Religious Minorities in the Middle East
The Arab awakening has led to a rise in Islamist governments in the Middle East – raising concerns about the rights of religious minorities.

The Middle East is largely Muslim but it’s also the birthplace of Christianity, Judaism, and many other religions. Many non-Muslims have left in recent decades, leaving relatively small populations of non-Muslims and Muslim minority sects.

Now, the rise of Islamist political parties in the Mideast raises questions about the rights and protections such minorities can expect or whether they can expect them at all.

Coptic Christians make up nearly ten percent of Egypt’s population. Will their rights be protected under Mohammed Morsi, the newly elected Islamist president? Nadeen Shaker reports from Cairo.
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Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and most top government officials are Alawis, a Shi’a-affiliated religious group that represents only 12% of the country’s populace. Katherine Lanpher talks with Jocelyne Cesari of Harvard University about Alawi beliefs and their role in Syrian society and politics.
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As one of the earliest Jewish settlements in the world, Tunisia was home to over 100,000 Jews in the mid-20th century. Today that number is less than 2,000. America Abroad reports from Tunisia on life for those who remain, and their hopes and concerns under the new moderately Islamist regime. 
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The Middle East, once a region of great religious diversity, has in recent decades seen a mass emigration of minorities – now making it one of the most religiously monolithic regions in the world. Joseph Braude reports.
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What role should the U.S. play in ensuring religious freedom in the Middle East? Elliott Abrams, former Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, talks with Katherine Lanpher about what the U.S. is and should be doing.
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Katherine Lanpher discusses the issue with two professors, Saba Mahmood of the University of California, Berkeley, and Aomar Boum, of the University of Arizona.
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Video Extra

Adherents of the unrecognized Baha’i faith, who form Iran’s largest non-Muslim minority, enjoy virtually no rights under the law and are banned from practicing their religion.

Filmmaker Reza Allamehzadeh's latest film, “Iranian Taboo,” tells the story of the plight of this religious minority and provides insights into the persecution of the Baha'i in Iran.


Featured Experts

Elliott Abrams
Elliott Abrams is former Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights, and currently a member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. He is also Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.
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Aomar Boum
Aomar Boum is an assistant professor in the School of Middle Eastern and North African Studies and Religious Studies Program at the University of Arizona.
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Jocelyne Cesari
Jocelyne Cesari is a senior research fellow at CNRS-Paris and associate at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies and CES. Cesari teaches at Harvard Divinity School and in the government department.
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Saba Mahmood
Saba Mahmood is an Associate Professor of Sociocultural Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley.
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Religious Minorities in the Middle East / Produced by Joseph Braude, Nadeen Shaker, the team at Tunisia Live, A.C. Valdez and Jonathon Zinger / Web Producer: Javier Barrera / Photos: Marcus F. BenignoSeth Frantzman (via Flickr), and spdl_n1 (via Flickr).

Host: Katherine Lanpher / Length: 51 minutes / Airdate: July 2012

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