Cheat Sheet

The Middle East For Dummies

From The Middle East For Dummies by Craig S. Davis

The Middle East is a fascinating region with complex cultures, religions, and relationships. If you’re interested in this area of the world, you'll want to know the heads of state in the region, acronyms people use in the Middle East, and some basic Islamic terms, because many — although by no means most — of the world’s Muslims reside here. Oh, and a map of the area is essential, too.

Important Acronyms in the Middle East

If you want to understand political and social issues in the Middle East, you need to be familiar with the acronyms commonly used in those discussions. The following list gives you the well-known Middle Eastern acronyms and what they stand for:

  • FLN: National Liberation Front (Algeria)

  • IDF: Israeli Defense Forces

  • ISI: Inter-Service Intelligence (Pakistan)

  • LOC: Line of Control (Kashmir)

  • PA: Palestinian Authority

  • PKK: Kurdistan Workers Party (Turkey)

  • PLO: The Palestine Liberation Organization

  • SLA: Southern Lebanese Army

  • UN: United Nations

  • UNSCOM: The United Nations Special Commission on Disarmament

Middle-Eastern Heads of State

Knowing the political players is an important component of understanding the Middle East. The following list contains the names and positions of those in power in key Middle Eastern countries at the end of 2009:

  • Afghanistan: President Hamid Karzai

  • Egypt: President Hosni Mubarak

  • Iran: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; Supreme Leader Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Hoseyni Khâmene’i

  • Iraq: President Jalal Talabani; Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki

  • Israel: President Shimon Peres; Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

  • Jordan: King Abdullah II

  • Libya: Chief of State Muammar al-Qaddafi

  • Pakistan: President Asif Ali Zardari

  • Palestine: Prime Minister Salam Fayyad; President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas

  • Saudi Arabia: King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud

  • Syria: President Bashar al-Assad; Prime Minister Muhammad Naji al-Utri

Islamic Terms Useful in Understanding the Middle East

Islam is the predominant religion in the Middle East, so if you’re interested in Middle Eastern issues, you need to be familiar with some of basic Islamic terms and concepts. The following list explains a few of the essential Islamic terms:

  • Fatwa: Islamic injunction

  • Hadith: Oral traditions of the Prophet Muhammad

  • Hajj: Annual pilgrimage to Mecca

  • Madrasa: Islamic theological schools

  • Quran: Allah’s message revealed to the Prophet Muhammad

  • Ramadan: Month of Fasting

  • Shahada: Muslim creed (there is no god but God)

  • Sharia: Islamic law

  • Sunna: Traditions of the Prophet Muhammad

  • Zakat: Tithe or alms

A Map of the Middle East

If you’re interested in the Middle East, a map is an essential aid to understanding the relationships and histories of the countries and people. The following map sets out national boundaries, capital cities, and other cities of interest.

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