Pakistani Conceptualization of Shari'a and Support for Militancy and Democratic Values: A New Empirical Approach
43 Pages Posted: 1 Sep 2014
Date Written: August 12, 2014
In this paper, we argue that empirical studies of the relationship between popular support for Islamism and support for democracy and violence have yielded inconclusive results, largely because scholars inadequately operationalize respondent support for shari'a. Focusing on Pakistan, we demonstrate how using different conceptualizations of shari'a has direct impacts upon the observed correlation between such support and support for democratic values and Islamic militant groups. We use data derived from a carefully designed survey instrument that offers unique insights into how Pakistanis define a shari'a-based government. We find that formalizing an Islamic government as one that implements shari'a by providing services and security for the people is associated with increased support for democratic values, whereas conceptualizing an Islamic government as one that implements shari'a by imposing hudud punishments and restricting women's public roles is associated with increased support for militancy. These results suggest that depending on how individuals within a particular context and time period construe a shari'a-based government, public support for the multi-faceted shari'a can either be a positive force for democracy or a predictor of support for militant politics. These results have important implications for survey work, which must elicit a better understanding of respondents' beliefs about shari'a-based government.
Keywords: Pakistan, shari`a, support for Islamist militancy, support for democracy, public opinion, survey work
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation