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United Arab Emirates
Monday, 19 September 2011 20:08
Religious Freedom Ranking:
1.5 out of 5 stars: Serious Violations

United Arab Emirates

Religious law: The Constitution provides for freedom of religion for the 1.7 million people. Islam is the official religion of the Union. The Islamic Shari'a is the principal source of legislation.  The government defines its citizens as Muslim. The law also guarantees the freedom to hold religious ceremonies in accordance with established custom, provided such ceremonies are consistent with public order and with public morals.

In the seven constituent states in the UAE, citizens are predominantly Sunni Muslims, but Shi'a Muslims are also free to worship and maintain mosques. The government has control over the appointment of preachers and the conduct of their work. Throughout the emirates, most mosques are government funded or subsidized.

Religious freedom: No Muslim may change his or her religion. Non-Muslims are free to practice their religion but may not proselytize publicly or distribute religious literature. Evangelical groups point out that this results in their not being allowed to practice a fundamental tenet of their faith, such as the “Great Commandment” of Jesus to “teach all nations” the truth of the gospel. Groups need not register with the government, but they must gain permission to own land on which to build their religious house. Major cities have Christian churches and Hindu and Sikh temples, some built on land donated by the ruling families. Other religious communities (mostly expatriates residing in Dubai and Abu Dhabi) include Ismailis, Parsis, and Iranian Baha'is. "Temporary" visitors and workers who are Baha'is and Druze are counted as Muslim.

The Government permits foreign clergy to minister to expatriate congregations. Non-Muslim religious groups are permitted to engage in private charitable activities and to send their children to private schools. The government recognizes more than 30 Christian denominations and has issued many of these land use permits to construct and operate churches. Conversion from Islam to another religion is illegal and would be punishable by death, but no known cases have been reported. The government publishes an annual report on the number of foreigners who convert to Islam. The government guides the sermons of most mosques yet considers Shi’a mosques private. Both Muslims and non-Muslims are required to refrain from eating, drinking, and smoking in public during fasting hours in the month of Ramadan out of respect for Islamic practice.

The country's two Internet service providers, Etisalat and du, occasionally blocked Web sites containing religious information, including information on the Baha'i Faith, Judaism, atheism, negative critiques of Islam, and testimonies of former Muslims who converted to Christianity. Penalties exist for anyone using the Internet to preach against Islam, inciting anyone to commit sin, and using the Internet to encourage a breach of public decency, yet there were no reports of incidents this past year.

The few foreigners who are Jews have no synagogue to worship in but are free to do so in homes.

Religious freedom and women: Muslim women are not permitted to marry non?Muslim men unless the man converts to Islam, although Muslim men may marry any woman who is Christian or Jewish (People of the book). Any Muslim woman who marries a non-Muslim man would be subject to arrest, trial, and imprisonment on grounds of fornication. There were no reports of such penalties in 2010. The Maliki school of jurisprudence deals with divorce. Women usually gain custody of daughters only until age of 13 and sons until age of 10. If the court deems the mother unfit, custody reverts to the next able female relative on the mother's side. The Islamic law in the country allows four legal wives.

Religious violence: There were no reports of violence or abuse to Muslim or non-Muslim believers in this year.


2010 US State Department International Religious Freedom Report on United Arab Emirates No change in the status of respect for religious freedom by the government.                              

United Arab Emirates - New World Encyclopedia



Last Updated on Tuesday, 14 February 2012 18:46