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Concentrated in Syria, Lebanon, and Israel, the Druze are an esoteric religious group that mingles Ismailism, Gnosticism, Neoplatonism, Pythagoreanism, Hinduism, and some other religious philosophies, although adherents self-identify as unitarian.

There is no clear record of the origins of the Druze as a people or as a religious sect. They first appear in the historical record during the sixth Fatimite Caliph in Cairo (996-1020 AD) but, for most of their history, they have lived their lives in the mountains of Lebanon, with little contact with the outside world.

One of the few occasions in which the Druze attracted outside attention was during the Crusades, when they fought with Islam.

In the 17th century, the Druze leader, Fakhr-al-Din II, sought refuge in the court of the Medicis at Florence from the Sultan of Turkey.

Then, in 1860, French troops intervened in a Lebanese civil war, pitting the Druze against the Maronites.

Lastly, in recent years the Druze have come to the attention of the outside world again as a result of the armed uprising against the French mandate in Syria.

Currently, the Druze have significant populations in Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Venezuela, the United States, Jordan, Canada, Australia, and Germany. The earliest and most densely-populated Druze communities are in Mount Lebanon and in southern Syria.

They are officially recognized as a separate religious community in Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. While generally loyal to the countries they reside in, the Druze have maintained their own religious court system and identity, even across national borders.

Within their areas, people who are not Druze are prohibited.

In southwest Syria, the Druzites live in the mountainous area of Jebel al-Druze, where one hundred and twenty villages are exclusively Druze. Other significant Druze communitie are in the Harim Mountains, Jaramana, and in southeastern Mount Hermon. A concentrated Druze population was historically located in the Golan Heights but due to wars with Israel, most of them have fled to other parts of Syria. Throughout its history in Syria, the Druze community has frequently been victims of government oppression or attack, and of Islamic terrorism.

The Druzite community played a significant role in the formation of Lebanon as a nation, and continue to be an important political minority.

Most of the Druze in Israel are in the northern part of the country, where they are recognized as a distinct ethnic community. Druzites have served in the Israel Defense Forces, and in public service. The number of Druze serving in the Israeli parliament exceeds their proportion of the population.

Druzites in Jordan are mostly in the northwestern part of the country.

Although Islam and Christianity has changed and adapted greatly through the years, the Druze religious system has remained essentially the same.

Rising as an Islamic sect, Druzism also had a close relationship with Christianity, had Hellenistic and Persian influences, and quickly absorbed a number of Zorastrian and Judeo-Christian sects. Most of these schools of thought have disappeared, but Druzism remains, and its ideas have survived to the current day.

At various times, different scholars have written that Druzism was related to ancient Judaism, Samaritanism, Mandaeism, and Tibetan Lamaism, as well as Islam and Christianity. Perhaps more accurately, others have declared Druzism to be an enigma.

The Druze have practiced their religious rites in secret, and have guarded their sacred writings from the outside world. However, during invasions and civil wars, some manuscripts have found their way into the hands of outside scholars.

Historically, Druzism began as an outgrowth of the Ismailiyya sect, which itself belonged to the Shi'ah faction of Islam.

Regardless of its origins, the Druze religion differs greatly from Islam and is not often recognized as Muslim by other Muslim denominations or sects.

The the Druze, God is everything and the whole of existence. When forced to use a name for themselves, the Druze refer to themselves as Muwahhidun, which means unitarians.

Reincarnation is an important principle in Druzism, and the Druzites believe that reincarnation occurs instantly upon death, as it is impossible for the soul to exist without a human body. Furthermore, a Druze man can only be reincarnated as another male Druze, and a female Druze can only be reincarnated as a Druze woman.

The Druze accept that the teachings of prophets, religious leaders, and sacred books have esoteric meanings, some of which are allegorical or symbolic in nature.

The Druze reject iconography but considers five colors - green, red, yellow, blue, and white - to be religious symbols, each assigned an attribute.



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