When talking about countries in the Arab world, most people think that there is only one religion. However, this is not the case, as has been shown and documented time and again since the “Arab Spring”. The great religion in Arab countries is, of course, Islam. But Islam is also divided into different sub groups. The largest group are the Sunnis, who form the majority in many Arab countries.
In addition to the Sunnis there are many smaller groups, such as the Shiites. Besides Sunnis and Shiites, there are Druze and Alawites as well as Sufis. (See below for more information about above mentioned sub groups)
The group that is mostly forgotten when talking about religions in Arab countries is that of Christians. There are several groups of Christians in Arab countries, and wars in these countries have led to the deportation, murder or flight of Christians to America. In the case of Syria, a few Christians have come to Europe.
Christians are divided into different groups. Catholics and Protestants are familiar names, of course. In Egypt Copts were one of the most important Christian groups. In addition to the Christian groups, there are also smaller groups of religious communities, such as the Yazidis. Today, many Yazidis have emigrated to other countries. Germany has accepted an estimated 100,000 members, the largest community of Yazidis living abroad.
While in the past the various religions co-existed in the Arab world, this has become less and less the case. The Middle East continues to be Islamised in the 20th century. The “Arab Spring” led to Islamisation and suppressed other religions such as the Copts in Egypt and the Yazidis, especially in northern Iraq and northern Syria.
Today there are few or no Jews left in many Arab countries, most having emigrated to Israel.
Sunnis (ahl as-sunna / أهل السنة): Sunnis form a majority of Muslims in most Muslim countries (with the exception of Iran, Iraq, Oman, Lebanon and Bahrain). Sunnis accept the successors of the caliphs after Muhammad’s death.
Shiites (ahl ash-shiya / أهل الشهة): They represent the second major group of Islam. They recognize Ali as the legitimate successor of Muhammad.
The differences between Sunnis and Shiites were not originally theological, but sprang from the question of who should lead the Muslim community. The Sunnis formed the caliphate, the Shiites the imamat.
Druze (دروز): This is a religious community in the Middle East which emerged in Egypt in the early 11th century as a spin-off of a group of Shia.
Alawites (علويون): They are also called Nusarians and constitute a special religious community. Alawites originated in Iraq in the late 9th century and are part of the Shiite spectrum of Islam.
Yazidi: They are a Northern Kurdish speaking religious minority with several hundred thousand members. The membership results exclusively by birth, if both parents are of Yesid descent.
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