Quran Reading and Arab Spring

By: Hüseyin Emre Ceyhun  

The contestation of social contracts during the Arab Spring proved to be a wellspring of debate over the relationship between society and the state. Arab citizens began to question the fundamental underpinnings of civic identity, generating intense debate over the nature of governance, religion, and identity. One of the most potent dialectics that re-escalated after the Arab Spring is Islam’s compatibility with democracy. This work interrogates this question by evaluating the changing circumstances and environments. Using the Arab Barometer Wave I – IV data from 2007 to 2016, I measure pre- and post-Arab Spring attitudes towards democracy among Quran readers, the group most likely to form their attitudes towards democracy based on their interpretation of the holy manuscripts. After the Arab Spring, Quran readers became more likely to cite support for democracy than those who rarely read the Quran. Those who read the Quran frequently are more likely to: participate in politics; support for gender equality; be tolerant to outgroup members; and, believe that freedom of speech is one of the most important characteristics of democracy. The reason those who read the Quran more frequently become supportive of democracy after the Arab Spring, I argue, is related to the rise of Islamist parties and movements becoming an architecture of political environments in their countries after the Arab Spring. I find that Quran readers are more likely to support democracy if they support political Islam.

Quran, Democratic Attitudes, Arab Barometer
The Politics of Religion
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Hüseyin Emre Ceyhun

Graduate Student, Economics, Sabanci University, Turkey