Religious Practice and Political Attitudes among Shi’ites in Iran and Iraq

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Author(s): Fotini Christia, Elizabeth Dekeyser, Dean Knox 

Status/Format: Published

Date: 2020

Publication Type: Report

Publisher: The Oxford Handbook of Politics in Muslim Societies

Editor(s): Melani Cammett, Pauline Jones


How does religiosity shape beliefs about the proper role of religion in politics? We consider this question using an original survey of religious Shiʿites in Iran and Iraq, taken during the world’s largest annual pilgrimage. We find that among both Iranians and Iraqis, communally oriented practice is highly associated with a desire for leadership by religious figures and adherence to religious principles in politics. We argue that this influence operates through religious socialization, or the transmission of norms through organizational or social aspects of religion. In Iran, we also find that individual practice is highly associated with greater support for the regime. We argue this demonstrates successful religious legitimation, in which the Iranian regime is seen as a legitimate theocracy among respondents. These findings highlight both the important role that religious practice can play in influencing attitudes and provide surprising evidence about the ideological underpinnings of regime persistence in Iran.