Kuwait is a country in Western Asia with a population of about 4.2 million people. This population includes about 1.3 million Kuwaitis and 2.9 million expatriates. Thus, Kuwait is one of the few countries in the world in which expats make up the majority of the population.
A vast majority of Kuwait’s population practice Islam, which is the country's official religion. According to the CIA World Factbook, Muslims account for 76.7% of Kuwait’s total population. Most of Kuwait’s Muslims adhere to Sunni Islam, although there is also a small but significant Shia Muslim community. Christians in Kuwait represent 17.3% of the population, while the remainder of the population, especially expats from foreign countries, follow other religions or do not claim affiliation with any particular religion. The followers of these other religions include Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Bahá'ís.
However, these percentages have been calculated on the basis of the total population, where about 69% of the population is represented by immigrants to Kuwait. Thus, the figures might vary considerably if only Kuwaiti citizens are considered to comprise the population of the country.
The Largest Religion in Kuwait
It is estimated that between 85% and 95% of Kuwaiti citizens are Sunni Muslims, while between 5% and 15% are Shias. Other Islamic sects also have small populations in Kuwait. Among non-citizens of Kuwait, there are about 100,000 Shias. However, no estimate of the number of Sunnis among non-citizens exists.
Christianity in Kuwait
Christianity is the largest minority religion in Kuwait. The country is one of only two countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) that have non-Muslim citizens. However, most of the country’s Christians are non-Kuwaiti immigrants, and there were only 259 Christian citizens in Kuwait in 2014. This group can be divided into two sub-groups based on their origin. The first group, which makes up about one-quarter of Kuwait’s Christian population, arrived in Kuwait from Turkey and Iraq, and are now well-integrated in Arabic society, speak Arabic, and adhere to the local culture and cuisine. The remaining Christian Kuwaitis arrived more recently from Palestine during the 1950s and 1960s. A few Christian Kuwaitis also trace their origins to Lebanon and Syria.
Religious Freedom and Tolerance in Kuwait
Kuwait’s constitution is considered to be the most liberal of all GCC member states. However, attempts to strictly Islamize the state have been made several times before. The Kuwaiti society is generally considered to be diverse and liberal, and it is this liberal nature that allows a large population of expats from different religious backgrounds to work and live in Kuwait.