Al MAGHREB means in Arabic – the West, referring to the western edge of the Muslim and Arab world – North Africa. The territory from Libya in the East up to the Atlantic Ocean and Mauritania in the West and from the Mediterranean in the North to the deserts of central black Africa in the South.
The MAGHREB stretches on about 5,795,000 km and has a population of about 85 million people. More than 97% are Muslim Sunnites and most of the rest are Christians.
Most of the population in the MAGHREB considers itself Arab but in Algeria and Morocco there is a large minority of about 18 million Berbers, the original population before the Arab-Muslim invasion in the 8th century.
Almost all the population is speaking Arabic but many are speaking also dialects of Berbers’ language and in Algeria and Morocco French is very common. The MAGHREB is mastered by Sunnite Islam more than any other region in the world. Except Algeria all the regimes are not practicing Democracy although they are not oppressive tyrannies.
The MAGHREB is a very large area sparsely inhabited and most of the population is concentrated along the long Mediterranean and the Atlantic coast. Millions of km in the hinterland are almost completely empty. This vast, empty area is, in fact, ungoverned but run by local nomad tribes and a safe haven for outlaws including Islamic militants and Al Qaeda supporters.
France ruled Algeria and Morocco from the early 19th century. The friction with Western French Christian and democratic culture, in Algeria and Morocco, resulted in some very extreme Islamic groups with the ideology of Global Jihad. The civil war in Algeria, in the years 1992-1998, and the pursuit after the Islamic militants in Morocco and Algeria made those groups to shift a large part of their activity to neighbor Europe. Today (05/2007) they are a major concern to Europe’s security services.
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