Why are most Islamic governments, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, less democratic and more corrupt than most Christian-aligned countries particularly in the West?
First, let's get some insider information from the man on the ground:
I live in Algeria, a North African country. I don't know about the Middle East, but there's no North African islamic government. Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt; none of these are Islamic. Some of these have dealt with problems, some are dealing with problems as I write these words, but they're not islamic.
There's no sharia law applied here (you don't get beheaded, you don't get your hand severed, no policemen chasing women around telling them to cover themselves, etc), nobody gets whipped.
Granted, the quality of life, the infrastructure, things to do, entertainment, etc. are way below what the average American or European would consider baseline, but life here is utterly normal. It actually disappoints some foreigners who want to have an exotic change. The same, just with less fun and slower internet.
Some people have tried to plant a version of religion from elsewhere, but it didn't live well in the Mediterranean. All the blood that was shed was not enough to keep that plant alive and no additional amount will ever make it blossom.
There are peculiarities, for sure, but not more so than a U.S. state's law on something. The Constitution of the country states that Islam is religion of state; it is as much a religious statement as "In God We Trust" or the President swearing an oath to God.
These governments are secular and mostly a copy of French political system (President is head of state, Prime minister is head of government. Separation of powers, Parliament, etc.). Whether they work well or not as effectively and efficiently as they should is something else but I think that the fact politicians are seldom the darling of people anywhere in the world is quite telling.
Question: What is an islamic government? Is there such a thing? Why are islamic governments worse than christian aligned ones?
Answer: An islamic government is one that allegedly follows what is known as "sharia law", meaning applying what "God and the Prophet said". This assumes that people know exactly what God means. I find it rather hard to understand a person, let alone a metaphysical entity. So an "islamic government" means really that some people claim to have understood said metaphysical entity and are willing to enforce what that entity said (well, their interpretation of it. Interpretation subject to change)
This is no different than Christian countries back when the Church was calling the shots and dictated behavior. The peak of the Church's influence was a couple of centuries ago, but that doesn't make it less true that only a few decades ago it was still the case. Behavior was largely dictated by the Church and only after the 1960s and 1970s that life in Europe and the U.S. became what it is. There's a reason that period is called a revolution.
So it is not a problem of "Islamic government", it is a problem of "theocratic government". Why? Because God doesn't go to Parliament and call bullshit on those who rule in his name. (do islamic countries have a parliament, by the way?)
Historically, whenever humans tried to justify their authority by invoking something that doesn't have a voice, things went badly.. From the Pharaohs with priests moving statues, to Popes, to Mollahs, to Princes, etc.
It's not God that jails and executes people; it's people, and they can abuse the authority they have given themselves (people let them have) hiding behind the veneer of religion.
Officials from islamic countries let themselves go and indulge in the pleasures of life when they are elsewhere just as much as clergy and popes did. What they have in common is that they made people die for doing the same and they had a distinguished attire.
This tells you one thing: Everywhere you go, there are humans.
Now, why are these countries worse than "christian aligned" governments? It is because "christian aligned" governments happen to represent countries that have had an industrial revolution, economic growth, engineering breakthroughs, application of scientific results.
It's not being "christian aligned" that has caused those. You can prove that with a counter-example: if you consider Japan, and South Korea to be countries worthy of comparison, then being "christian aligned" is for nothing since these countries aren't.
2 - What is a democratic government? Is democracy measurable? Is the appearance of democracy the same as the practice of it?
Again, let me make a distinction between North African countries and others. I'll only speak about Algeria: by the naive person's definition of democracy, it's not. By the realistic person's: it is a democracy. If we agree that there's no true democracy. Everywhere you go, elections get rigged and ballots stuffed. Everywhere you go, those who have influence do exert it.
Everywhere you go, there are people.
3 - How do we know they are more or less corrupt than X government?
Again, if you dig deep enough, you'll find that there's corruption everywhere. Granted, some countries are better at being discreet about it than others. Officials in some countries fear scandal more than those in others.
4 - Your question reframed: Why does it suck more to live in the countries you think are islamic?
The biggest problems people complain about here are: traffic -too many cars-, jobs, high prices, weight of their kids' school books, limited freedom, etc.
So why does it suck more to live here is really lack of progress, not that great an economy, generalisation of corruption, lack of accountability, projects that don't get finished, dilapidation of taxpayer's money, using taxpayer's money for personal use, lack of expertise by people in charge.
But I have just described a consequence of a cause. This is caused by the fact that the average citizen, at least here, is disinterested in politics. I'm not talking about Presidential elections, this is just the tip of the iceberg. The President isn't the closest elected official to the citizen. People are disinterested in politics at the county/city/district level. 99% don't even know who's in charge of their county.
Democracy is a set of tools to empower the people. People here just don't use these tools. They don't know how they work and how to get what they want using these tools. They don't know how to exert the power these tools give them.
What is fascinating with developed countries isn't that they're perfect, they're clearly not; it's that they work in spite of all that is broken.