The fighting in Iraq made me curious about this. I know there are divisions between Sunni muslims and Shi’ite muslims, as well as tensions between muslims and non-muslims (Jews, Christians, Hindu, etc) Is nationalism a real issue in these regions? Do people identify as Pakistani or Iraqi or do they feel the borders were drawn by imperialists and not important?
Are the Kurds a religious group or an ethnic group? What are the ethnic tensions? I heard that Bin Laden had problems when he was in Afghanistan because he was Arab, and Arabs were looked down upon in Afghanistan.
How big is the divide among secularists and theocrats in that area? Or does it vary too much to say (Egypt could be totally different from Iran, etc)?
What about racial divisions? I thought that was an issue in Sudan between southern Sudan vs northern. Do people get upset about skin color, if so how?
Is tribalism and people identifying with certain cities a big issue for the entire area, or just parts of it? It was my understanding that Saddam Hussein placed people from his hometown of Tikrit into powerful positions due to loyalty. Do people have city or tribal rivalries?
Are there major divisions within Sunni or Shi’ite muslims or is that the main division?
Are there major philosophical divides (pan-arabism, Islamism, modernism, etc) on how to deal with the problems in the region?
So you’ve got tensions due to:
Muslim vs non-muslims
Muslim sects against each other
Theocrats vs secularists
Is that accurate? Are they all independent factors?
There’s a general divide in the Middle East between the Turks and the Arabs. The Arabs were the original Muslims and when the conquered neighbouring territories in the eight century they “arabified” the local cultures. So nowadays, places like Egypt, North Africa, Syria, Jordan, and Iraq are broadly considered Arabic.
The Turks came out of Central Asia. They’re basically Turkey and all of the countries that end in Stan. They converted to Islam but they didn’t adopt Arabic culture or language. So while both Turks and Arabs are Sunnis, there’s an ethnic divide. And the Ottoman Empire was run by the Turks and ruled over a lot of Arab lands, so there’s historical enmity.
The third ethnic group is the Persians, who are mostly in their homeland of Iran and speak Farsi. Persia was a big empire long before Islam and some Persians look back at this classical history. The Persians are also mostly Shia, which means there is both an ethnic and a religious divide separating them from the Arabs and the Turks.
Are Turkmen “Turks”? I always figured “Turkic” (which might sometimes be used interchangably with “Turkish” or “Turk”) was a large and broad ethnic classification like “Arabic”, and both groups can be further divided into groups like Turks, Turkmen, Kazaks, Uzbeks, etc. on the one side, and Egyptians, Yemeni, Bahraini, Bedouins, etc. on the other.
My understanding is that the Kurds are a fourth ethnic group (i.e. not Arab, Turkic, or Persian), mostly based in eastern Turkey, but also in northern Iraq, that the Kurds getting a homeland is something that the Turkish government is very committed to having not happen, because most of the “natural” homeland would be carved out of Turkey.