Are predominantly Muslim societies distinctly disadvantaged in democratization? If so, why? The article presents a straightforward cross-national examination of the link between Islam and political regime. The evidence strongly suggests that Muslim countries are in fact democratic underachievers. The nature of the causal connection between Islam and political regime is investigated. Many conventional assumptions about Islam and politics do not withstand scrutiny. But one factor does help explain the dearth of democracy in the Muslim world: the treatment of women and girls. The rudiments of a provisional theory linking the treatment of females and regime type are offered and the implications of the findings for democracy, both in Muslim societies and elsewhere, are discussed.