In their 1996 book, Islam and Democracy, John Esposito and John Voll examined the intersection of politics and religion in five Islamic countries. They pointed to the emergence of pro-democracy movements in Islamic societies despite resistance from authoritarian regimes, arguing that to understand the multiple political trajectories in these countries, commonalities as well as historical differences among societies must be considered. The events of the Arab Spring and other recent developments in the politics of Muslim majority countries compel a re-examination. What were the new political solvents that accelerated change? What are the implications of 21st-century developments for understanding the relationship between Islam and democracy? Does the argument the authors advanced in 1996—that the term “democracy” can have multiple interpretations—remain relevant?
John O. Voll is Professor of Islamic History and Associate Director of the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University. He is the author, co-author, or editor of a dozen books, including Asian Islam in the 21st Century (2008), co-edited with Esposito and Osman Bakar, and more than one hundred articles on Islamic and world history. He is a Past President of the Middle East Studies Association.
- Director, History and Public Policy Program; Global Europe; Cold War International History Project; North Korea Documentation Project; Nuclear Proliferation International History Project