Middle East Explained – The Religions, Languages, and Ethnic Groups

Middle East Explained – The Religions, Languages, and Ethnic Groups

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.

100 thoughts on “Middle East Explained – The Religions, Languages, and Ethnic Groups

  1. Okey, Middle-East. From here on, you're a mangle of military operations. All is geared for eternal war in the area.

  2. It’s awesome you know this. Unfortunately it’s useless for anyone not studying it. Insanely confusing to the average person seeking knowledge.

  3. Prophet Muhammad(pbuh) stated: I dreamed that I drove before me some black sheep then I drove after them some white sheep, so that the black could not be seen among them.”

    And Abu Bakr said, “O apostle of God, as for the black sheep, they signified the Arabs who shall embrace the faith and increase in numbers, and the white sheep are the non-Arabs who shall be converted until the Arabs shall not be seen among them by reason of their numbers.”

  4. Actually Oman is not fully abadi, there's some Shia and Sunni minority in the north of Oman but the south (Dhofar) is fully Sunni.

  5. Cyprus is not divided in 2 parts because that is what their people decided. Cyprus is semi-occupied by Turkey for 45 years. 180 000 Cypriots were forced to flee their homes because of the Turkish invasion. Since then, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots are not allowed to solve their problems alone.

  6. North africa is not Arab they are amazigh their language is tamazight also egypt was amazigh but with different language Coptic ,central Asia also are not Arab Turkish language is from Turkic family, Lebanon ,syria language was Aramaic,Iraq language was Sumerian ,half jordan was hebrew and aramic (half hebrew because tribe of isreal gad ) iran language is farsi and they are persian as jew I have to respect them because even though they accept Islam they didnt lose their language and identity, culture ,traditionals ,history like another people I just mentioned

    The real Arab countries are kuwait, Oman ,Bahrain,UAE, Saudi Arabia,Qatar,yemen, they like only to colonization and arabization of another just like they did north Africa ,central Asia (Lebanon,syria,iraq,jordan)

  7. It's all really Africa. The Sani Peninsula severed in 1869 ia when this bogus claim of there being a Middle East. There really is no such thing.

  8. I appreciate this comprehensive video. Im gonna sound super white here but I appreciate it because I was raised not knowing much about the middle east and its people, religion and culture. now as an adult many people are immigrating to my country from islamic backgrounds and I find it stunning that I know absolutely nothing about them!
    the more I'm learning about Persian and Arab history the more interesting I'm finding it. especially when learning about the ottoman empire and about you-know… how they actually existed and were important during the middle ages! I cant believe in school I learnt there was only Europe, Asia, Africa, the Americas and my country Australia and that this massive chunk of land was completely ignored!!!


  10. Finally, someone who got the map right.

    North Africa is North Africa, it is not part of the Middle East nor of the arab world.

  11. About the Islam thing… yeah I hope Najaf , Karbala and Baghdad are fully covered with Shia bc those are the most Shia parts in Iraq because of its history and because of Shia things that remain there

  12. The Arabs are a race of lions who show no respect to the weak or the cowardly such as the Persians. Just look at Saudi crown prince Bin Salman, with his big features and grizzly facial hair, the Arabs are a gruff breed of war fighting killer instinct motherfuckers. The Persians were a bunch of bitches who believed in womens rights and being clean shaven. Pussies.

  13. This land It is the land of the heavenly religions and ancient civilizations in history Where the sanctities of Christ, Islam and Jews Where Mecca, Jerusalem, Bethlehem and the Church of the Resurrection are located, the birthplace of Christ The clash of civilizations there Surrounded by the empires of the Romans and the ancient Persians And near the ancient Byzantine capital Istanbul Islamic e The world's largest oil exporter is in the middle of the globe Either this land is the source of war or peace There Babylon the Pharaohs destroy Assyria Cleopatra Peace will not solve the land without resolving the issue between Jews and Muslims The Palestinian issue is a small part of a larger problem The media wants to say that the Palestinian issue is between Palestinians and Israelis This is a mistake Muslims consider Jerusalem to be part of Islamic sanctities I am a rational man, a rational, rational, rational, orientalist, universal, intellectual I say that there has been injustice against all in this small land, the land of Palestine and Israel Israel suffered from the Babylonian occupation and the oppression of the Pharaohs The Romans and the massacres of Adolf Hitler The Arabs today suffer injustice through the confiscation of the land of Canaan The solution is comprehensive peace And give the rights of all the state of the nine Palestinian people and the Jews Everyone has rights The Jews have a right in the land of Canaan and Jerusalem Important names are not important To live in this land safely If the world reaches a political solution Hooded everyone The world will be fine to be Jerusalem The capital of peace for all the heavenly religions of Christ the Islam of the Jews Instead of making them a major concern Barrels of explosives threatening national security To the peoples of the world Islamic, Christian and Jewish in the most dangerous way Do you know that the Israeli citizen needs a plan of action and peace? More than Arab citizens inside Israel The reason is that the strong must be warned as he walks in an uncertain future did not Peace solution and white pigeon bird among the peoples of the region Enough stupidity Where are the people of reason, logic and philosophy Where are the wise men? Where are the honorable people of the Book? It is not logical for the Cold War to continue and everyone knows that a war will erupt So says history Thus says the Koran and the Bible and the Bible The Torah We can work before the war falls Honest people of reason and logic, God willing I want help I want to be a good citizen I want the I want to be the voice of peace within the United Nations Which failed to provide assistance for peace

