The transitions to democracy in Tunisia and Egypt shortly after the popular uprisings of the Arab Spring, and subsequently in Libya, provide an opportunity to test the empirical validity of the conventional wisdom that democracy cannot be established and sustained in Muslim countries. This article undertakes this task through a systematic comparative analysis of 56 countries classified as Muslim countries by virtue of their membership in the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC). It first maps variations in the incidence of democracy among the 56 Muslim countries based on the widely used Freedom House Rating (FHR, www.freedomhouse.org) of countries into “Free,” “Partly Free” and “Not Free.” It then presents the results of regression analyses to illustrate the importance of cross-national variations in (1) religious, ethnic and linguistic diversity, and (2) the political institutionalization of religion to explain why some Muslim countries are democracies and some are not.

Note on the Author

Shaheen Mozaffar is Professor in the Department of Political Science, Research Associate of the Center for Legislative Studies, and Research Associate of the Center for Social Science Research at the University of Cape Town.