How Extraordinary Was the Arab Spring? Examining 'Protest Potential' in the Muslim World

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Before the Arab Spring, the Middle East and North Africa was cited for its low levels of political mobilization, but recent events call for a more systematic study of “protest potential” in MENA and the broader Muslim world. Combining surveys from 141 countries, I identify a significant participation gap in Muslim-plurality countries: individuals living there are less likely to have participated in politics and are also less likely to self-report being willing to do so, a difference that holds across all demographic categories. After confirming the validity of retrospective and prospective self-reports using a survey of participants in Istanbul’s Gezi Park protests, I explore the role of religion in the Muslim world’s participation gap: while Islam, as a doctrine, does not inhibit activism, certain forms of religiosity do undermine participation. In particular, private beliefs and practices limit protest potential in the Muslim world, while collective religious engagement bolsters it. The latter, I argue, supports activism by helping address the collective action problem underlying mass politics.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Politics in Muslim Societies
EditorsMelani Cammett, Pauline Jones
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Print)9780190931056
StatePublished - Sep 2 2020


  • protest
  • political participation
  • Middle East
  • Turkey
  • Arab spring
  • Gezi Park
  • Islam
  • religiosity
  • trust


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