United Arab Emirates
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Religious Adherents, 2010 (World Christian Database)1

United Arab Emirates Western Asia World
Baha'i 0.5% <0.1% 0.1%
Buddhist 2.0% 0.2% 7.2%
Chinese Universalist 0.0% <0.1% 6.3%
Christian 12.6% 6.1% 32.8%
Confucianist 0.0% 0.0% 0.1%
Ethnoreligionist 0.0% <0.1% 3.5%
Hindu 6.6% 0.7% 13.8%
Jain 0.0% <0.1% <0.1%
Jewish 0.0% 2.6% 0.2%
Muslim 76.5% 88.7% 22.5%
Shintoist 0.0% 0.0% <0.1%
Sikh 0.7% <0.1% 0.3%
Spiritist 0.0% 0.0% 0.2%
Taoist 0.0% 0.0% 0.1%
Zoroastrian 0.0% <0.1% <0.1%
Neoreligionists <0.1% 0.1% 0.9%
Atheist 0.2% 0.1% 2.0%
Agnostic 1.0% 1.3% 9.8%

Religious Adherence, 2010 (other estimates)2

Sunni 85.0%
Shi'a 15.0%

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.


Note: The World Christian Database (WCD) estimates, used in the Religious Adherents section above, count each person as belonging to a maximum of one religious group. For more information, see the WCD methodology document. The U.S. State Department's International Religious Freedom report estimates, used in the Religious Demography section, use less restrictive criteria in which a person who identifies with more than one religion is classified as a follower of each. In certain cases (such as Japan and other nations with strong folk religion traditions), this can cause counts to vary widely between estimates. Users are advised to consult the relevant source documents before determining which counts to cite.

1.  The World Christian Database (WCD) is based on the 2600-page award-winning World Christian Encyclopedia and World Christian Trends, first published in 1982 and revised in 2001. This extensive work on World religion is now completely updated and integrated into the WCD online database. Designed for both the casual user and research scholar, information is readily available on religious activities, growth rates, religious literature, worker activity, and demographic statistics. Additional secular data is incorporated on population, health, education, and communications. A dataset with these and the other international measures highlighted on the country pages can be downloaded from this website. Used with permission.

2.  Estimates for the country were taken from the United States Department of State's Report on International Religious Freedom. "The 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." The report profiles issues of religious adherence and freedom for each nation in the world. The information for each country was derived from a combination of "government and religious officials, nongovernmental organizations, journalists, human rights monitors, religious groups, and academics." Section I of each specific country report contains information on the religious demography of that nation. It is important to note that the estimates are of the proportion of national citizens (excluding resident non-nationals) who identify with specific religious traditions.

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.