SOAS University of London

Department of Religions & Philosophies, School of History, Religions & Philosophies

Minority Religions in the Modern Middle East

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2020/2021
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 2 or Year 3
Taught in:
Term 1

This course focusses on the minority religions of the Middle East. Lecture 1 analyses the term 'minority' and the scope of its application; charting the demographic trends within the MENA region. Lectures 2 and 3 evaluate the the 'Abrahamic' religions, notably Judaism and Christianity who share the same patriarchal ancestors with Islam and the ramifications of their dhimmi status. Lectures 4 and 5 appraise the respective situations of the Zoroastrians and Mandaeans in Iran and Iraq. Lectures 6, 7, 8 and 9 explore the relationship of post-Muhammedan religions notably the Alevites, Druze, Yezidis and Bahai with Sunni/Shia Islam, as well as with Da'esh and other Wahabi groups. Each of the minority religions will form a module, wherein the cardinal attributes of faith [ritual and belief] are identified, alongside the investigation of their historical and current socio-political situations.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

Students should have acquired an understanding of the contemporary religious demography of the Middle East and the changes that have taken place since the early twentieth century, and particularly in the opening decades of the twenty-first century.

They will have gained knowledge of the cardinal distinguishing attributes of each of the minority religions as well as an appreciation of their economic, political and historical contributions.

Thirdly, they will gain an overview of the impact on the minority religions of:

  • Da'esh and other Wahabist groups;
  • the Civil War in Syria post-2011;
  • the restructuring of Iraq post-2006 and in view of the elections in 2018.

Finally, they will be challenged to consider the future of pluralist societies in the MENA region.

Method of assessment

  • One book review (1,000 words) (10%)
  • Oral paper (10%)
  • One essay (2,500 words) (40%)
  • One 2-hour exam (40%)


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules