Why are most Islamic countries less democratic/more corrupt than most Western countries?



Why are most Islamic governments, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, less democratic and more corrupt than most Christian-aligned countries particularly in the West?


Posted 2016-03-13T20:49:42.337

Reputation: 2 641

Question was closed 2016-03-14T08:21:20.247

1Because of anti blasphemy laws. Non islamic countries have little restrictions of freedom of speech. Anti blasphemy laws can be used to stifle critics. – Sharen Eayrs – 2018-03-19T08:14:17.520

6The left-wing answer would be to blame colonialism and the CIA and the Cold War AFAIK. – Andrew Grimm – 2016-03-13T20:55:00.267

10I think a proper answer to this question would require to reiterate the entire last 500 years of world history in Europe, South-West Asia and North-Africa. This would be far too broad for for a single answer. But I can say pretty sure that differences in religious philosophy is one of the less important factors here. Remember that for 1000 years of European history, Christianity was an enabler of feudalism which was the very definition of corrupt and anti-democratic. – Philipp – 2016-03-13T21:05:20.050

8The framing is kind of arbitrary. Muslim and/or middle eastern countries are not generally less democratic than many countries in Asia or Africa. And there are some (in some sense) “Christian” countries (e.g. Russia but also in South America and elsewhere) that are less than exemplary. What you are saying is that Europe and North America generally fare better economically and in terms of governance. That's kind of true (even though it hasn't generally been true for all of Europe during the 20th century) but the link with Christianity is far from obvious. – Relaxed – 2016-03-13T21:22:01.337

2For the moment, I'm going to vote for close this question. I think the answer will depend of factors we tend to make more personal, as the case you mentioned of christians vs. muslims; I don't know any studies supporting your view. I suggest to re-write the question, coming to a more specific question that could be answered in one question supported with facts, not opinions. – nelruk – 2016-03-14T00:11:19.697

I agree that this is a good question to ask, but not here. More than anything else, books have been written answering this exact question. And different books will have completely different answers, making this both too broad and too opinion-based. So you'll get both an upvote and a vote to close. – PointlessSpike – 2016-03-14T08:22:55.090

Define 'corruption' and 'democracy'. – None – 2016-03-14T08:27:18.170

Corruption perception index is indeed higher within countries with strong religious influence. It seems that the people are counting on "religious morality" or "miracles" instead of sound system of government to reduce corruptions. So things are messed up there. A notable sample is Ahok's case in Jakarta. A governor that clean up corruption get screwed by anti blasphemy case. That anti blasphemy case obviously don't exist in countries without strong religious influence. Also islam is the only religion with strong political influence. – user4951 – 2017-03-01T16:33:29.147

Perhaps someone should ask why this question is "closed"? I bet there are some political reasons why this question is closed. What? Not wanting to offend some violent (and hence scary) religion? – user4951 – 2017-03-01T16:56:11.353

A sample of how islam is used to get rid clean governor that are cleaning up corruption in the country http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/01/11/blasphemy-trial-a-blessing-in-disguise-for-ahok-pollster.html

– user4951 – 2017-03-01T16:56:48.953



First, let's get some insider information from the man on the ground:

I live in Algeria, a North African country. I don't know about the Middle East, but there's no North African islamic government. Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt; none of these are Islamic. Some of these have dealt with problems, some are dealing with problems as I write these words, but they're not islamic.

There's no sharia law applied here (you don't get beheaded, you don't get your hand severed, no policemen chasing women around telling them to cover themselves, etc), nobody gets whipped.

Granted, the quality of life, the infrastructure, things to do, entertainment, etc. are way below what the average American or European would consider baseline, but life here is utterly normal. It actually disappoints some foreigners who want to have an exotic change. The same, just with less fun and slower internet.

Some people have tried to plant a version of religion from elsewhere, but it didn't live well in the Mediterranean. All the blood that was shed was not enough to keep that plant alive and no additional amount will ever make it blossom.

There are peculiarities, for sure, but not more so than a U.S. state's law on something. The Constitution of the country states that Islam is religion of state; it is as much a religious statement as "In God We Trust" or the President swearing an oath to God.

These governments are secular and mostly a copy of French political system (President is head of state, Prime minister is head of government. Separation of powers, Parliament, etc.). Whether they work well or not as effectively and efficiently as they should is something else but I think that the fact politicians are seldom the darling of people anywhere in the world is quite telling.

Question: What is an islamic government? Is there such a thing? Why are islamic governments worse than christian aligned ones?

Answer: An islamic government is one that allegedly follows what is known as "sharia law", meaning applying what "God and the Prophet said". This assumes that people know exactly what God means. I find it rather hard to understand a person, let alone a metaphysical entity. So an "islamic government" means really that some people claim to have understood said metaphysical entity and are willing to enforce what that entity said (well, their interpretation of it. Interpretation subject to change)

This is no different than Christian countries back when the Church was calling the shots and dictated behavior. The peak of the Church's influence was a couple of centuries ago, but that doesn't make it less true that only a few decades ago it was still the case. Behavior was largely dictated by the Church and only after the 1960s and 1970s that life in Europe and the U.S. became what it is. There's a reason that period is called a revolution.

So it is not a problem of "Islamic government", it is a problem of "theocratic government". Why? Because God doesn't go to Parliament and call bullshit on those who rule in his name. (do islamic countries have a parliament, by the way?)

Historically, whenever humans tried to justify their authority by invoking something that doesn't have a voice, things went badly.. From the Pharaohs with priests moving statues, to Popes, to Mollahs, to Princes, etc.

It's not God that jails and executes people; it's people, and they can abuse the authority they have given themselves (people let them have) hiding behind the veneer of religion.

