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Arab Attitudes Toward Sharīʿah as a Source of Legislation (2011)

Document type:
Report

    Arab Attitudes Toward Sharīʿah as a Source of Legislation (2011)

    Commentary

    The Arab uprisings that began in 2011 have placed the issue of women’s rights at the forefront of debate over the nature of democracy in the Middle East. International observers have been skeptical of the attempts to replace nominally secular regimes with Islamist systems based on conservative interpretations of the Qurʾān. Egypt in particular has attracted attention because of the rise of the previously banned Muslim Brotherhood, whose candidate Mohammed Morsi won the presidency in 2012. Regardless, a Gallup poll conducted that year demonstrated that women are as likely as men to support sharīʿah as an inspiration for the new legal systems. In the results reproduced below, the level of support for an Islamic style government is virtually identical across genders. Despite being depicted in many Western media outlets as connoting theocracy, the term sharīʿah for many Muslims is synonymous with Islam itself; as the Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World explains, sharīʿah “evokes loyalty and is a focus of faith,” and is therefore viewed as being compatible with democracy, tolerance, and equal rights for minorities, religions, and women. Moreover, the Gallup report goes on to show that most Arabs view economic woes, rather than Islamist groups, as the major obstacle to social reform.

    What role should Sharīʿah have in legislation? Should it be the only source of legislation? A source, but not the only source? Or should Sharīʿah not be a source of legislation?

    Men (only source) Women (only source) Men (a source, but not the only source) Women (a source, but not the only source)
    Egypt 50% 44% 37% 38%
    Syria 18% 15% 31% 34%
    Libya 39% 32% 40% 39%
    Tunisia 16% 18% 66% 56%
    Yemen 68% 58% 29% 32%
    Adapted from “Arab Women and Men See Eye to Eye on Religion’s Role in Law.” Gallup, 2012. http://www.gallup.com/poll/155324/Arab-Women-Men-Eye-Eye-Religion-Role-Law.aspx.

    What role should Sharīʿah have in legislation? Should it be the only source of legislation? A source, but not the only source? Or should Sharīʿah not be a source of legislation?

    Men (only source) Women (only source) Men (a source, but not the only source) Women (a source, but not the only source)
    Egypt 50% 44% 37% 38%
    Syria 18% 15% 31% 34%
    Libya 39% 32% 40% 39%
    Tunisia 16% 18% 66% 56%
    Yemen 68% 58% 29% 32%
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