Saturday 13 November 2021

Educate yourself and stop confusing the two "Arab” vs. “Muslim”

“Arab” and “Muslim” are not synonymous terms. Muslims are followers of the religion of Islam. Arabs are an ethno-linguistic group of people, most of whom are Muslim in religion but many of whom are not. Their origins lie in the Arabian Peninsula, but they burst into the larger world in the 7th and 8th centuries with the dramatic conquests that followed the death of Muhammad in AD 632. Within 100 years they had spread west across North Africa and Spain and had penetrated as far as southern France. To the east, they had conquered the Persian Empire and spread into modern-day Pakistan and Central Asia. They did so as followers of Islam, but they also did so as ethnic, linguistic, and cultural Arabs. Initially, these Arabic Muslims lived as a ruling minority over most of their empire. The majority of their subjects spoke some other language (such as Aramaic, Coptic, Berber, or Persian) and practiced some other religion (Christianity in the west and Zoroastrianism in the east).

Over time, however, the twin processes of Islamization and Arabization took place, unevenly from location to location. Egypt, North Africa, and the Aramaic-speaking Middle East became almost completely Arabized in language and largely Islamic in religion, but in places like Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt, substantial minorities held on to their historic Christian religious identities. Thus, to this day, there are communities in each of these countries that are regarded as ethnically and linguistically Arabic but adhere to one of the ancient Christian communions: the Coptic Orthodox in Egypt, the Maronite Catholic in Lebanon, the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic in Palestine, the Eastern and Syrian Orthodox in Syria, and the Chaldean Catholic and Assyrian Orthodox in Iraq. These groups have been caught in the crossfire of the conflicts that have plagued these countries in the 20th and 21st centuries.

The historically Christian population of the Middle East has plummeted in the last several decades as Christians have been killed or forced to flee. For example, a significant portion of the Palestinian population was historically Christian at the beginning of the 20th century, but Israel treats them the same as Muslim Palestinians, and many have fled. Similarly, the Assyrian and Chaldean Christians of Iraq were largely left alone under Saddam Hussein, but since he was deposed they have been targeted by Islamic groups, and many have been forced out of the country. A significant percentage of the Arabic population in the United States belongs to one of the ancient eastern churches (and therefore aren’t Muslim), and the Assyrian Orthodox patriarch now lives in Chicago.

On the other hand, many other peoples under Islamic rule became Muslim, but never became Arabic. In the Middle East itself, the Persians (Iranians), Kurds, and Turks are all majority-Muslim people groups, but they do not regard themselves as Arabs, and they do not speak Arabic. Likewise, the largest Muslim populations in the world are all in non-Arabic speaking countries: Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India, among others.

The majority of Muslims in the world are not Arabic in language or ethnic identity.

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