Officials from islamic countries let themselves go and indulge in the pleasures of life when they are elsewhere just as much as clergy and popes did. What they have in common is that they made people die for doing the same and they had a distinguished attire.

This tells you one thing: Everywhere you go, there are humans.

Now, why are these countries worse than "christian aligned" governments? It is because "christian aligned" governments happen to represent countries that have had an industrial revolution, economic growth, engineering breakthroughs, application of scientific results.

It's not being "christian aligned" that has caused those. You can prove that with a counter-example: if you consider Japan, and South Korea to be countries worthy of comparison, then being "christian aligned" is for nothing since these countries aren't.

2 - What is a democratic government? Is democracy measurable? Is the appearance of democracy the same as the practice of it?

Again, let me make a distinction between North African countries and others. I'll only speak about Algeria: by the naive person's definition of democracy, it's not. By the realistic person's: it is a democracy. If we agree that there's no true democracy. Everywhere you go, elections get rigged and ballots stuffed. Everywhere you go, those who have influence do exert it.

Everywhere you go, there are people.

3 - How do we know they are more or less corrupt than X government?

Again, if you dig deep enough, you'll find that there's corruption everywhere. Granted, some countries are better at being discreet about it than others. Officials in some countries fear scandal more than those in others.

4 - Your question reframed: Why does it suck more to live in the countries you think are islamic?

The biggest problems people complain about here are: traffic -too many cars-, jobs, high prices, weight of their kids' school books, limited freedom, etc.

So why does it suck more to live here is really lack of progress, not that great an economy, generalisation of corruption, lack of accountability, projects that don't get finished, dilapidation of taxpayer's money, using taxpayer's money for personal use, lack of expertise by people in charge.

But I have just described a consequence of a cause. This is caused by the fact that the average citizen, at least here, is disinterested in politics. I'm not talking about Presidential elections, this is just the tip of the iceberg. The President isn't the closest elected official to the citizen. People are disinterested in politics at the county/city/district level. 99% don't even know who's in charge of their county.

Democracy is a set of tools to empower the people. People here just don't use these tools. They don't know how they work and how to get what they want using these tools. They don't know how to exert the power these tools give them.

What is fascinating with developed countries isn't that they're perfect, they're clearly not; it's that they work in spite of all that is broken.

Jugurtha Hadjar

Posted 2016-03-13T20:49:42.337

Reputation: 444

If we are looking at cultural differences too, instead of purely geographical and economical ones, we might add one major difference between Christianity and Islam: the separation of church and state is much easier in Christianity. Of course there were attempts both by Christians to put the state under religious control and by Muslims to form secular countries, but the opposite is more common. Jesus didn't give instructions about how to organize a country. Muhammad, however, did.

– vsz – 2018-06-26T06:15:59.403

2The biggest problems people complain about here are: traffic -too many cars- Man, we have the same #1 problem here in Switzerland. – Bregalad – 2016-03-14T07:15:56.983

Really? Yet Switzerland is known for its high standards of living. This is exactly the question that has been on my mind: why are some countries developing and prospering whereas others are not.

It is a question that interests me since I'm from a country that is mediocre but can be great. I try to extract ways to make it so from everything I read and often think about it.

Yesterday, I have stumbled on a book: "Why Nations Fail". Amazing why I've never formulated all my questions as that simple one and found this book earlier, but I haven't. I will read it and fortunately have more answers. – Jugurtha Hadjar – 2016-03-14T18:16:14.160

1Sure, our standard of livings are much higher and etc... yet trafic is a major problem. Cars are too cheap any too many people can afford them. In the 30s only very rich people had cars, in the 80s middle class but today everyone can afford them and the trafic is insane. Some places are jammed from 6 AM to 19 PM almost nonstop, and it's impossible to park anywhere near urban centers. I almost only use bike and public transportation myself. As for your question, very interesting, but alas too broad for SE :( – Bregalad – 2016-03-14T19:48:26.120

5This is a great answer for a poorly-worded question. – Paraney – 2016-03-14T21:17:36.353

1Isn't the development issue ultimately about geography? Mineral wealth/accessibility and not getting a bad deal on rights, ease of growing food, water quality, friendliness of neighbouring states, diseases entering a region or jumping species. – Phil Lello – 2016-03-30T21:21:59.587


@PhilLello Tricky question. Does it help to have all those things? Yes, on paper. Does it help to inherit a lot of money? Yes, on paper.

Historically, blessed countries tend to catch the Dutch disease and people who inherit tend to squander it, viz. Algeria.

Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia have similar geography; one has natural resources and negative economic complexity (i.e: doesn't do much except exporting oil). profile.

Japan and Israel should be poor hit by hard geography and more. I don't think geo really is a sine qua non condition.

– Jugurtha Hadjar – 2016-03-31T11:35:58.987

1IIRC (and I'm not well versed in history), Japan got an economic boost from favourable trade and investment as a mix of post-WWII guilt and political agendas to keep Russia out. Israel is a lot more complex, but it seems, even today, there is reluctance to criticise them for fears of it being seen as anti-semitic. It appears the long-term consequences of displacing the people already living in the region to make way for modern Israel weren't thought through - creating a situation where two populations feel entitled to call the land theirs. Maybe everywhere is a niche case. – Phil Lello – 2016-03-31T12:12:50.130

1Well, technically yes (I'm not well versed in anything) but if we go that route we're bound to be disappointed: The U.S. was born by exterminating the natives and grew by enslaving the blacks. Spain and Portugal literally took mountains of gold. Britain started small and became big. France took half of Africa. These were huge influxes one can't ignore the consequences of. Like Carl Sagan said: "If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe".

I'm not certain, but I doubt we can find any country that was "self made" from scratch without anything helping. – Jugurtha Hadjar – 2016-03-31T15:07:41.687