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Lloyd Sealy Library
John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Middle East, Near East and North Africa: Getting Started

Guide to resources on the Middle East and North Africa with a focus on the current events in Syria, Egypt, Turkey and elsewhere in the Near and Middle Eastern world. This is a work in progress.


The Middle East is a geographic area that has the following borders: the Mediterranean sea in the west, Pakistan in the east, Turkey in the north, and the Arabian peninsula in the south. Countries included in this area are Afghanistan, Bahrain, Cyprus, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen Arab Republic (North), and People's Democratic Republic of (South)Yemen. Political references to the Middle East often include North African countries that have predominately Arabic speaking or Muslim populations such as Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Sudan, Morocco, Mauritania and Tunisia. Many countries outside of this region also have predominantly Muslim populations including Albania, Indonesia, Malaysia, Kosovo, as well as Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan and other emerging Central Asian nations. There is also a growing population of Muslims in the North America and Europe. Some countries in this region, such as Iran, cannot be considered Arab. Nor is everyone living in the Middle East a Muslim; this region has a diverse population which practice several variations of all faiths.

The modern and historical Middle East is a subject of study fraught with complications and different points of view. General web searching on various Middle Eastern topics will result in many opinionated websites promoting various political, religious and social agendas. There are passionate opinions on all sides of every subject. Even the history of the Middle East has not been universally agreed upon.

The study of Islam, as with all religions, can also be difficult. The Koran (or Qu’ran) is the basis of all Muslim faith, which is believed to be the will of God as revealed to The Prophet Mohammed. Outside of the five pillars of Islam, which are religious duties that all Muslims should endeavor to achieve, there are many interpretations of the practice of Islam. Practice of the Muslim faith and interpretation of Islamic law is the result of centuries of on-going study and debate among religious, political and legal scholars, Imams and leaders. Dominant and minor branches of Islam are covered in most of the reference books, as well as practices common to different parts of the world.

Of course many and all religions are practiced in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as many sects of  major religions, particularly Islam, Christianity and Judaism.