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Population, Religion

northern highlands, Christian population, divisiveness, unification, Jews

The indigenous population of Yemen is almost entirely Muslim, with small resident communities of Christians, Jews, and Hindus. The Christian population that existed in Yemen in pre-Islamic times virtually disappeared during the Islamic era, which began in the 7th century ad. All but a few thousand members of the formerly significant Jewish community, which may have resided continuously in Yemen since pre-Islamic times, emigrated to Israel shortly after its creation in 1948. Yemen’s Muslim population has suffered from divisiveness. Through centuries of persecution, the once large and powerful Ismaili Shia community was reduced to an insignificant minority residing in the mountains, although this number has increased somewhat in recent years. A long-standing division remains between the Zaydi Shia Muslims and the Shafi’i Sunni Muslims, Yemen’s two principal religious groups. Long less than a majority, the Zaydis of the northern highlands dominated politics and cultural life in northern Yemen for centuries; with unification, and the addition of the south’s almost totally Shafi’i population, the numerical balance has shifted dramatically away from the Zaydis. Nevertheless, Zaydis are still overrepresented in the government and, in particular, in the former North Yemeni units within the armed forces.



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northern highlands, Christian population, divisiveness, unification, Jews, Hindus, mountains, armed forces, Israel, century, creation, majority, government, addition, politics, recent years, number, members

 
 

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