A growing body of scholarship on the political and economic subordination of women in the Muslim world has argued that widespread patriarchal attitudes toward women’s roles in public life can be ameliorated by offering progressive reinterpretations of Islamic scriptures. In this article, we explore this hypothesis with a large-scale survey experiment conducted among adult Egyptians in late 2013. In the study, a subset of respondents were exposed to an argument in favor of women’s political equality that was grounded in the Qur’ān, Islam’s holiest text. We found that this group was significantly more willing to express approval of female political leadership than those exposed to a non-religious argument in favor of women’s eligibility for political leadership. A further analysis of conditional treatment effects suggests that the religious justification for female political leadership was more likely to elicit agreement among less educated and less pious respondents, and when delivered by women and targeted at men. Our findings suggest that Islamic discourse, so often used to justify the political exclusion of women, can also be used to help empower them.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Sociology and Political Science
- experimental research
- Middle East
- religion and politics