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Liberal democracy has been a way of life in the Western world, which guarantees freedom and equality before the law1. This democratic value has been spreading to other parts of the world since the end cold war, with Middle Eastern countries also benefiting from this experience. Despite the good intentions of this system of government, the developing countries, especially those from Islamic States are very skeptic when it comes to practicing democracy. This pessimism is proliferated by two main factors; culture and authoritarianism thereby affecting the perception of the people in the region on democracy and I will come back to this shortly.
This essay is rooted on the hypothesis that Democracy is not taken seriously in Islamic countries. There is a correlation between religion and democracy in Middle East, with religion as the independent variable while democracy is the dependent variable; which depends on religion2. This correlation however cannot be juxtaposed due to the structure of the society, which has both cultural and religious explanations. The country, Jordan is used herein as case study. Though the most democratic among other Islamic countries in the Middle East in the views of the West, it still has authoritarian leadership. As I mentioned earlier, lingering authoritarian practices according to Quitan Wiktorowicz, limits the prospects for liberal democracy.3 Mass participation; multi-party system; multiparty elections; and freedom of press are repressed as political elites perpetuate their political control. Heads of States-in-self-perpetuity is very common in Jordan as the economy is that of a semi-rentier state whereby the citizens do not pay taxes and the government also provide subsidies on some goods and services for the people. These good gestures from the government guarantee autonomy and political control4.
Elias, J. and Sutch, P.: IR: The Basics, Routledge, USA, 2007, pp. 70-72. Giddens, A., “Asking and Answering Sociological Questions” in Giddens, A. (5th Edition) Sociology,
Polity Press, Cambridge, 2006, p. 82.
Wiktorowicz, Q., “The Limits of Democracy in the Middle East: The Case of Jordan”, in The Middle East Journal, Vol. 53, Iss. 4, Washington, Autumn 1999, p. 606. Accessed at http://0proquest.umi.com.innopac.wits.ac.za/pqdweb?index=0&did=46163474&SrchMode=1&sid=1&Fmt =3&VInst=PROD&VType=PQD&RQT=309&VName=PQD&TS=1243185293&clientId=57035
Wiktorowica, Q., Op. Cit. p. 607.
2 The cultural explanation originates from Islam as a monotheistic5 religion of teachings of Muhammad. Muslims are taught to be submissive to God and their leaders and this ideology has been embedded in the Islamic world. Any other view or cultural practices sometimes draw violent reactions, especially from the Islamic fundamentalists. They see democracy as another form of imperialism and that democracy must be resisted at all cost6. It is no coincidence that women participation vis-à-vis seeking elective positions are very unusual in Jordan. Civil societies and other forms of organisations outside that of the ruling government are gauged with laws no to operate.
“Façade democracy” has come into existence in Jordan since 1999 with the election of King Abdullah II. Reforms in this Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan were guided by necessity of state survival rather than actual reforms. The financial crisis in 1980s and return of Jordanian expatriate workers from Gulf States did put pressure on the country’s economy leading to riots in the streets as there was no other means for Jordanians to voice out their frustrations and discontents. So in other to maintain political control in face of the economic crisis, the country had to run to International Monetary Fund (IMF) for help. IMF’s help usually comes with conditions and Amman had no option than to initiate façade democracy reluctantly7.
Even though I believe that democracy is perceived not to work in Jordan because it is an Islamic country, there were still some uncertainties as I did not know the result of the surveys from Q15 and Q16JOR I intended to interpret in the next section of this essay. However, an X2 test will enable me reject or accept the null hypothesis depending on the confidence level. The next section deals with the data interpretation made possible by use of R commander programme.
Monotheism is the religious belief in which people believe that there is existence of only one God. See
http://www.ucc.ie.en/hr/HealthWelfare/MentalHealth/Religion/Buddhism/index.html. Accessed on 24 May 2009.
Skocpol, T.: Social revolution in modern world, Cambridge University Press, UK, 1994, p. 242,
Neuwirth, R., Oil-From Blessing to Curse, http://www.michnews.com/cgi-bin/atman/exec/view.cgi, 28 February 2006, p. 2 & Graaff, J.: Poverty and Development, Oxford University Press, Cape Town, 2003, p. 54.
Wiktorowica, Q., Op. Cit. p. 700.
3 Data description
Jordan despite its practice of democracy as I explained in preceding section of this quantitative research essay, still lies the belief that what works in the West does not necessarily work in the South. In essence, democracy may not be romanced in Islamic countries as a result of cultural and structural argument already expanded even if the people will be better off with democracy. Two variables were considered for me to be able to analyze the hypotheses that democracy is not taken seriously in Islamic countries, I chose Q15 to provide the necessary questions as the dependent variable while Q16JOR (independent variable) from data provided in survey of predominantly six Islamic countries (Pew. Muslim) of which Jordan was one of them. The sample was made up of all members of the population in Jordan irrespective of their religious affiliations.
The question, Q15 read as follows: Some people in our country feel that democracy is a Western way of doing things that would not work here- others think that democracy is not just for the West and can work well here. Which comes closer to your opinion?
As expected, there were different parochial views from the participants about their perception of democracy in the country. Some believe that democracy is Western way of doing things while some section of the population think that democracy can work in Jordan. However, there are some groups of the population who do not know what answer to give and the rest refused to respond and/or not interested. Q16JOR asks the following: Which religion, if any, do you consider yourself belonging to?
