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24 September 2020

MGIMO Guide Available Online

It can be difficult for first-year students to find their way in the new learning environment. MGIMO has created for their convenience a specialized reference resource MGIMO Guide ( to help them adapt comfortably and quickly to university life. The guide answers the main questions that freshmen have, concerning everything from the educational process and scholarships to extracurricular activities and offers useful contact information.
23 September 2020

MBA of MGIMO School of Business Among Global Leaders!

QS released its Global MBA 2021 ratings and the MBA of MGIMO’s School of Business has been ranked among the best programs in the world. The MBA program of the School of Business and International Proficiency came 61st in the Europe section of the QS Global MBA Ranking.
18 September 2020

MGIMO Institute for International Studies Publishes Article in Leading European International Relations’ Journal

Researchers of MGIMO’s Institute for International Studies (IIS) and the Laboratory of International Trends Analysis (LAMP) published their paper in the established European Journal of International Relations. The journal is included in Q1 of both Scopus and Web of Science, ranking top-6 in Web of Science “International Relations” category.

Religious Factor in Public Administration in the Arab World (studies of Lebanon and Saudi Arabia)

Uliana Artemova,
School of Governance and Politics, MGIMO University

Abstract: the article deals with the problem of the religious impact on public administration in Arab countries. This issue will be disclosed with examples of the Lebanese Republic and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Key words: religion, public administration, state policy, Arab countries, the system of government, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia.


What is religion? How is it correlated with public administration? Religion is said to be an arduous question at all times and still remains controversial, as there is no discerning definition of this term. However, diverse approaches have already been formed, e.g. psychological, theological, philosophical, scientific etc. Consequently, the sociologist Émile Durkheim defined religion as a “unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things”[1] whereas the psychologist William James defined it as “the feelings, acts, and experiences of individual men in their solitude, so far as they apprehend themselves to stand in relation to whatever they may consider to divine”.[2] Thus, these are diametrically opposite definitions and that is how religion involves most of all parts of social life. Moreover, religion has always played a vital role in the establishment and development of modern states and legal systems of these countries. In ancient times, admittedly, religious texts constituted a source of law, because then there were not any documents regulating public life, and scriptures were the first to cope with this problem. Nowadays in some countries the scriptures, notably, Qur’an[3] is a source of a law, representing Islamic (it is also known as Muslim or Koranic) law. Accordingly, public policy both domestic and foreign is to be correlated with Qur’an. However, there are a lot of viewpoints criticizing these church-state relations. In his outstanding book “The clash of civilizations and the remarking of world order” Samuel Huntington says that the key characteristic of the Western culture is separation of church and state, something he sees as foreign to the world’s other major religious systems: “In Islam, God is Caesar; in [Confucianism] Caesar is God; in Orthodoxy, God is Caesar’s junior partner”.[4] Later on he argues regarding Islam. Alfred Stepan argues against Huntington that the greatest liberal democracy, for instance, in Turkey and Egypt, is posed “not by Islam but by military and intelligence organizations unaccountable to democratic authority”.[5]

Main body:

So now it’s time to seek for the real examples of the countries where religion is crucial for public administration. The first illustration of the canonical religious public administration is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This country is an unitary Islamic absolute monarchy with prevailing religion of Sunni Islam. The primary source of legislation is Islamic law-the Shari’ah, and there has never been a written constitution (which is essential for civil society and democracy in general), it is therefore not surprising that according to the Democracy Index 2018 which is annually published by “The Economist”[6], Saudi Arabia is ranked 159 with total score 1,93 (full democracies can get from 8.01 points to 10, flawed democracies- 8-6.01, hybrid regimes 6-4.01, authoritarian 4-0) and authoritarian political regime. However, The basic law of Saudi Arabia was published in 1992, which contained 9 chapters and 83 articles. In the first chapter Saudi Arabia is proclaimed to be a sovereign Arab Islamic state with Islam as its religion.[7] Indeed, political parties and national elections are not permitted across the country-all decisions are made by the royal family, namely by the king (and prime minister rolled into one) Salman Al Saud. Of course, it goes without saying that absolute monarchy in the 21-st century has outlived its usefulness in many countries, and Saudi Arabia faces a great amount of austere criticism for its system of government, it is usually called totalitarian dictatorship. This country is scored 49/100 points (it indicates the perceived level of public sector corruption on a scale of 0 - highly corrupt to 100 - very clean) under the Corruption Perceptions Index 2018 made by Transparency International.[8] To sum up, Saudi Arabia is a country with the solid and strong authority supported by ancient traditions and Islam.

The second example of a country with powerful religious interference could be the Lebanese Republic. Why is this country interesting for this article? Lebanon is a parliamentary democracy including confessionalism[9], in which different positions are reserved for members of religious groups, that is how the President has to be a Maronite[10] Christian, the Prime Minister a Sunni Muslim, the Speaker of the Parliament a Shi’a Muslim. In accordance with the The Lebanese Constitution[11], the government should represent the demographic distribution of the 18 recognized religious groups. As in Lebanon diversity of ethno-confessional communities, each with its own family law legislation and set of religious courts. Its political regime is said to be hybrid, scored 4.63 based on data published by “The Economist”. This country has government respect for religious freedom.


Summarizing all above-mentioned, several problems of religious involvement in policy of the government were discussed in this article, so now it is time to take stock. With the examples provided in this article it could be noticed that the existence of an official state religion inevitably leads to the decrease in the well known democratic doctrines giving no religious and cultural choice for citizens. Nevertheless, religious factor is widespread. Any Arab (as well as Western) country can be taken as an example here, even if there is no official religion; still the effect can be felt as states’ law systems were formed been forming long time ago under pressure of a prevailing religion. The religious pluralism can only lead to prosperity of a country, improving flexibility of people’s minds inside this country and positions on the global arena. 

Reference list:

  1. Alfred Stepan, Religion, Democracy and the “Twin tolerations,” in World Religions and Democracy 18 (Larry Diamond, Marc F. Plattner & Philip J. Costopoloulus eds., 2005)
  2. Durkheim, Emile (1915). The elementary forms of the religious life. London: George Allen& Unwin.
  3. James, William (1902). The varieties of religious experience. A study in human nature. Longmans, Green, and Co.
  4. Samuel P. Huntington (1996) The clash of civilizations and the remarking of world order.

[1] Durkheim, Emile (1915). The elementary forms of the religious life. London: George Allen& Unwin.

[2] James, William (1902). The varieties of religious experience. A study in human nature. Longmans, Green, and Co.

[3] Qur’an is the central religious text of Islam, which Muslims believe to be a revelation from God (Allah).

[4] Samuel P. Huntington (1996) The clash of civilizations and the remarking of world order.

[5] Alfred Stepan, Religion, Democracy and the “Twin tolerations,” in World Religions and Democracy 18 (Larry Diamond, Marc F. Plattner & Philip J. Costopoloulus eds., 2005)

[9] Confessionalism is a system of government that is de jure a mix of religion and politics.

[10]The Lebanese Maronite Christians are believed to constitute about 25% of total population of Lebanon.