Hinduism in Arab states
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Millions of Indian diaspora, of different religions, reside and work in the Arab countries. The estimated figures for the Hindu population in 2010, among some Arab countries was as follows, according to Pew Research Center:
- United Arab Emirates 490,000
- Saudi Arabia 390,000
- Qatar 240,000
- Kuwait 230,000
- Oman 150,000
- Yemen 150,000
- Bahrain 120,000
- Total: 1.77 million
The number of Hindus in other Arab countries, including the countries of the Levant and North Africa, is thought to be negligible, though Libya has an Indian community of about 10,000 individuals, many of whom are likely to be Hindu. It is not known whether any Hindu temples exist in these countries.
(See Hinduism by country for the sources of these figures, which may need to be adjusted.)
Links between Arabia and the western coast of India have been strong and persistent. Arab sailors were using the southwest monsoon winds to trade with western Indian ports before the first century CE. An Arab army conquered Sindh in 711 and Arab traders settled in Kerala in the 8th century. In the opposite direction, medieval Gujaratis and other Indians traded extensively with Arab and Somali ports, including Ormuz, Socotra, Mogadishu, Merca, Barawa, Hobyo and Aden. Arab merchants were the dominant carriers of Indian Ocean trade until the Portuguese forcibly supplanted them at the end of the 15th century. Indo-Arabian links were renewed under the British Empire, when many Indians serving in the army or civil service were stationed in Arab lands such as Sudan. The current wave of Indian immigration to the Arab states of the Persian Gulf dates roughly to the 1960s. Hinduism is also one of the fastest growing religions in the Middle East. Mainly by immigration from the Indian Subcontinent.
Hinduism in Oman
Oman has an immigrant Hindu minority. The number of Hindus has declined in the 20th century although it is now stable. Hinduism first came to Muscat in 1507 from Sindh. The original Hindus spoke Kutchi language. By early 19th century there were at least 4,000 Hindus in Oman, all of the intermediate merchant caste. By 1900, there numbers had plummeted to 300. In 1895 the Hindu colony in Muscat came under attack by the Ibadhis. By the time of independence, only a few dozen Hindus remained in Oman. The historical Hindu Quarters of al-Waljat and al-Banyan are no longer occupied by Hindus. Hindu temples once located in Ma'bad al Banyan and Bayt al Pir, no longer exist; the only active Hindu temples today are the Muthi Shwar temple located in Al-Hawshin Muscat, the Shiva temple located in Muttrah, and the Krishna temple located in Darsait. The only Hindu crematorium is located in Sohar, northwest of Muscat. The most prominent immigrant Hindus (Kutchi), are Khimji Ramdas, Dhanji Morarji, Ratansi Purushottam and Purushottam Toprani.
Discrimination in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia, according to the State Department of the United States, actively discriminates against all non-Muslim religions, but particularly against polytheistic and atheistic religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhs in accordance with Sharia. Hindus are not permitted to build temples anywhere in Saudi Arabia, nor are they allowed to celebrate their festivals in open. Further, in legal process, Saudi Arabia discriminates against Hindus (and other non-Muslims) in evidence and prosecution process as well as legal judgment. For example, in calculating accidental death or injury compensation, the final amount is adjusted after establishing the plaintiff's religion. According to U.S. State Department, a Sunni Muslim male in Saudi Arabia receives the full award as required by Sharia, a Jewish or Christian male receives 50 percent of the compensation a Muslim male would receive, and Hindus (and others such as Buddhists, and Sikhs) are only entitled to receive 1/16 the amount a male Sunni Muslim would receive.
Similarly, only the testimony by Sunnis is accepted as reliable, while the testimony of Hindu witnesses (and other non-Muslim religions) are often ignored in courts of law altogether, as stipulated in Sharia. In general, in Saudi courts, a woman's testimony is worth only half that of a man's, and a non-Muslim's (Hindu) testimony is worth less than that of a Muslim's.
- Table: Religious Composition by Country, in Numbers Pew Research Center, Washington D.C. (December 2012)
- J.E. Peterson, Oman's diverse society: Northern Oman, Middle East Journal, Vol. 58, Nr. 1, Winter 2004
- International Religious Freedom Report - Saudi Arabia State Department of the United States (2009)
- Saudi Arabia - Religious Freedom Report U.S. State Department (2012), pp. 4