Many people think the average Muslim is an Arab who lives in the Middle East and speaks Arabic. However, only twenty percent of Muslims speak Arabic. The majority do not live in the Middle East nor are ethnically Arab. The Muslim world today is incredibly diverse: Muslim populations fall into several cultural groups and numerous language subgroups located across the world.

Muslim Cultural Groups

Ninety-eight percent of the world's more than 1.6 billion Muslims live in Asia and Africa and are broadly described by these seven cultural groups. Listed with each of the following seven cultural groups are some of their largest distinct people groups.

Arabic-Speaking Muslims are spread out across North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and Southwest Asia, comprising 21% of Muslims globally.

  • Algerians, Arabs, Berbers, Bedouins, Egyptians, Libyans, Moroccans, Palestinians, Sudanese, Tuaregs, Tunisians, Yemenis

Persian-Median Muslims live in Iran and parts of Central, South, and Southwest Asia, comprising 11% of Muslims worldwide.

  • Aimaq, Baloch. Bakhtiari, Hazara, Gilaki, Kurds, Luri, Mazanderani, Pathan, Persian, Pushtun, Talysh, Tajiks

Malay Muslims are concentrated in Southeast Asia, mainly Philippines, Indonesia, and Myanmar, comprising 16% of the world's Muslims.

  • Aceh, Banjar, Betawi, Bugis, Gorontalo, Javanese, Komering, Lampungese, Madurese, Makassarese, Maguindanao, Malay, Maluku, Maranao, Melayu, Minangkabau, Musi, Ogan, Pasema, Rejang, Sasak, Sunda, Tausug, Tukangbesi

South Asian Muslims are the most numerous of the Muslim cultural groups, comprising 28% of Muslims, and are located in Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan.

  • Ansari, Assamese, Bengali, Bihari, Bohra, Brahui, Deccan, Gypsies, Hindko, Jats, Kashmiri, Maldivian, Mappilla, Memon, Punjabis, Rajastani, Sindhi, Urdu Speakers, Shaikh

Sub-Saharan African Muslims are spread out in a band across Africa, just south of the Sahara desert, making up 13% of Muslims globally.

  • Afar, Beja, Bantu, Benue, Chadic Peoples, Dioula, Fulani, Gur, Hausa, Kanuri, Malinke, Masalit, Nubians, Nupe, Oromo, Ouaddai-Fur, Serer, Silti, Somalis, Songhai, Soninke, Susu, Temne, Tigre, Wolofs, Yoruba

Turkic Muslims are located in Turkey and across Central Asia and western China, comprising 11% of the world's Muslims.

  • Azeri, Bashkir, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Qashqai, Tatars, Turks, Turkmen, Uyghurs, Uzbeks

Chinese and Eurasian Muslims are small in number but have characteristics that distinguish them from other Muslim cultural groups as distinctly Chinese or European.

Chinese Muslims—  Hui     Eurasian Muslims   Albanians, Avar, Bosnians, Chechens, Circassians, Ingush, Kosovars, Lak, Lezgian

Muslim Americans are estimated to number 2.35 million in the United States, according to the Pew Reseach Center. Sixty-five percent of the Muslim American population consists of Muslim immigrants to the United States, with over a third of these coming from the Arab-speaking cultural group. The other thirty-five percent are native-born, the majority of which are African-American. A third of these were born Muslim, while the other two-thirds are converts to Islam.

Source: The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life

© 2016 Captivate Project