This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Thursday, January 7, 2016

Religious Demographics of the Middle East

The new tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran have reminded us of the sectarian divide among Muslims in that region of the world, accompanied by an emptying out of the Christian population. Foreign Policy posted a very nice map today (see below) that includes a percentage of the total population of each country in the region that is Sunni (i.e., supported by Saudi Arabia) and Shia (i.e., supported by Iran). You can see, in particular, that Iraq is geographically and demographically in the middle, sharing borders with both Saudi Arabia and Iran and being the most divided between the two branches of Islam. Of course, Saddam Hussein was Sunni, but leading a population that had a Shia majority (even if a slim majority), whereas Bashar al-Assad is a member of a Shia sect ruling over a fairly large Sunni majority. These would not be issues if everyone could just get along, but that seems not always to be the case, just as there has been a lot of history, if you will, between Catholic and Protestant Christians. In the countries on the map, with the exception of Israel, most of the "other" category represents Christians, who essentially are caught in the middle of sectarian violence. A story in the Economist lays out the demographic exodus of Christians from the Middle East, epitomized in the U.S. by the Iraqi Chaldean Christian immigrant population, which I discuss in Chapter 12 of my text.

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