Freedom of religion in the United Arab Emirates

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The Constitution of the United Arab Emirates provides for freedom of religion in accordance with established customs, and the government generally respects this right in practice; however, there were some restrictions. The federal Constitution declares that Islam is the official religion of the country.

Religious demography[edit]

The country has an area of 82,880 km² (30,000 sq. mi) and a non-permanent resident (as all work visas have a maximum renewable tenure of 2 years, previously 3 years) population of 7.4 million (2010 est.). Only 10% of residents are UAE citizens.[1] According to the 2005 census, 100% Of the citizens are Muslim; 85 percent are Sunni Muslim and 15 percent are Shi'a.[2] Foreigners are predominantly from South and Southeast Asia, although there are substantial numbers from the Middle East, Europe, Central Asia, the Commonwealth of Independent States, and North America. According to a ministry report, which collected census data, 76 percent of the total population is Muslim, 9 percent is Christian, and 15 percent is other. Unofficial figures estimate that at least 15 percent of the population is Hindu, 5 percent is Buddhist, and 5 percent belong to other religious groups, including Parsi, Bahá'í, and Sikh.[3]

Religious discrimination[edit]

In recent years, a large number of Shia Muslim expatriates have been deported from the UAE,[4][5][6] Lebanese Shia families in particular have been deported for their alleged sympathy for Hezbollah.[7][8][9][10][11][12] According to some organizations, more than 4,000 Shia expats have been deported from the UAE in recent years.[13][14]


Apostasy is a crime in the United Arab Emirates.[15] In 1978, UAE began the process of Islamising the nation's law, after its council of ministers voted to appoint a High Committee to identify all its laws that conflicted with Sharia. Among the many changes that followed, UAE incorporated hudud crimes of Sharia into its Penal Code - apostasy being one of them.[16] Article 1 and Article 66 of UAE's Penal Code requires hudud crimes to be punished with the death penalty.[17][18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "US department of state - background note:United Arab Emirates". 
  2. ^
  3. ^ "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. 
  4. ^ "Shiites deported from Gulf lament injustice". Daily Star. 4 July 2013. 
  5. ^ "Concern over deportations from Gulf Arab states". 5 July 2013. 
  6. ^ "UAE urged to allow appeal on deportations". Financial Times. July 2013. 
  7. ^ "UAE deportations raise questions in Lebanon". Global Post. July 2013. 
  8. ^ "Lebanese Shiites Ousted from Gulf over Hizbullah Ties". July 2013. 
  9. ^ "Lebanese Living in UAE Fear Deportation". Al Monitor. 2013. 
  10. ^ "UAE Deports 125 Lebanese Citizens". Al Monitor. 2013. 
  11. ^ "UAE/Lebanon: Allow Lebanese/Palestinian Deportees to Appeal". Human Rights Watch. 2010. 
  12. ^ "Lebanese Families in UAE Face Deportations on Short Notice". Al Monitor. 2012. 
  13. ^ Ana Maria Luca (5 June 2013). "Hezbollah and the Gulf". 
  14. ^ "UAE said to deport dozens of Lebanese, mostly Shiite Muslims". Beirut: Yahoo! News. 13 March 2015. Retrieved 16 September 2015. 
  15. ^ UAE - Laws Criminalizing Apostasy Library of Congress (May 2014)
  16. ^ Butti Sultan Butti Ali Al-Muhairi (1996), The Islamisation of Laws in the UAE: The Case of the Penal Code, Arab Law Quarterly, Vol. 11, No. 4 (1996), pp. 350-371
  17. ^ Articles of Law 3 of 1987, al Jarida al Rasmiyya, vol. 182, 8 December 1987
  18. ^ Al-Muhairi (1997), Conclusion to the Series of Articles on the UAE Penal Law. Arab Law Quarterly, Vol. 12, No. 4
  • [1] US department of state - background note:United Arab Emirates
  • [2] International Religious Freedom Report 2007 - UAE