A guide to Muslim diversity
'People often assume that the Middle East is comprised solely of Arabs, and that the three Abrahamic faiths are the only religions to be found in the region. But in fact, there are many more ethnicities and religions in the Middle East …' 'Islam’s heritage … is a significant one, with complex forms of diversity inherent in how ‘the message’ was understood both by Jews and Christians, before the message continued to Islam.'
People often assume that the Middle East is comprised solely of Arabs, and that the three Abrahamic faiths are the only religions to be found in the region. But in fact, there are many more ethnicities and religions in the Middle East: some of these include Turkics, Kurds, Armenians, Azeris, Assyrians, Turkmens, Persians and different Bedouin communities whose origins reside in African and Asiatic countries. Similarly, Zoroastrian, Bahá'í and Yazidis are some of the religions to be found in the Middle East today, in addition to Judaism, Christianity and Islam (in their many branches and traditions).

The Middle East’s diversity comes from the many religions and traditions that existed prior to the arrival of the three monotheistic religions. Some of these religions have continued, such as Zoroastrianism, while others, such as paganism – in the Middle East at least – have disappeared. These previous traditions, however, have continued to have an impact on the cultures and practices of Middle Easterners even since the development of the three monotheistic faiths.

Equally, as these three monotheistic faiths developed, they influenced and affected one another. This is particularly the case with the development of smaller faith communities that synergised Judaic, Christian and Islamic beliefs.

The final source of diversity comes from the different invading and imperial forces that occupied the Middle East; the Romans, Mongols and the Crusaders all had a significant effect on the cultures and practices of Middle Easterners, not only because of their invasion and its consequences but also because many of those forces settled there and eventually became part of the cultural fabric. Different powers in the Middle East also took hold of the region and forcibly occupied territories and changed local cultures and traditions.

Middle East diversity