Again, the answers varied from Islam, Christian and Others. The rest of the population does not know which religion they consider themselves to belong to whereas the rest refused to answer the question. Those responses of “do not know” and “refused” for both questions Q15 and Q16JOR have been coded as NA as I did not want them to appear on my graphic illustration (Figure. 1) on page 4 and Figure 2, page 5.
4 Bar Graph- Figure 1. (Perception to democracy)
can work q15
for the west
The bar graph labeled figure one above represents the dependent variable, Q15 which has been recoded as q15. The next graph, figure 2, in page 5 shows the responses from the population of Jordan as Islamic country herein referred to as the independent variable recoded from question, Q16JOR. Meaning and interpretations of these graphs will be given shortly.
5 Bar Graph- Figure 2. (Responses from Jordanians)
Table q15 counts Jordan can work here christian 33 islam 768 western way 0 186
6 Column percentage table for q15 Jordan can work here Christian 4.1 Islam 95.9 Total 100.0 Count 801.0 western way 0 100 100 186
Table q15 count shows that out of the 987 samples of those that responded to the closed questionnaire, 33 are Christians and all of them believe that democracy can work in Jordan. Also, a significant number of the Islamic population, 768 out of the 954 respondents concurred with the views of the Christian minority group. 186 people from the Islamic population believe that democracy cannot work in Jordan. It shows that those who do not think that democracy can work in Jordan are still higher in number than the Christian population vis-à-vis 186 to 33 proving that this is a predominantly Islamic country. In the column percentage table for q15, 4.1% are Christians compared 95.9% Muslims. However, it is very surprising contrary to my hypotheses that people in this region believe that democracy is a thing for the West. However, I cannot conclude at this juncture that the hypothesis is totally wrong till I test the X2 putting into consideration that all the NA were no included.
Pearson's Chi-squared test X-squared = 7.928, df = 1, p-value = 0.004868
Null expected counts q15 Jordan can work here Christian 26.78116 Islam 774.21884 western way 6.218845 179.781155
Observed contingency table q15 Jordan can work here Christian 1.44 Islam 0.05 western way 6.22 0.22
7 The pattern that has been produced in this sample shows that most people think that democracy can work in Jordan. This is evidence in the observed contingency table and the mosaic plot. The chi-square statistics, which is 7.928, is not big enough which means that the null hypothesis can be rejected with confidence level of 99.5% as p-value = 0.004868 is less than 1%.
Mosaic Plot- Figure 3. (Null expected)
can work here
8 Mosaic Plot- Figure 4. (Observed)
can work here
The above mosaic plots in figures 3 and 4 also depict almost the same information as the contingency tables. The observed mosaic plot shows a significant deviation from the null expected. It can be deduced that there is big perception that democracy is a thing for the West. The observed shows that the observed bigger than the expected as those who believe that democracy can work in Jordan is overlapping to the area that says it is western way.
9 Substantive implications
The data that has been used in this research shows that it will take a very long time for actual democracy that is not pressured by the international money donors to come to Jordan. It will take a lot of change in mind sets of people in terms of religion and culture before true democracy can flourish in Jordan and other Islamic countries marred by wars, rumours of wars and violence. The study also shows that the non-muslim communities in Jordan are very small. The best democratic process for Jordan and other Islamic countries has to be researched as blanket imposition of democracy may lead to another Iraq. On the short term, the country should be encouraged to continue to engage with the West in dialogue so that is can improve on its human rights records and women’s participation in politics. Some uncertainties that were perceived earlier on were false alarm because there was no error in the methodology used. Any other method to be used in a similar research will be a matter of triangulation and equifinality since there is no one method of conducting research. Meaning that similar results will be obtained, no matter which approach or method is used provided the variables remain constant8.
Alexander L. George and Andrew Bennett, Case Studies and Theory Development in the Social Sciences, MA: MIT Press, Cambridge, 2005.
Alexander L. George and Andrew Bennett, Case Studies and Theory Development in the Social Sciences, MA: MIT Press, Cambridge, 2005. Elias, J. and Sutch, P.: IR: The Basics, Routledge, USA, 2007. Giddens, A., “Asking and Answering Sociological Questions” in Giddens, A. (5th Edition) Sociology, Polity Press, Cambridge, 2006. Graaff, J.: Poverty and Development, Oxford University Press, Cape Town, 2003. http://www.ucc.ie.en/hr/HealthWelfare/MentalHealth/Religion/Buddhism/index.html. Accessed on 24 May 2009.
Neuwirth, R., Oil-From Blessing to Curse, http://www.michnews.com/cgi-bin/atman/exec/view.cgi, 28 February 2006.
Skocpol, T.: Social revolution in modern world, Cambridge University Press, UK, 1994.
Wiktorowicz, Q., “The Limits of Democracy in the Middle East: The Case of Jordan”, in The Middle East Journal, Vol. 53, Iss. 4, Washington, Autumn 1999. Accessed at http://0proquest.umi.com.innopac.wits.ac.za/pqdweb?index=0&did=46163474&SrchMode=1&sid=1&Fmt =3&VInst=PROD&VType=PQD&RQT=309&VName=PQD&TS=1243185293&clientId=57035
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