Challenging misconceptions about Islam's clash with liberal democracy

Research does not support claims Islam is incompatible with liberal democracy

Researcher Dr Mario Peucker says evidence does not support pervasive public claims that Islam is not compatible with Western liberal democratic values.

“Why do so many people think Islam doesn’t sit well within our democratic system, while the vast majority of Muslims in Australia and across the West strongly identify with their country, enjoy their freedoms, and go about their daily lives as law-abiding citizens?” he asks.

Dr Peucker's research shows that the incompatibility claim – a key element of broader Islamophobic rhetoric – usually refers to what Muslims allegedly think, or what their Islamic faith supposedly proscribes them to think.

A more useful way to look at the debate is to instead look at what Muslims do and how they enact their citizenship every day, he says.

“Ironically, those who push the incompatibility hypothesis around issues such as sexual minority rights or gender equality often argue as if they were Islamic theologians or had in-depth insights in the attitudes of Muslims.”

While research suggests that Muslims have more conservative views on these issues on average, there is no similar public challenge about non-Muslims who hold conservative views.  

Dr Peucker says the Islamic faith of the millions of Muslims living in Western countries does not stop them from voting, attending public protests, sitting on parents’ committees at local schools, or volunteering for religious and non-religious causes – in short, living as ‘ordinary’ citizens.

“There is strong empirical evidence to show these activities in fact drive their active citizenship, foster civic commitment, political activism and trust.”   

Dr Mario Peucker is a Research Fellow at VU’s Institute for Sustainable Industries and Liveable Cities (ISILC).

Read Dr Peucker's blog post, On Islam’s compatibility with liberal democratic principles in Religion in Public, or the full research article in the journal Politics and Religion.

See Dr Peucker's profile.

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