Islamic world

Muslim-majority countries, states, districts, or towns

The Islamic world or Muslim world consists of all people who believe in Islam. It is not an exact location, but rather a community. When they do things together as Muslims, they are the "umma", which means "community" referring to all of the believers. The faith emphasizes unity and defense of fellow Muslims, so it is common for these nations to cooperate. Recent conflicts in the Muslim world have sometimes spread because of this desire to cooperate (see below). It is also likely that some have been made shorter and less damaging because of it. Some might even have never started.

Map showing the percentage of the Muslim population in each country



Muslims are in many countries. In 52 nations, Muslims are the majority. Almost all are Sunni. They speak about 60 languages and come from all ethnic backgrounds.

  • 1.5 billion people total

The Al-Jazeera satellite TV network in the Arabic language is a news source many Muslims watch.

In most Muslim nations, the government is the main source of news. This sometimes makes it very difficult or dangerous to make anti-government statements.

There are, however, many other news programmes and websites in the Muslim world.

Islam in law and ethics


Islamic law exists in many variations - in Arabic it is called shariah - five schools of which were created centuries ago. These are the classical fiqh: the Hanafi school from India, Pakistan and Bangaladesh, West Africa, Egypt, the Maliki in North Africa and West Africa, the Shafi in Malaysia and Indonesia, the Hanbali in Arabia, and Jaferi in Iran and Iraq - where the majority is Shia. All five are very old and many Muslims feel a new fiqh must be created for modern society. Islam has a method for doing this, al-urf and ijtihad are the words to describe this method, but they have not been used in a long time, and few people are trusted enough to use them to make new laws.

So, in most of the Muslim world, people are very conservative, especially about alcohol, adultery, abortion and women working in jobs where they are used to lure customers.

Muslim women often dress extremely modestly, and many do so by choice. But in some countries they have been forced to do so against their will. This is one of the things that causes tension between the Western World and that of Muslims.

Islamic economics bans debt but in most Muslim countries Western banking is allowed. This is another issue that many Muslims have with the Western world.

Islam in politics


One quarter of the world population share Islam as an ethical tradition.

Many people in these countries also see Islam as a political movement. In democratic countries there is usually at least one Islamic party.

Political Islam is powerful in all Muslim-majority countries. Islamic parties in Pakistan and Algeria have taken power.

Many in these movements call themselves Islamists, which also sometimes describes more militant Islamic groups. The relationships between these groups and their views of democracy are complex.

Some of these groups are called terrorists because they attack civilians of other non-Muslim nations, to make a political point.

Conflicts with Israel and the US


Israel is very unpopular in the Muslim world, because of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the way that the state of Israel came into being in 1948 which many Arabs thought was unfair.

Some Muslims see this as a fight against Judaism or Jews, but not all. In Morocco for instance, the Islamists recently invited Jews to join the party. Jewish groups also cooperate with Arabs in the West Bank, where Neturei Karta (anti-Zionist orthodox Jewish) leader Rabbi Mosche Hirsch served as the Minister for Jewish Affairs in the Fatah before there was a Palestinian Authority. Like the Arabs, this small group of Jews thought the way Israel was created was not right. However, very few Jews believe this, and most support Israel as a state.

In 1979 there was a big shift in the way the Muslim world dealt with the rest of the world. In that year, Egypt made peace with Israel, Iran became an Islamic state after a revolution, and there was an invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union. A lot of things changed in that year. By 2001 the Soviet Union was gone, Jordan had also made peace with Israel, and on September 11, 2001 there were major attacks on the U.S. - which most people believe were made to drive the United States out of the Muslim world, especially Saudi Arabia. In many ways the events of 1979 led to the events of 2001.

The 2001 invasion of Afghanistan and 2003 invasion of Iraq are called part of a War on Terrorism by the United States. Many or most Muslims see it as a War on Islam. After the invasion, the Islamic parties won more seats, and a majority of Muslims polled in many nations expressed support for Osama bin Laden and said he would "do the right thing". Olivier Roy is a French scholar who thinks that this does not express support for al-Qaeda or militant Islam but opposing colonialism and what many Muslims call racism - favourable treatment for Jews especially those living in West Bank settlements, many of whom have American or British passport, and which the United Nations says have no right to live there.

The situation is very complicated and there are many different views of it.



The Organization of Islamic Conference formed in 1969 lets the Muslim nations work as a group. Russia joined in 2003.

The Arab League is a smaller group of only the Arab countries.

OPEC is another forum where issues between the Muslim and non-Muslim world come up. In 1973 to protest U.S. support for Israel there was an oil embargo which caused the 1973 energy crisis.