Culture, Religion, and Ethnicity
Defining factors affecting the Middle East
Many people do not have a clear understanding of the differences between culture, religion and ethnicity. Before one can truly understand the diverse peoples that reside in the Middle East, it is important to have an understanding of these various terms and their differences.
Ethnic groups do not align themselves by a particular religion. Culture and race help to define a person's ethnicity, not religion. For example the nation of India practices many different religions, such as Buddhism and Christianity. Likewise, religions are not based on ethnicity, but rather their beliefs.
The Kurds are an ethnic group that lives in Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. Most Kurds religious beliefs are in the Sunni side of Islam, rather than the Shia/Shiite side. The Shia/Shiite commonly reside in Iran and is parts of Iraq.
Most Persians are Shia Muslim and most live in Iran. Persians are not Arab and do not speak Arabic. They speak Farsi, a dialect of the language Persian. These Persians follow the religion of Islam and the holy Qur'an. 90% of Persians are Shia Muslim while only 8% are Sunni.
Arabs are the largest ethnic group the Middle East, living throughout North Africa and Southwest Asia. They speak Arabic, a language which originated in the desert regions of the Arabian Peninsula. Most Arabic people are Muslim, with Christians and Jews being the minority. The Islamic religion is followed by 95% of Arab people.
See example maps for additional ethnic and religious distribution information:
Map Iraq Ethnicity
Map Iran Ethnicity
Additional Ethnic and Religious distribution information can be found at PBS Global Connections - the Middle East.
There are many religious, ethnic, and cultural differences in the many regions of the world. These differences are very pronounced in the countries of the Middle East, more so than in many other parts of the world. Religion is one factor affecting the relations within this diverse community.
Team Noble Editors
www.mapcruzin.com Free Maps (University of TX)
Global Connections of the Middle East