In 2019, Libya had a population density of 4 residents
per km2, but since 95 percent of the country's
area consists of desert, more than 90 percent of the
residents live in the coastal zone. Libya's population has
grown very rapidly, from 1.5 million in 1965 to 6.7 million
Countryaah, the country has a high degree of urbanization; In 2019,
80 percent of the population was estimated to live in
cities, of which the capital Tripoli (Tarabulus al-Gharb) is
by far the largest, with 1.1 million residents (2010).
Over 90 percent of Libya's population are Arabs and
Arabs, and 4 percent are Berber. The largest Berber group is
nafusi (150,000). In the western border areas are nomadic
Ajertu Rule (10,000, of which 2,000 reside in the oasis city
of Ghat). In the south there are small groups of teda.
The last Jews left the country after the Six Day War in
1967, while the enclaves of Italians and Greeks largely fled
after 1980. However, small groups of descendants of Italians
and Greeks still exist in the country. Up to 1995, there
were several million guest workers in Libya, mainly Arabs
but also Turks and Koreans, but after deportations they have
decreased in number. There are still large contingents of
guest workers; a growing group is Filipinos. The country
also houses large numbers of illegal immigrants, mainly from
Africa; in recent years, these have repeatedly been
subjected to violence and compulsory reprimands. In
addition, there are small contingents of Palestinian
(8,900), Somali and Iraqi refugees.
Historically, Libya has consisted of three independent
regions: Tripolitania in the west, with strong ties to the
rest of the Maghreb, Cyrenaika in the east, which had been
facing Egypt, and the Fezzan oasis complex in the south.
These culturally and politically distinct areas began to
integrate in the mid-1930s, when Italy fought the last
resistance of the Sufic Sanusiya order and the tribes of
Cyrenaika that this fraternity mobilized. The social effects
of the large oil revenues from the 1960s have greatly
contributed to the fact that the residents of the three
regions have come to perceive themselves as Libyans.
However, tribal membership is still important for personal
The official language is Arabic. The spoken language is
New Arabic dialects of badawi type. Smaller groups speak the
Berber language Tuaregic.
Islam is state religion, but the constitution guarantees
religious freedom. Almost all Libyans are Sunni Muslims of
Malik and, to a certain extent, Hanafite legal tradition.
Many berbers are ibadites (compare kharijites). Politically,
Islam plays a big role. Under Turkish rule and during the
Italian occupation, the Sanusiya words (a Puritan and
Sufi-inspired revival movement) formed the core of the
resistance to the foreign power holders.
At independence in 1951, its head, Idris, was made king
of Libya. His successor Muammar al-Khadaffi saw himself as a
reformer and rejected the traditional Islamic law schools.
al-Khadaffi represented something that can almost be
regarded as a form of Islamic socialism, which has generally
not been accepted by the religious scholars (ulama). During
the 1970s, reforms in the name of Islam were passed through
which lost their independence and financial base. In the
1980s and 1990s, the Islamist opposition to the regime
became clearer and more militant. The regime responded with
arrests and executions of supporters of i.a. Muslim
In February 2011, violent protests erupted against
al-Khadaffi in Benghazi, eastern Libya, and protests spread
rapidly across the country (see further History, Civil War
2011). al-Khadaffi was killed in September 2011. In the
elections to the Provisional Parliament, the Liberal
National Forces Alliance became the largest party. Two
in the election became the Justice and Construction
Party, the political branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The proposal for a new constitution for Libya presented
(November 2012), as in previous Islam, states that state
religion and Sharia should be the basis of the legislation.
However, the state must guarantee the right of non-Muslims
to practice their religion freely.
In the country there are small groups of Christians. The
Catholic Church was established in the country in 1642 and
today the number of Catholics is estimated at just under
1.5% of the population. Other Christians are about the same
and among them are found Copts, Orthodox, Anglicans, those
who embrace Unitarianism and Protestant faiths.
According to the government, all Libyans are Muslims. It
is forbidden to convert from Islam to any other religion.
Thus it is also prohibited for e.g. Christian communities to
carry on a mission with the aim of converting individual
Muslims from Islam to any Christian community.