Located in the Arabian Peninsula, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a sovereign state with an area of 83,600 square km and a population of 9,269,612 people. Islam is the official religion of the state as well as the largest religion in UAE. According to the CIA World Factbook, 76% of the population of the country are Muslims. Christians are the largest minority community representing about 9% of the country’s population. Adherents of other religions account for the remaining 15% of the population. Among the other religions practiced in the country, Hindus and Buddhists have the highest representation.
The Official And Most Popular Religion In The UAE
Most of the Muslims of UAE, about 85%, are Sunnis. The remaining Muslim population mainly comprises of Shi'a Muslims. Sufi influences are also visible in the country. Ibadi Muslims are primarily immigrants from Oman. Sharia courts have significant authority in the UAE. Punishments like flogging, amputation, stoning, etc., are meted out to those engaging in adultery, alcohol consumption or other crimes that are against the Islamic principles. Sharia law also guides the personal matters like marriage, divorces, etc., in the country. The law is strictly applied to the Muslim citizens of the Emirates and in a few cases, to the non-Muslims. Apostasy is punishable by death in the country. Homosexuality is also banned in the country.
Although most of the above laws apply to Muslim citizens of UAE, foreigners are also required to respect the culture of the nation. Kissing in public might lead to deportation from the country. Public dancing is not allowed. Drinking and eating between sunrise and sunset during the Ramadan months is also illegal and the law applies to all visitors to the country.
Other Religions In The UAE
Both Catholics and Protestants have a significant presence in the UAE. 33 churches are active here. A large section of UAE’s Christians traces their origins to Asia. Hindu businessmen from India had played a significant role during the early days of Dubai’s development. Their contribution towards the city’s growth was acknowledged by a former Emir of the Emirate of Dubai who allowed the construction of a Hindu temple complex in Bur Dubai.
Religious Freedom And Tolerance In The UAE
Although Islam is the state religion of the UAE, the practice of other religions is generally tolerated by the government. However, non-Muslims are not expected to interfere in the religious matters and laws applicable to the Muslim citizens living in the country. The use of media to spread knowledge about religions other than Islam is strictly discouraged in the country. Muslim citizens of the country are required to strictly adhere to the Islamic way of life and cultural practices. Conversion of Muslims to other religions is a punishable offense.