Islam, Oil, and the Middle East Region: An Empirical Analysis of the Repression of Religion, 1980-2013
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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There is a lively debate on the relative impacts of Islam, oil wealth, and Middle Eastern institutional legacies regarding democratization and the spread of liberal values. We examine this issue using religious repression. We argue that oil-wealthy rulers use religious monopoly to control dissent. Our results show that oil wealth increases religious repression above the effects of Muslim dominance and a host of sundry controls. The Middle East and North Africa region seems to matter more than Islam. Interestingly, the conditional effect of oil and the Middle East and North Africa region is positive on religious freedom. The data suggest that several Gulf monarchies have more religious freedoms than other Muslim dominant states, such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, or even Israel and Jordan. The worst religious repression is among oil producers in Central Asia. The results are robust to a host of intervening factors, different measures of oil wealth, alternative data on religious freedom, and estimating method.