Islamic attitudes and the support for Gender Equality and Democracy in Seven Arab Countries, and the role of anti-­â€Western feelings

Niels Spierings


In the societal and scientific discussions about the support for democracy and gender equality in the Arab Middle East, this study engages the triangular theory, which predicts that Islamic orientations influence gender equality attitudes and democracy negatively, and attitudes towards gender equality are also expected to lead to more democratic support, partly channelling the influence of Islam. This theory was tested on Arab Barometer data for seven countries, including three different dimensions of Islamic-religious identity: affiliation, piety, and political-Islamist attitudes. The analyses roughly back the triangular model, but for democratic support only the Islamist values seem important, partly working through economic gender equality attitudes. Attitudes towards women’s position in politics and education seem unrelated to democratic support. In addition, this study applies the gender and postcolonial concept of ‘othering’ to the triangular model. Theoretically it predicts that in the current neo-colonial era, anti-Western feelings might create more Islamic and less democracy and gender equal attitudes simultaneously, making Islam’s impact partly spurious. Empirically, this is modestly supported for the Islamist-democracy link only. However, anti-Western feelings do relate to gender equality, democratic support, and religious attitudes, and deserves more attention when studying democracy and gender equality in the Arab Middle East.


Islam, gender equality, democracy, attitudes in the Middle East, neo-­colonialism

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Géneros - Multidisciplinary Journal of Gender Studies | ISSN: 2014-3613

Legal Deposit : B.34284-2012 | |