Islam in Israel and the Palestinian territories
|Islam by country|
Islam is a major religion in both Israel and the Palestinian territories. Muslims, mostly Arab citizens of Israel, constitute 16% of the Israeli population, making them the second largest religious group in Israel after Israeli Jews. Islam is the religion of the majority of the Palestinian population residing in the Palestinian territories, with Muslims comprising 75% of the population of the West Bank, and 99% of the population of the Gaza Strip, ahead of believers of Judaism and Christianity. Jerusalem is Islam's third holiest city after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia. The Haram al Sharif (Temple Mount) of Jerusalem is believed by Muslims to be the location from which Muhammad ascended to Jannah (paradise); Jerusalem is mentioned in the Quran in the following verse, which describes Muhammed's journey to Jannah:
“ Glory to He (God) Who did take His servant for a Journey by night from the Sacred Mosque to the farthest Mosque, whose precincts We did bless. „
This widely accepted Islamic belief raises the religious and spiritual importance to them of the Dome of the Rock and the adjacent al-Aqsa Mosque. Muslims are sensitive to and mindful of the circumstance that two mosques along with the rest of East Jerusalem are claimed and administered by the state of Israel, albeit without Israeli flags presently being displayed within the limits of the Haram area (which is managed day to day by the Islamic Waqf, an administrative body taking responsibility for the conduct of Islamic affairs in the region of the Temple Mount). In modern times there have been several instances of Israeli Jews raising flags on the Mount in defiance of the police practice of obstructing persons from doing so.
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Islam was first introduced to the region of Palestine during the Muslim conquests of the 7th century, when armies from the Arabian Peninsula under the Rashidun Caliphate conquered a territory previously under the control of the Byzantine Empire.
The majority of Muslims in Israel are Sunni Arabs. As a result of the rise of the Ottoman Empire, from 1516 to 1917, the Sunni Ottoman Turks ruled the historic Palestine. Their leadership reinforced and ensured the centrality and importance of Islam as the dominant religion in the region.
The conquest of Palestine by British forces in 1917 and the subsequent Balfour Declaration opened the gates for the arrival of large numbers of Jews in the Mandate of Palestine who began to tip the scales in favor of Judaism with the passing of each decade.
However, the British transferred the symbolic Islamic governance of the land to the Hashemites based in Jordan, and not to the House of Saud. The Hashemites thus became the official guardians of the Islamic holy places of Jerusalem and the areas around it, particularly strong when Jordan controlled the West Bank (1948–1967).
The Bedouin in Israel are also Muslims, with some Bedouin clans participating in the Israeli army. The small Circassian community is composed of Sunni Muslims uprooted from the Caucasus in the late 19th Century, shortly before the first aliyah, and settled in the Galilee by Ottoman authorities. In 1922, the British created the Supreme Muslim Council in the British Mandate of Palestine and appointed Amin al-Husayni (1895–1974) as the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. The council was abolished in 1948.
Together with Israel and the Palestinian territories it has a total population of 11,376,309, looking at the religious demography with all religions the statistics show the population, Jewish – 50.7% (5,766,717), Muslim - 40.1% (4,562,611), Christian - 3.2% (365,329) and others - 6% (681,602) All of these data have been calculated using current statistics of populations from Israel.
See also 
- Israel. CIA Factbook
- West Bank. CIA Factbook
- Gaza Strip. CIA Factbook
- From the article on Islam in Palestine and Israel in Oxford Islamic Studies Online
- A Concise History of Islam and the Arabs MidEastWeb.org