Religion in Dubai
Islam is the official state religion. The Government funds or subsidizes almost 95 percent of Sunni mosques and employs all Sunni imams; approximately 5 percent of Sunni mosques are entirely private, and several large mosques have large private endowments. The government distributes guidance on religious sermons to mosques and imams, whether Sunni or Shi’a, and monitors all sermons for political content. The Shi’a minority is free to worship and maintain its own mosques. All Shi’a mosques are considered private and receive no funds from the government. Within the UAE, Shi’a imams are government-appointed only in Dubai. Shi’a Muslims in Dubai may pursue Shi’a family law cases through a special Shi’a council rather than the Shari’a courts.
Regarding the other religions in Dubai, Dubai has large expatriate communities of Hindus, Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs and others. Non-Muslim groups can own their own houses of worship, wherein they can practice their religion freely, by requesting a land grant and permission to build a compound. Groups that do not have their own buildings must use the facilities of other religious organizations or worship in private homes. While the UAE doesn’t offer any federal-level method of granting official status to religious groups, the individual emirates may exercise autonomy in officially recognizing a particular religious denomination. For instance, Dubai granted legal status to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1993. Dubai is also the only emirate that has Hindu temples and a Sikh Gurdwara.
In early 2001, ground was broken for the construction of several additional churches on a parcel of land in Jebel Ali donated by the government of Dubai to four Protestant congregations and a Roman Catholic congregation. Construction on the first Greek Orthodox Church in Dubai (to be called St. Mary’s) began at the end of 2005. The land for the construction of the church was also donated by the government to the Greek Orthodox community of Dubai.
Financial support to non-Muslim groups from the Dubai government is limited to donated land for the construction of churches and other religious facilities, including cemeteries. They are permitted to raise money from among their congregates and to receive financial support from abroad. Non-Muslim religious groups are permitted to openly advertise group functions, however, proselytizing or distributing religious literature is strictly prohibited under penalty of criminal prosecution, imprisonment, and deportation for engaging in behavior offensive to Islam.