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.
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.
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.
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.
- CIA World Factbook: The West Bank
- University of Georgia: Shi'ism and Muslim Movements Regarded as Being Heterodox
- Georgetown University School of Foreign Service: Global Security Studies Review
- CIA World Factbook: The Gaza Strip
- The Roots of the Palestinian Diaspora; Gordon Welty
- Princeton University: Palestinian Christians
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