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Who are the …?
Some simple definitions of North African and
Southwest Asian cultural groups.
Arabic Speakers, a Semitic language.
Semitic origins are desert origins. Otherwise, they are pan-ethnic
people, many cultures that share a language.
Most North Africans and Southwest Asians are Arabs.
Palestinians are Arabs, Jews are not, but both speak a Semitic
language: Jews-Hebrew, Arabs-Arabic. There is an Arab
majority in Lebanon. Turks and Iranians are not Arabs.
Formerly Persians
Persia was a huge land empire that controlled most of
Southwest and Central Asia from
Nomadic desert people of North Africa
and the Arabian Peninsula. Omanis pictured.
Qadaffi was a Bedouin.
Berbers: -people of the Maghreb, assimilated into Arab
world, but really pre-Arab.
Berber Moors—what the Islamic Berber conquerers of Spain
were known as.
Tuareg: Nomadic desert
people of Northwest Africa,
especially Mali, Algeria,
Niger, and western Libya.
Nominally Islamic, many are
Arabic speakers, but the first
language was and is related
to the pre-Arabic Berber
language. They are more
properly called the Amazigh.
Adherents to the world’s oldest monotheistic religion, Judaism
Sephardic: African and Asian
Ashkenazim: European
Mizrahim: Many geographic/ethnic sub-groups across Africa,
Asia, and the world.
 Adherents to the world’s second oldest
monotheistic religion
Many, many divisions: Catholic, Eastern
Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Coptic,
Protestant, Gnostic, on and on
Adherents to the world’s third oldest
monotheistic religion
 Two major divisions:
 Sunni, the majority in most places
 Shi’ia, the majority in Iran and southern
Islam: The world’s Muslims
Wahhabis: 200 year old orthodox Sunni Islamic sect that
adheres to a literal translation of the Koran, established by Abd
al-Wahhab and seeks to purify Islam.
Non-Wahabis are considered to be heathens and infidels. Most
Saudi royals are Wahhabis. Osama Bin Laden was Wahhabi, as
were the 9/11 terrorists. The Afghani & Pakistani Taliban are
Wahhabis. Extreme Salafists.
Salafists: From the Arab word salaf “follow” or “believe.” They
live as Muhammad did after his conversion. Osama Bin Laden
was a Salafist.
Library of Congress Report
Minority religious group (12%) in control of Syrian government.
Based in Shi’ ia Islam, they split 1,000 years ago. Alawite beliefs
include Christian-like elements.
Taking refuge in the mountains above the port of Latakia, on the
coastal strip between modern Lebanon and Turkey, they evolved a
highly secretive syncretistic theology containing an amalgam of NeoPlatonic, Gnostic, Christian, Muslim, and Zoroastrian elements. Their
leading theologian, Abdullah al-Khasibi, who died in 957, proclaimed
the divinity of Ali, the Prophet Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law,
whom other Shiites revere but do not worship. Like many Shiites
influenced by ancient Gnostic teachings that predate Islam, they
believe that the way to salvation and knowledge lies through a
succession of divine emanations. Acknowledging a line of prophets or
avatars beginning with Adam and culminating in Christ and
Muhammad, they include several figures from classical antiquity in
their list, such as Socrates, Plato, Galen, and some of the pre-Islamic
Persian masters.
Malise Ruthven , NY Times
A national, stateless group living in
northwestern Iraq, northeastern Iran,
and southeastern Turkey, with smaller
numbers in Armenia & Syria.
Not Arabs or Persians: they are
Kurds. Their territory is often called
Kurdistan, language is Kurdish,
religion is Islam with a Christian
Found all over the world, adherents to ancient mystical traditions
of pre-Islamic people, now part of Islam, yet apart. The Turkish
“whirling Dervishes” are Sufis.
Salafist Sunnis view the Sufis as apostates, and polytheists.
Ascetics, the non-violent
Sufis are revered by many
people as spiritual guides.
One of the many ethno-religious groups of Lebanon and Syria.
They are a monotheistic blend of Shi’ia Islam and other
beliefs, yet moderate politically and although small in number,
they wield disproportionate power in Lebanese politics. They
are dedicated to their culture, and do not convert in or out and
generally do not marry outside the faith.
Hamas & Fatah
Palestinian political parties in Israel
 Hamas: Sunni Palestinians in Israel’s Gaza Strip, essentially
an internment camp for 1.5 million.
 Much terror against Israel
Fatah: more moderate Palestinians in Israel’s West Bank
Hezbollah, Party of God
Iranian and Iranian-back Shi’ia terrorist group, operates in
Lebanon and Syria. Formed after 1982 Israeli invasion of
Lebanon as resistance to the Israeli occupation.
Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah
Rafic Hariri, former & probable Lebanese Prime Minister,
philanthropist, credited with rebuilding Beirut after 15 year civil
war. Assassinated 2005, most likely by Hezbollah.
Houthis: Shi’ia Militia in Yemen that over-threw the Sunni
President, Al Houthi was a leader
to understand Yemen read Dancing on the Heads of Snakes
Al Kalifas
The Sunni monarchy in Bahrain, who are backed by the Saudis
The Bahraini majority is Shi’a