Savvy Traveler: Arab vs Muslim

It is a little frightening how many people use the terms “Arab” and “Muslim” interchangeably. Shows how much we know about that region of the world even after years of being intimately involved with the Middle East.

One often hears that people say “Arabs” when referring to Iranians. They are actually not Arabs; they are primarily Persians. Yes, they might practice Islam but that’s another story. Iraqis, on the other hand, are primarily Arabs. Afghanistan is not an Arabic state.

Just last week, I heard somebody describing a person as “looking Muslim.” People don’t generally look Muslim, just like they generally don’t look Christian. They might look Arab, but even that’s questionable because there are many races that live in the Arab world. Needless to say, Muslims in the Middle East look different than Muslims in Africa or Indonesia.

Arab refers to somebody from an ethnic group that shares a culture, history and language. Muslims are people who practice Islam. The Arab world covers most of Northern Africa and part of the Middle East. Many Arabs practice Islam, but many are also Christians, Jews, etc. Arab world is only a part of the Muslim world.

List of Arab Countries:

  • Algeria
  • Bahrain
  • Djibouti
  • Egypt
  • Iraq
  • Jordan
  • Kuwait
  • Lebanon
  • Libya
  • Mauritania
  • Morocco
  • Oman
  • Palestine
  • Qatar
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Sudan
  • Syria
  • Tunisia
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Western Sahara
  • Yemen