Bahá'í Faith in the United Arab Emirates
The Bahá'í Faith in the United Arab Emirates began before the country gained independence in 1971. The first Bahá'ís arrived in Dubai by 1950, and by 1957 there were four Bahá'í Local Spiritual Assemblies in the region of the United Arab Emirates and a regional National Spiritual Assembly of the Arabian Peninsula. Recent estimates count some 75,000 Bahá'ís or 1.6% of the national population - second only to Iran in number of Bahá'ís in the nations of the Middle East - though the World Christian Encyclopedia estimates closer to 51,700, 1.3%, in 2005.
By 1950 Bahá'ís had arrived in Dubai, and by 1957 there were Bahá'í Local Spiritual Assemblies in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Ras Al Khaymah, and Sharjah, and a regional Bahá'í National Spiritual Assembly of the Arabian Peninsula. This regional national assembly was re-organized for the Southern and Eastern Arabia in 1967, and of South East Arabia in 1974.
Since its inception the religion has had involvement in socio-economic development beginning by giving greater freedom to women, promulgating the promotion of female education as a priority concern, and that involvement was given practical expression by creating schools, agricultural coops, and clinics. The religion entered a new phase of activity when a message of the Universal House of Justice dated 20 October 1983 was released. Bahá'ís were urged to seek out ways, compatible with the Bahá'í teachings, in which they could become involved in the social and economic development of the communities in which they lived. Worldwide in 1979 there were 129 officially recognized Bahá'í socio-economic development projects. By 1987, the number of officially recognized development projects had increased to 1482. However the current situation of the Bahá'ís in the UAE, while being better than the situation of the Bahá'ís in Iran, (see Persecution of Bahá'ís) is mixed. Many consider the Bahá'ís kafir (infidels), and they lack many basic rights.
Census figures count Bahá'ís as Muslim and since many Bahá'ís had passports that identify them as Muslims, the Ministry of Education required Bahá'í children to take the prescribed Islamic studies classes. However, 15 percent of the UAE are not Muslim, Christian, or Jewish. Unofficial sources noted by the U.S. Department of State assert that one-third of these are collectively Bahá'í, Parsi, or Sikh. These estimates differ from census figures because census figures do not count "temporary" visitors and workers, and Bahá'ís are counted as Muslim. By some other estimates there were 55,000 Bahá'ís (1.95% of the national population) as of 2000, and 75,000 Bahá'ís or 1.6% circa 2008 - second only to Iran in the number of Bahá'ís in the nations of the Middle East though the World Christian Encyclopedia estimated 51,700 in 2005.
Recently, Bahá'ís have been generally able to practise their religion in the country; in 1999 a touring group of youth, a Bahá'í Workshop (see Oscar DeGruy), with members from many countries including the UAE had performed in India and other places. In February 2001 a group of Bahá'ís travelled to the UAE from Iran to attend a Ruhi Institute Bahá'í study circle, and the Emirate of Abu Dhabi donated land for a Bahá'í cemetery (and other cemetery lands for other religions.)
However, as of 2005, the country's long-term Internet service provider at the time, Etisalat, blocked some of the most visible websites related to the Bahá'í Faith. The blocking did not extend to most material concerning the Bahá'í Faith on the internet however.
- Bahá'í Faith by country
- Religion in the United Arab Emirates
- Freedom of religion in the United Arab Emirates
- Human rights in the United Arab Emirates
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