Are Palestinians Shiite or Sunni?

by Emile Heskey
The Dome of the Rock Mosque is a holy site to Palestinian Muslims.

The Dome of the Rock Mosque is a holy site to Palestinian Muslims.

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The Palestinian people are divided between those who live in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and those who form the Palestinian diaspora. Although the vast majority of the Palestinian population are Muslim, there are very few Shiite Palestinians. Unlike bordering Lebanon, which has a large Shiite community, Palestinians are primarily Sunni. There are also a number of other religious groupings within the Palestinian people, particularly among the diaspora.

West Bank

According to the CIA World Factbook, as of November 2012, the population of the West Bank of Palestine is 2,622,544, of which 75 percent are predominantly Sunni Muslims. Around 8 percent are "Christian and other," with this group including the Druze, a faith that split from Shiism in the eleventh century. However, it would not be proper to refer to the Druze as Shiite. The government of the West Bank is controlled by Fatah, which is a predominantly Sunni party.

Gaza Strip

The population of the Gaza Strip is smaller than that of the West Bank, with around a million fewer people. This population is more religiously homogeneous: over 99 percent are Muslim and predominantly Sunni. Since 2007, Hamas has controlled the Gaza territory, governing it in accordance with Sunni Islamic principles. Although a small percentage of the population are Christians, these are ethnic Arab Christians, and there is less religious diversity in the Gaza Strip than in the West Bank.

Palestinian Diaspora

The Palestinian Diaspora represents roughly half of the total Palestinian population. As a result of the wars of 1948 and 1967, large numbers of Palestinians emigrated to other countries, or were housed as refugees in neighboring Lebanon, Jordan and Syria. The majority of the diaspora have remained within the Arabian Peninsula, with Chile hosting the largest population outside of the Muslim world. As with the non-diaspora population, the majority of the Palestinian population are Sunnis. However, in Chile, the half a million Palestinians are predominantly Christian.

Other Palestinian Religions

There are a number of religions in Palestine that are non-Muslim. The origins of these are often deeply rooted in the history of the region. For example, the Palestinian Christian community is one of the world's oldest Christian communities. Most of these Christians live outside of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, either in Israel or countries of the Palestinian diaspora. A small percentage of the Palestinian people are Druze, although this group is more commonly found among the Palestinian diaspora than in the Palestinian territories.

About the Author

Emile Heskey has been a professional writer since 2008, when he began writing for "The Journal" student newspaper. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in modern history and politics from Oxford University, as well as a Master of Science in Islamic and Middle Eastern studies from Edinburgh University.

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