It is easy for those of us in “the West” to think of the Middle East in terms of religion. We can accurately simplify the Middle East as a Muslim region with the exception of Israel. To many people in the West, the Middle East is a slate with a bunch of squiggly lines demarking faceless countries and looks like:
We know those countries are home to ancient peoples with a proud heritage but we really don’t understand them so lump them into a single category, Muslim.
Those that have worked in the military or traveled might see the Middle East in terms of “this country is Shia” and “that country is Sunni”. To them the Middle East looks like:
Unfortunately, like everything in the Middle East, the reality is much more complex.
Because of historical religion persecution, those of Sunni, Shia, Christian, Jewish and other faiths have banded together over time into towns and regions within these countries. Beyond that, just like Christianity in the West, large Muslims denominations have fractured into sub-groups. So it is inaccurate to group Wahhabi’s as just Sunni’s. In the the United States, Canada, or England it would be (roughly) equivalent to grouping Anglicans as Catholics. While some people in those groups would be fine with such a characterization, many would be deeply offended.
In fact, the middle east really looks like the following map, and yes you are going to need to click to expand it.
We thank Michael Izady for allowing us to reprint this map
and even more up to date version is available HERE.
This means that simple solutions from well intentioned people that say the region should have its land broken into its religious components (as we used to think), just don’t understand the real world geographic complexities of the Middle East.