skip to main content
Do Muslims Want Democracy and Theocracy?

Do Muslims Want Democracy and Theocracy?

Cutting across diverse Muslim countries, social classes, and gender differences, answers to our questions reveal a complex and surprising reality. Substantial majorities in nearly all nations surveyed (95% in Burkina Faso, 94% in Egypt, 93% in Iran, and 90% in Indonesia) say that if drafting a constitution for a new country, they would guarantee freedom of speech, defined as "allowing all citizens to express their opinion on the political, social, and economic issues of the day."

However, while acknowledging and admiring many aspects of Western democracy, those surveyed do not favor wholesale adoption of Western models of democracy. Many appear to want their own democratic model that incorporates Sharia -- and not one that is simply dependent on Western values. Actually, few respondents associate "adopting Western values" with Muslim political and economic progress. Abuses in the name of Sharia have not led to wholesale rejection of it.

In our data, the emphasis that those in substantially Muslim countries give to a new model of government -- one that is democratic yet embraces religious values -- helps to explain why majorities in most countries, with the exception of a handful of nations, want Sharia as at least "a" source of legislation.

  • In only a few countries did a majority say that Sharia should have no role in society; yet in most countries, only a minority want Sharia as "the only source" of law. In Jordan, Egypt, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh, majorities want Sharia as the "only source" of legislation.
  • Most surprising is the absence of systemic differences in many countries between males and females in their support for Sharia as the only source of legislation. For example, in Jordan, 54% of men and 55% of women want Sharia as the only source of legislation. In Egypt, the percentages are 70% of men and 62% of women; in Iran, 12% of men and 14% of women; and in Indonesia, 14% of men and 14% of women.

Ironically, we don't have to look far from home to find a significant number of people who want religion as a source of law. In the United States, a 2006 Gallup Poll indicates that a majority of Americans want the Bible as a source of legislation.

  • Forty-six percent of Americans say that the Bible should be "a" source, and 9% believe it should be the "only" source of legislation.
  • Perhaps even more surprising, 42% of Americans want religious leaders to have a direct role in writing a constitution, while 55% want them to play no role at all. These numbers are almost identical to those in Iran.

Based on the largest and most in-depth study of its kind, Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think presents the remarkable findings of the Gallup Poll of the Muslim world, the first ever data-based analysis of the points of view of more than 90% of the global Muslim community, spanning more than 35 nations.

Pre-order the book through or

Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030