Bahá'í Faith in the United Arab Emirates

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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,[1] 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.[1] 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[2] - though the World Christian Encyclopedia estimates closer to 51,700, 1.3%, in 2005.[3]


By 1950 Bahá'ís had arrived in Dubai,[1] 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.[1] This regional national assembly was re-organized for the Southern and Eastern Arabia in 1967,[4] and of South East Arabia in 1974.[5]

In the 1980s, many anti-Bahá'í polemics were published in local newspapers of the UAE.[6]

Modern community[edit]

Since its inception the religion has had involvement in socio-economic development beginning by giving greater freedom to women,[7] promulgating the promotion of female education as a priority concern,[8] and that involvement was given practical expression by creating schools, agricultural coops, and clinics.[7] The religion entered a new phase of activity when a message of the Universal House of Justice dated 20 October 1983 was released.[9] 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.[10]

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.[11] 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.[11] By some other estimates there were 55,000 Bahá'ís (1.95% of the national population) as of 2000,[12] 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[2] though the World Christian Encyclopedia estimated 51,700 in 2005.[3]

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.[13] In February 2001 a group of Bahá'ís travelled to the UAE from Iran to attend a Ruhi Institute Bahá'í study circle,[14] and the Emirate of Abu Dhabi donated land for a Bahá'í cemetery (and other cemetery lands for other religions.)[15]

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.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d The Bahá'í Faith: 1844-1963: Information Statistical and Comparative, Including the Achievements of the Ten Year International Bahá'í Teaching & Consolidation Plan 1953-1963, Compiled by Hands of the Cause Residing in the Holy Land, pages 4, 25, 28, 118.
  2. ^ a b Kjeilen, Tore, ed. (2008). "Baha'i". Looklex Encyclopedia, an expansion of Encyclopaedia of the Orient. Online. Looklex Encyclopedia. 
  3. ^ a b "Most Baha'i Nations (2005)". QuickLists > Compare Nations > Religions >. The Association of Religion Data Archives. 2005. Retrieved 2009-07-04. 
  4. ^ House of Justice, Universal (1976). Wellspring of Guidance, Messages 1963-1968. Wilmette, Illinois: National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States. pp. 73, Nine New National Assemblies in Ridván 1967. ISBN 0-87743-032-2. 
  5. ^ House of Justice, Universal (1974-03-21). "Naw-Ruz 1974, BE 131". Ridvan Messages from the Universal House of Justice. Universal House of Justice. Retrieved 2008-06-07. 
  6. ^ MacEoin, Denis; William Collins. "Anti-Baha'i Polemics". The Babi and Baha'i Religions: An Annotated Bibliography. Greenwood Press's ongoing series of Bibliographies and Indexes in Religious Studies. pp. entries #1, 5, 26, 29, 108, 116, 122, 151, 204, 219, 227, 238, 272, 289, 330. Archived from the original on 15 May 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-12. 
  7. ^ a b Momen, Moojan. "History of the Baha'i Faith in Iran". draft "A Short Encyclopedia of the Baha'i Faith". Retrieved 2009-10-16. 
  8. ^ Kingdon, Geeta Gandhi (1997). "Education of women and socio-economic development". Baha'i Studies Review. 7 (1). 
  9. ^ Momen, Moojan; Smith, Peter (1989). "The Baha'i Faith 1957–1988: A Survey of Contemporary Developments". Religion. 19: 63–91. doi:10.1016/0048-721X(89)90077-8. 
  10. ^ (Bahrain), Esra'a (2007-06-15). "Interview with an Arab atheist - Does Islam drive its youth away?". Contributions. Mideast Youth. Archived from the original on 7 May 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-07. 
  11. ^ a b "United Arab Emirates: International Religious Freedom Report 2007". United States Department of State: Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. 2007-09-14. Retrieved 2008-05-02. 
  12. ^ Barrett, David; Kohlman Rabbani, Simeon (2000). "Year 2000 Estimated Baha'i statistics". Archived from the original on 4 June 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-07. 
  13. ^ News Service, Express (1999-09-16). "Baha'i followers perform to spread the message of peace". Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. 
  14. ^ "New gestures by the Baha'i Cult". Hamshahri Newspaper. Translated by Aminian Behzad. 2002-11-14 – via Research Notes in Shaykhi, Babi and Baha'i Studies. 
  15. ^ M. Bathish, Hani (2004-10-19). "UAE is an oasis of religious tolerance". Khaleej Times Online. 
  16. ^ "Internet Filtering in the United Arab Emirates in 2004-2005: A Country Study" (PDF). OpenNet Initiative. February 2005.