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People, Language & Religion


South Asians accounted for 50% of the total population in the UAE, at last estimate. Emiris constituted 19%, while other Arabs and Iranians made up 23%. Other expatriates, including Westerners and East Asians, totaled 8%. Jordanians, Palestinians, Egyptians, Iraqis, and Bahrainis are employed throughout the bureaucracy, including the educational system.


Arabic is the official and universal language. Hindi and Urdu are minority languages. English is widely used in business.


Islam is the official religion of all seven Emirates. As such, virtually all UAE nationals and many immigrants are Muslims. Most (85%) are Sunnis, and the remaining 15% are Shi'as. The government does not recognise all non-Muslim religions. In Emirates that officially recognise and grant legal identity to non-Muslim groups, only a limited number of Christian groups are granted this recognition. While recognising the difference between Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Protestant Christianity, the authorities make no legal distinction between Christian groups, particularly Protestants. Non-Muslims, constituting approximately 4% of the population, are principally Christians and Hindus, but also include Buddhists, Parsis, Baha'is and Sikhs.

Sharjah is the only Emirate in which the sale, possession and consumption of alcohol is banned. It also maintains the strictest decency laws in the UAE, introduced in 2001, with a conservative dress code required for both men and women. Mixing between unmarried men and women is illegal: "A man and a woman who are not in a legally acceptable relationship should not, according to the booklet, be alone in public places, or in suspicious times or circumstances."





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