Philpott states that "an aggregate, satellite view does indeed show a dearth of religious freedom in [Muslim-majority countries]." Indeed, based on research by Brian Grim and Roger Finke, Muslim-majority countries clearly have considerably lower levels of religious freedom than the rest of the world and Christian-majority countries. In “The Price of Religious Freedom Denied: Religious Persecution and Conflict in the Twenty-First Century,” Grim and Finke show that 78 percent of Muslim-majority countries have high levels of government restrictions on religious freedom, compared with 43 percent of all other countries and 10 percent of Christian-majority countries.
Philpott asks whether these aggregate scores prove that Islam is indeed generally inhospitable to religious freedom, then? His answer is "No. Zooming in from a satellite view to a more fine-grained view reveals far greater diversity." He notes that:
- Twelve out of 47 Muslim-majority states (about a quarter) fall into the category of “low restrictions on religious freedom,” meaning that they are essentially religiously free. Philpott argues that these include Kosovo, Djibouti, Albania, Mali, Senegal and Sierra Leone – most of them noticeably outside the Arab world.
- In tracing the roots of why these are toward the freer end of the scale, Philpott notes that "for some, the roots of freedom may lie in a particular form of Islamic theology or culture that embodies tolerance. In others, freedom may have arisen through a modus vivendi between Islam and other religions at some point in the country’s history. All of these cases, though, show that Muslim populations can, under certain circumstances, prove hospitable to religious freedom."
- Among the other 35 Muslim-majority states, which have moderate, high or very high levels of restriction, there are significantly different patterns of repression, which yield different conclusions about Islam.
- “Islamist” regimes are present in 21 of these countries, including, according to Philpott, Saudi Arabia the other Gulf Cooperation Council members, Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, Sudan, Malaysia [arguably for strict versions of Islamic law applied to the Muslim population], Indonesia [not nationally, but in Ache] and Nigeria [in the north, especially under Boko Haram]
- “Secular repressive” are present in the other 14 of these countries (including, according to Philpott, Uzbekistan, pre-Arab Spring Egypt, pre-AKP Turkey, Algeria and pre-revolutionary Tunisia.
- Philpott notes that the Iranian Revolution may serve as inspiration for Islamist states, while the French Revolution may be a model for the secular-repressive pattern, in which the power of government is used to manage religion.
- According to Philpott, the standard bearer of restrictive secular regimes is the Republic of Turkey, founded by Kemal Ataturk in 1924, and after World War II, many Arab states followed this model as well.