Culturalists claim that political outcomes, such as respect for human rights, are deeply rooted in culture. Some have singled out Islam as particularly problematic. We assess whether Muslim societies suffer higher levels of political terror compared with others. Our results show that countries containing larger shares of Catholics, and those dominated by Catholics, fare the worst. The share of the population Muslim and Membership in the Organization of the Islamic Conference predicts lower levels of political terror. Claims about the uniqueness of Islam for accounting for political repression seem to be exaggerated. Consistent with the findings on religion and democracy, our results indicate that it is the Arab region, not religion that matters, but Latin America shows the largest impact. Substantively, political and economic factors matter a whole lot more than do the variables on religion. This is good news for policy that seeks to end the scourge of political repression.
de Soysa, Indra & Ragnhild Nordås (2007) Islam's Bloody Innards? Religion and Political Terror, 1980–2000, International Studies Quarterly 51 (4): 927–943.