Is Islam incompatible with democracy?
No, according to Larry Diamond, whose paper on Arab democracy is worth reading in full. Here’s an excerpt worth considering for the “Islam is a fundamentally retrograde, anti-modern religion” crowd:
As Alfred Stepan and Graeme Robertson have shown in these pages, there is a big “democracy gap” among states in the world, but it is an Arab much more than a “Muslim” gap. Comparing the 16 Muslim-majority countries that are predominantly Arab with 29 other Muslim-majority countries, Stepan and Robertson find among the latter a number (including Albania, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Senegal, and Turkey) with significant records of extending reasonably democratic political rights to their citizens. Among the Arab countries, the only one that meets this description is Lebanon before the civil war that began in 1975. Moreover, taking account of the level of political rights that one might predict from the level of per capita income, they find numerous “electoral overachievers” among the Muslim-majority states that are not predominantly Arab, and none among the Arab states.