust (M = 0.27, SD = 0.45)Generally speaking, would you say that most people can be trusted?
 Most people can be trusted (1) and you must be very careful in dealing with people (0).
Perceptions of gender attitudes (mean of three items; the responses are reordered and higher values represent positive orientations: M = 3.13, SD = 0.9)For each of the statements listed below, please indicate whether you agree (1), strongly agree (2), disagree (4), strongly disagree (5), or DK (3).
 On the whole, men make better political leaders than women do.
 A university education is more important for a boy than a girl.
 Men and women should have equal job opportunities and wages.
Religiosity (M = 3.34, SD = 1.27)How often do you read the Quran?
 Everyday or almost everyday (5), several times a week (4), sometimes (3), rarely (2), or I don’t read (1).
Gender (M = 0.5, SD = 0.5)Female (1), male (0).
Income (M = 5.45, SD = 2.87)10 category level of income.
Education (M = 3.69, SD = 1.74)7 category education.
Age (M = 2.63, SD = 1.40)7 category age.
DK = don’t know.

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Published In

Article first published online: December 26, 2012
Issue published: December 2013

Keywords

  1. shari’a
  2. democracy
  3. Islam
  4. secular
  5. Arab attitudes
  6. bivariate probit
  7. values

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© 2012 University of Utah.
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History

Published online: December 26, 2012
Issue published: December 2013

Authors

Affiliations

Sabri Ciftci
Kansas State University, Manhattan, USA

Notes

Sabri Ciftci, Department of Political Science, Kansas State University, 222 Waters Hall, Manhattan, KS 66506, USA. Email: [email protected]

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