This video is going to summarize the main languages, religions, and ethnic groups of the Middle East, and briefly explain some of the minority ethnic groups. Where the Middle East exactly is and why it has that name could be its own video, but for the purposes of this video the Middle East is a region at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and Africa. It has no strict definition, but usually includes Egypt, Turkey, Iran, Syria, Iraq, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, and Kuwait. Afghanistan and Cyprus are sometimes included in the definition, but those countries could be their own videos. Technically every country could be its own video but since the ethnic groups often span multiple countries this video will put them in a broader context. Ethnicity is a complicated concept for when groups of people identify one another based on shared language, religion, and cultural traditions. The main religions of the Middle East are Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. Islam is by far the most common religion in the Middle East, but most Muslims live outside the Middle East. Some of the countries where the majority of the population is muslim are in North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia. A significant number of Muslims live on the east coast of Africa, but they’re only the majority in Somalia. Albania and Bosnia has slight Muslim majorities, with the Christian minorities and the irreligious making up just less than fifty percent of the population. Kosovo is a Muslim majority country which is not recognized by the United Nations, but it is recognized by many UN members. Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Indonesia are also muslim-majority countries. Due to these countries high populations, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Bangladesh are first, second, and fourth in the world by total number of Muslims. The country with the third highest Muslim population is actually India despite only about fourteen percent of the population being Muslim. It’s just that India’s population of over 1.3 billion is so high that fourteen percent is over 180 million. The country with the fifth highest number of Muslims is Nigeria with a total population of 190 million, which is about four percent Muslim, mostly in the North, representing over 90 million people. In the Middle East most of the countries are majority Muslim, but Israel is majority Jewish. As well there are significant Christian minorities all over the Middle East. Most notably is Lebanon where over forty percent of the population is christian. It gets even more complicated though. Islam is divided into two main groups Sunni and Shia. The majority of Muslims worldwide are Sunni, but Shia muslims are concentrated in the Middle East. It is common for Sunni and Shia Muslims to live in the same country, but in general Iran, Azerbaijanm and the south of Iraq are Shia, while the north of Iraq is Sunni. Shia Muslims are also concentrated in the interior of Turkey and Afghanistan and the coastal region of Syria and Lebanon. The people of the island of Bahrain and the nearby Saudi coast are Shia, but the royal family of the Bahrain, and therefore the politically powerful class, is Sunni. Northern Yemen and neighboring parts of Saudi Arabia are Shia, while the rest of Yemen is Sunni. This divided couple with the fact that the north and south have only been unified since 1990 contributes to the tensions in the Yemeni civil war. The country of Oman has its own sect of Islam called Ibadism which predates the sunni-shia split. Iran and Saudi Arabia used the sunni-shia divide to compete for influence in the Middle East, with Iran generally supporting Shias, and Saudi Arabia generally supporting Sunnis. The religious divide is accompanied by a language divide with Iran speaking Persian, and the rest of the middle east except Israel and Turkey speak Arabic. Overall the most common languages in the Middle East are Arabic, Turkish, Persian, Kurdish, and Hebrew, which can be split into three language families of related languages. Persian and Kurdish are both in the Iranian branch of the indo-european language family. This means they are closely related to each other and distantly related to some of languages of Europe and India. Persian is the official language of Iran, though many other languages are spoken such as Kurdish, which is also spoken in parts of Turkey, Iraq, and Syria, but is only an official language in Iraq along with Arabic. The official language of turkey is Turkish which is in the Turkic language family. Turkish is closely related to Azerbaijani and Turkmen and more distantly related to the other languages in Central Asia. In Israel the majority language is Hebrew, but both Hebrew in Arabic are official languages. Arabic and Hebrew are related Semitic languages which are part of the afro-asiatic language family. There are certainly minority languages all over but Arabic is the official language of the rest of the countries of the Middle East. Except Arabic isn’t really a single language, it’s a bunch of regional dialects that are often barely understandable to one another. Arabic speakers will often know their own local dialect as well as modern Standard Arabic that is used in writing and with speakers of other Arabic dialects. This is similar to the situation in China where there are many regional dialects all considered to be Chinese, but the Mandarin dialect is used in formal contexts. The difference being that Standard Arabic is not any regions local dialect, while Mandarin is local to some parts of China. Most Arabic speakers are Arab, but there are plenty of non arab ethnic groups which speak Arabic. Arabic originated in the Arabian Peninsula and many minority ethnic groups exist in the rest of the arabic-speaking world. In some cases, such as in the North African Maghreb, the local Berbers mixed with the Arabs, though the Berber language and identity still exists in some regions. In other areas the local groups remain distinct and they live alongside Arabs and have adopted the Arabic language for convenience. For example the copts are predominantly Christian ethnic group living in Egypt that represent about ten percent of the population. In Lebanon most of the Christians are in a group called the Maronites though other Christian groups exist. The current President of Syria is an Alawite which is a Muslim group that speaks Arabic and lives near the coast of Syria, but they are Shia and a country that is majority Sunni. This contributed to the tensions which led to the Syrian Civil War. The main cause being that the President refused to step down following mass protests for democratic reform. The Druze are an ethno-religious group that lives in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Israel and speak arabic. They had their own distinct religion which is similar to but does not fit in with any of the main three religions of the region. Some minority languages also exist. The Assyrians are predominantly Christian ethnic group in Iraq and Syria that speak a Semitic language called Aramaic. The Kurdish language is a minority in all the countries the Kurds inhabit, but Iraqi Kurdistan and has recently gained high levels of autonomy due to the Iraq War (2003). The Iraqi Civil War (2014) was caused by the Syrian civil war spilling over into Iraq and stressing pre-existing tensions between the Sunni north and the Shia majority. The Kurds are linguistic group and can belong to any religion, although the majority are Sunni Muslims. Some Kurdish speakers called Yazidis of their own religion, which is similar to, but distinct from, the main religions of the region. They live primarily in Iraqi Kurdistan. The Kurds, Assyrians, and Yazidis are often the victims of mass killings and genocides, most recently carried out by DAESH in the Iraqi and Syrian civil wars. DAESH is also killing Shia Muslims. The third largest group in Iraq are the Iraqi Turkmen who represent less than ten percent of the population and speak a dialect of Turkish. In the Gulf states there are many migrant workers from foreign countries like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and the Philippines who are not citizens and thus have limited rights, but can sometimes be the majority of the population. There are many more ethnic minorities in the Middle East notably in Turkey, Israel, Palestine, and Iran, which again would require their own videos to explain, but to summarize what has been covered in this video: most of the countries of the Middle East are majority Muslim, with the exception of Israel, but most Muslims live outside the Middle East. The Arab League is an organization composed of arabic-speaking countries and includes all the countries of the Middle East except for Israel, Turkey, and Iran, but also includes the arabic-speaking countries outside the Middle East in North Africa and the Comoros Islands. Additionally many minority ethnic groups exist all over the Middle East. If any of the videos hinted at in this video are ever made they will be down below but until then you can watch one of the other videos I’ve made.