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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 in 2019.

Religion and Languages of Libya

According to 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 identity.


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 Brotherhood.

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.

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