United Arab Emirates
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  Preferred Religion (2015)1: Sunni

  Majority Religion (2015)2: Sunni Muslim (60.3%)

Religious Adherents, (2015)2

United Arab Emirates Western Asia World
Muslim (all denominations combined) 74.4% 83.4% 22.8%
 
  • Sunni Muslim
  • 60.3% 57% 19%
     
  • Shia Muslim
  • 9.1% 24.6% 3.4%
     
  • Other and Unknown Muslim
  • 5.1% 0.8% 0.3%
    Christian (all denominations combined) 13.1% 5.6% 29.9%
     
  • Catholic
  • 11.9% 2.1% 15%
     
  • Orthodox
  • 0.7% 3.2% 3%
     
  • Protestant
  • 0.1% --- 5.6%
     
  • Other and Unknown Christian
  • 0.3% 0.3% 2.3%
    Hindu 7.3% 0.8% 14.5%
    Buddhist (all denominations combined) 2.2% 0.2% 6.6%
     
  • Theravada Buddhist
  • 2% 0.2% 1.6%
     
  • Mahayana Buddhist
  • 0.1% --- 4.3%
     
  • Other and Unknown Buddhist
  • 0.1% 0.1% 0.5%
    Sikh 0.8% --- 0.4%
    Bahai 0.5% --- 0.1%
    Other Religionist 0.1% 0.3% 0.2%
    Not Religious (incl. Atheist) 1.2% 1.2% 12%
    Unknown 0.3% 0.2% 4.8%

    Religious Demography3

    The country has an area of 32,300 square miles and a population of more than 5 million. Approximately 80 percent of the country's residents are noncitizens. Of the citizens, 85 percent are Sunni Muslim and an estimated 15 percent or fewer are Shi'a. Noncitizen residents are predominantly from South and Southeast Asia, although there are substantial numbers from the Middle East, Europe, Central Asia, the former Commonwealth of Independent States, and North America. According to a 2005 Ministry of Economy census, 76 percent of the total population is Muslim, 9 percent is Christian, and 15 percent is "other." According to unofficial figures, at least 15 percent of the population is Hindu, 5 percent is Buddhist, and 5 percent belong to other religious groups, including Parsi, Baha'i, and Sikh. These estimates differ from census figures because census figures do not count "temporary" visitors and workers and count Baha'is and Druze as Muslim.

    Non-Muslim religious leaders from inside and outside of the country regularly referred to it as one of the most liberal countries in the region in terms of governmental and societal attitudes toward allowing all persons to practice their religions freely. While citizens regarded the country as a Muslim country that should respect Muslim religious sensibilities on matters such as public consumption of alcohol, modest dress, and public deportment, the society also emphasized respect for privacy and Islamic traditions of tolerance, particularly with respect to some Christian groups. Western casual attire for men and women was permitted throughout the country.

    Many hotels, stores, and other businesses patronized by both citizens and foreigners were permitted to sell alcohol and pork to non-Muslims and to acknowledge openly non-Muslim holidays such as Christmas, Easter, and Diwali (although such displays generally are not permitted during the month of Ramadan). Shopping centers were festive during Christian holidays, and traditional Christian holiday foods, decorations, posters, books, and videotapes were widely available. School children gathered in Dubai malls to sing Christmas carols while "department store Santas" handed out gifts. Reports of religious holiday celebrations, including church services, were regularly printed in the media.


    Sources

    1.  The Religious Characteristics of States Dataset Project: Government Religious Preference (GRP) measures government-level favoritism toward, and disfavor against, 30 religious denominations. A series of ordered categorical variables index the state's institutional favoritism in 28 different ways. The variables are combined to form five composite indices for five broad components of state-religion: official status, religious education, financial support, regulatory burdens, and freedom of practice. The five components' composites in turn are further combined into a single composite score, the GRP score. The RCS Data Project would like to acknowledge, recognize, and express our deepest gratitude for the significant contributions of Todd M. Johnson, the principal investigator of the World Christian Database, the co-principal investigator of the World Religion Database, and co-author of the World Christian Encyclopedia series.

    2.  The Religious Characteristics of States Dataset Project: Demographics reports annual estimates of religious demographics, both country by country and region by region. It estimates populations and percentages of adherents of 100 religious denominations including second level subdivisions within Christianity and Islam. The RCS Data Project would like to acknowledge, recognize, and express our deepest gratitude for the significant contributions of Todd M. Johnson, the principal investigator of the World Christian Database, the co-principal investigator of the World Religion Database, and co-author of the World Christian Encyclopedia series.

    3.  The U.S. State Department's International Religious Freedom Report is submitted to Congress annually by the Department of State in compliance with Section 102(b) of the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) of 1998. This report supplements the most recent Human Rights Reports by providing additional detailed information with respect to matters involving international religious freedom. It includes individual country chapters on the status of religious freedom worldwide. A dataset with these and the other international measures highlighted on the country pages can be downloaded from this website. These State Department reports are open source.

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