Edited by Francesco Forte, Ram Mudambi and Pietro Maria Navarra
Chapter 8: Religious parties
The 'Arab spring' has toppled dictatorships in several countries, and set in motion developments, which seem likely to lead to democratic institutions of some sort. Given the importance of religion in the Middle East and North Africa, it is unsurprising that Islamic parties have achieved considerable success in the first democratic elections in the area. This development potentially endangers the principle of a separation of Church and state that has become, more or less, entrenched in Western thinking and the West's democratic institutions. This chapter analyzes the rationale underlying the creation of religious parties, and the question of whether their existence poses certain challenges and dangers for democratic institutions. I argue that they may pose such a danger. Religious parties might, of course, like all other parties, simply come into existence to advance certain interests of their supporters, and thus are no more of a danger to democracy than any other party. Although this is to some extent the case, I shall argue that the goals of religious parties are likely to deviate in important ways from secular parties, and thus they do in fact raise important issues regarding their potential impact on the functioning of a democracy, and the nature of the collective actions it undertakes. The chapter proceeds as follows. I begin in the next section with the question of why the state even exists.
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