  14. wtf all Turkey is not islam, Turkeys %76 is Believe islam, %20 is atheist , %4 is other and %20 is not less 16 million people is atheist and This popilation is bigger than Greece, Armenia,Serbia e.t.c so Turkey is Not Muslim Cauntry

  15. For those of you debating whether or not Turkey is a European country. Middle east is not a continent, it is a region. It is like saying Greek people are not European, they are Balkanians. Turkey is in both Europe and Asia so they can technically consider themselves European. Despite majority of its lands being in Asia minor, European side of Turkey is the country's center of economy and has a very large population. Let's take Istanbul for example. It is the most populated city and near %70 of its population lives in European side of the city which is the heart of Turkey.

  16. That means hafe of us are Asian right like Jordan and Turkish and Iran and some of us are Africans like Egypt

  17. Palestine isn't real it was always historically been a Jewish State that has been ruled over by other super powers in Europe Asia or by other regional country's in the middle East in no point in time has fake none Palestine ever been it's own self governing nation FACT.

  18. Is very sad that almost all this countries speak the same language and they have the same religion they should say fuck Sunni Islam and shia Islam just let's practice Islam in general and we don't have to kill each other let's unified Islam and be one population including Israel it doesn't matter if they are Jewish all the middle east should be together stop fighting for stupid religions

  19. Turkey & Iran is middle-east according to aome IGNORANTs , saying Iran & Turkey is middle east is like saying Puerto rico is Cuba. !

  20. Cyprus is according to the UN Middle Eastern which makes sense when you look at a map. We're surrounded by Middle Eastern countries and yet we're not middle Eastern??

  21. I've never heard again that Turkey is middle eastern. It's passing through Europe, Asia and Middle East but usually they categorize it as Asia and we call Asia Minor or rarely Europea

  22. Iran is closer to Central Asia than middle east
    Our culture, Language, history, nature are close to center Asia

  23. Egyptians only speak arabic but they AREN'T Arabs


  24. We Turks are altaic people similar to mongolians,our original homeland is central asia but we came to where todays turkey in 1071.
    We are not arabs and have nothing to do with arabs we literally have no job with mid east.
    Turkey is not a part of mid east and will never be and no Turk considerd themselfs as mid east either.Calling somebody as mid easterner here is a insult.
    İ dont care where turkey is located even if turkey was located in mid of saudi arabia,İ would still not consider myself as mid easterner.
    We have nothing to do with those people.
    We Turks share same ethnic roots,race,language,culture etc. With central asian turkic countries.
    Just like how white americans considered as europeans or white south africans considered as europeans even tho they dont located in europe.Turkey should be considered as a part of central asia due to our cultural,racial,linguistic,ethnic ties with them.

  25. Okay as a turk i am really offended when you say my country is middle eastern..

    🇮​🇹​🇸​ 🇳​🇴​🇹​

  26. For centuries anatolia considered as a part of europe but today western countries try to make turkey a eastern country and talking about it like middle eastern country.also geographically turkey can’t be middle eastern because there no desert in turkey or we are not using camels or it’s not illegal to drink alcohol or women doesn’t have to wear hijab. Turkey is a secular country(except erdogans government of shit)

  27. 0:41 my fav map
    And I thought Balkans were strange…OMG
    0:52 more than try for those non Arabs hsbxjsbdnmsskdnmd
    1:13 well, that's not only middle East lol. But nice to see Kosovo there (1:30 oh boi, you're explaining middle East, not Kosovo there..)

  28. Farsi,. Persians speak Farsi kid, nice video but they'll fight you over it, Part II. Arabic ( Aaarabic). Stretch the Ah,. Serious kid this will get you hurt. Also where is Sykes Pekot ? Every country there is a made up border based on this Anglo French agreement from the WW 1 era.

  29. the important thing you should know About Iran and Iranians is
    we Hate those filthy Arabs and because of savageness of Islam and countless historical things we are proudly and extremely Racist against them.
    Islam is not Native religion of Iran
    and Unlike fake Europeans Aryans we are the Original Arians.

  30. I'm Middle Eastern and I can say
    Middle East Is full of Racist, Religious and Hateful Persons
    Everyone thinks they are better than others
    no one respects to another red lines( history, religion, Culture and etc….)
    Everyone is claims another Territorys
    Everyone hates each other

  31. I'm Middle Eastern and I can say
    Middle East Is full of Racist, Religious and Hateful Persons
    Everyone thinks they are better than others
    no one respects to another red lines( history, religion, Culture and etc….)
    Everyone is claims another Territorys
    Everyone hates each other

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