• An Ethnic Mosaic of Islams Heartland shows the percentage of Muslims in the Middle East and adjacent regions
• Map and text describing the Ottomans loss of power in 1800
• Inset detailing the collision of British and Russian interests in the region in 1900
• Map showing the division of the region following World War I
• Inset detailing the creation of the Jewish homeland in 1948
• Illustrations of the various ethnicities of the region
TWO CENTURIES OF CONFLICT IN THE MIDDLE EAST
The 19TH-CENTURY “Arab awakening” brought a revival of pride in Arab culture and a resentment of foreign domination. Today, forged by powerful economic and political pressures, a new Islamic revival sweeps troubled populations, both Arab and non-Arab, from Africa to Southeast Asia.
Disenchanted with both Western and Communist ways, and fearful of becoming pawns in a superpower struggle, segments of Muslim peoples are making efforts to redefine their societies in Islamic terms sometimes at the direction of their governments and sometimes in opposition.
The revival takes as many faces as Islam itself, displaying rivalries among ethnic and religious groups, economic classes, and political parties. The religion revealed to Muhammad in the seventh century has spread over a mosiac of cultures: Turkish, Persian, Berber, Kurdish, Pushtun, and Baluch to name a few.
The classic Arabic of the Holy Koran with its doctrine of one God, the source of creation and judgment took a special place among a crowd of native languages.
Worshipers of Islam long ago split into two factions Sunni and Shia with later subgroups such as the Wahhabi in Saudi Arabia and the Alawife in Syria. More than 85 percent of today's 800 million Muslims follow orthodox, Sunni Islam, a tradition emphasizing the concept of consensus in the community. Eighty million follow Shia Islam, which teaches obedience to a line of divinely guided leaders, or imams. Conflict between Sunni and Shia Muslims is common. But zealots of both factions now reassert their distaste for even modest social change, rallying the masses against Westernization.
To many Muslims the boom of oil-rich nations has proved a mixed blessingjamming cities with peasants, disrupting social patterns, and sending inflation soaring. Meanwhile the gap between these rich nations and their oil-poor neighbors continually widens.
To the poor and the powerless, Islam's revival offers renewed solidarity as Muslims. They find their confidence in the Koran.
Ye are the best
Of Peoples, evolved
Enjoining what is right.
Forbidding what is wrong,
And believing in God.
THE OTTOMANS LOSE GRIP ON AN EMPIRE
Weakened by corruption and economic decline, the Muslim Ottoman Empire was slowly unraveling by 1800.
Provincial leaders from Mediterranean Africa to western Arabia paid only lip service to the sultan of Istanbul, while Russia's Catherine the Great conquered Turkish armies in the north. In 1798 Napoleon invaded Egypt, beginning a three-year occupation tht stimulated European interest in Mideast culture and opened a new era of colonialism.
To the east the Persians, the Uzbeks of Central Asia, and the Moguls of India expanded and contracted their empires with each generation of rulers. Nadir Shah led Persian armies on a lightning raid into India in 1738-39, capturing Delhi and the Mogul emperor's treasure. Following his example, the first king of the Afghans, Ahmad Shah Durran, in 1747 pushed his nation's dominance as far as northern India.
Bombay, held by the British since 1661, had become the center of British authority in India by 1708.
BRITISH AND RUSSIAN AMBITIONS COLLIDE
Wary of a challenge to its sea power and trade routes to colonial India. Britain in the 19th century tried to stop Russia's southern expansion. British troops, facing stiff resistance, put down Afghan rebels in 1839 to preserve that state as a buffer between Russia and India. And in 1855 British and French forces defeated the army of Tsar Nicholoas I in the Crimea. Meanwhile, Russian frontiers advanced steadily into Caucasia and Central Asia.
Spurred by the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, France and italy joined Britain in colonizing the Horn of Africa. Control of the canal having been purchased in 1875 by Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, British troops landed in Egypt in 1882 to protect the waterway from nationalists. But in 1883 a revolt lead by Mahdi, a self-proclaimed messiah, forced Egyptian and British troops to evacuate the Sudan. It was retaken in 1898 by British Gen. Horation H. Kitchener.
During this period London signed treaties with a host of Persian Gulf sheikhdoms that granted Britain control of their external affairs.
AFTER THE WAR: SLICING UP THE REGION
After the Turks' defeat in World War I, the Allies partitioned the Ottoman Empire. France occupied Syria and lebanon, Britain took Palestine, Transjordan, and Iraq. Persia, divided into areas of influence by Britain and Russia in 1907, regained autonomy in 1919.
Resistance arose elsewhere to this new phase of European intervention, Nationalists in Cairo and southern Iraq rioted against the British, Afghans, too, fought to end Britain's domination. And in Turkey, Mustafa Kemal began orgainzing a national army to expel the Greeks, as Russians, French, Italians, and British withdrew from that emerging republic.
Seizing their opportunity, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia in 1918 also formed new republics, but within five years all had been absorbed by Russia and Turkey.
To the south, Sharif Hussein of Mecca, having seized the Hijaz from the Turks in 1917, faced a new chanllenge from Abdulaziz Al Saud, founder of modern Saudi Arabia.
JEWS CREATE A HOMELAND AMONG ARABS
Fleeing persecution in Germany, Poland, and the U.S.S.R., Jews flooded into Palestine then under British rule increasing their numbers eightfold from 1920 to 1948 to about 650,000 people. Arab resentment of this massive influx flared into rioting in 1929 and a general strike in 1936. Then, in 1948, open warfare erupted between the new State of Israel and five Arab nations, leaving more than 600,000 Palestinian refugees after the Arab defeat.
By that time most Arab states had achieved independence: Syria and Lebanon from France; Iraq and Transjordan (now Jordan), from Britain. And the creation of Pakistan in 1947 provided a home for much of the Muslim population of India's Hindu dominated society.
The roots of cultural changes grew quietly between World Wars. Oil companies began to develop vast new reserves first in Iran, then in Iraq, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia generating wealth and power for the region and drawing its traditional ways into intimate contact and conflict with Western ideas and technology.