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To the Editor:
Vali Nasr's article "When the Shiites Rise" (July/August 2006) presents a table purporting to show the percentage of the population that is Shiite Muslim in several Middle Eastern countries. The figure given for Lebanon is 45 percent. No one can determine the relative populations of religious sects in Lebanon with precision, however, because no census has been conducted in the country since 1932. Estimates of the Shiite population vary widely, and Nasr's is at the very top of the range. As a Lebanese social demographer who has worked with population data on Lebanon and other Arab countries for about three decades, I consider it a gross overestimation. My own calculations put the upper limit of the Lebanese Shiite population at less than 29 percent.
Muhammad A. Faour
Deputy Vice President for Regional External Programs, American University of Beirut