Why No Democracy in the Arab-Muslim World? The Importance of Temple Financing and Tax Farming
The absence of a single democracy in the Arab-Muslim world has become a “striking anomaly” for scholars of democratization. The lack of democratization in this part of the world cannot be seen as caused religion as such since there are by now several states with a majority of Muslims that have become democracies. Several other explanations such as values, culture, economic development, rulers’ access to natural resources or the history of colonialism have been refuted. We present a novel explanation for this puzzle that is based on historical variations in “temple financing”. In Northwestern Europe, religion and also secular services managed by local religious institutions have been financed “from below” creating local systems for semidemocratic representation, transparency and accountability. In the Arab-Muslim region, religion and local secular services have been financed “from above” by private foundations that have lacked systems for representation and accountability. It is thus not religion, but how religion has been financed, that is the explanation for the lack of democracy in the Arab-Muslim world.
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