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The Center for the Study of Islam Democracy


Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy

7th Annual Conference

The Challenge of Democracy in the Muslim World

May 5-6, 2006 – Washington, D.C. 



Recent trends in democratic developments in the Muslim world indicate the continued struggle of Muslim peoples for democracy.  At the heart of the desired democratic change are freedoms and good governance resting on effective popular participation, accountability, and rule of law.  While some Muslim countries have taken serious strides toward democracy, e.g. Indonesia and Turkey, most others have lagged behind.  Nowadays only a minority of scholars still questions the desirability and feasibility of democracy in the Muslim world.  Yet, the record shows that democracy has neither taken hold nor been consolidated in the Muslim world. Why?  Earlier answers have focused on essentialist cultural explanations.  Such a discourse on democracy, or lack thereof, often takes place in a historical and contextual vacuum.  More serious works have examined the political, economic, and social obstacles, all within the regional and international contexts.  How valuable is the theoretical discourse in explaining the success or failure of democratization in the Muslim world?  Can there be democratic legitimacy without individual liberty?  


The struggle for democratic change in the Muslim world is happening in an international context in which the major powers are engaged in a “global war against terrorism.”  The paradox in this environment is that the powerful actors in the international system, i.e. the US and EU, are calling for democratic change in the Muslim world, yet they are enacting laws and pursuing policies that restrict freedoms, endorse despotic rulers, and marginalize Muslim democrats.  What are the opportunities and challenges in this complex environment?  


The seventh annual conference of the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy, therefore, will examine the obstacles to democracy, both domestic and international, in the Muslim world.  Paper proposals are invited from prospective participants on the following seven broad topics. 


Possible topics are by no means restricted to the ones that follow but proposals must demonstrate the relevance of their topic in general to the challenges of democracy in Muslim societies.   Both broad theoretical approaches and specific case studies are welcome.


  • The state of democracy in the Muslim societies/countries
  • Critical evaluation of the theoretical discourse on democratization
  • Domestic and external challenges to democracy in the Muslim world
  • Prospects for democracy in the Muslim world
  • The challenge of anti-democratic Islamist discourses
  • Gender equality, the rights of minorities, and democratization in the Muslim world
  • Developing new and just interpretations of Islamic principles in the 21st century  

The Conference Program Committee Chair is Prof. Najib Ghadbian, University of Arkansas.

Please e-mail paper proposals (between 200- 400 words), by January 1, 2006, to the Conference Coordinator, Sami , at:

For updates on the conference, please visit

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