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People, Languages & Religions in Qatar


Natives of the Arabian Peninsula, many Qataris are descended from a number of migratory tribes that came to Qatar in the 18th century to escape the harsh conditions of the neighboring areas of Nejd and Al-Hasa. Some are descended from Omani tribes. Qatar has over 1.5 million people, the majority of whom (about 90%) live in Doha, the capital. Foreign workers with temporary residence status make up about four-fifths of the population. Most of them are South Asians, Egyptians, Palestinians, Jordanians, Iranians and Somalis.

About 40% of the population of approximately 1.5 million (May 2008 est.) are Arabs, 18% are Pakistanis, 18% are Indians, 10% Iranians, and 14% from other ethnic backgrounds. The indigenous population (about 100,000) descends from Bedouin tribes that migrated to Qatar during the 1700s.


Arabic is the national language, but English is widely spoken, and Farsi is used by smaller groups in Doha. Other widely spoken languages include Malayalam, Hindi, Tamil, Kannada, Tagalog, Urdu and Punjabi (due to the influx of foreign workers).


Islam is the official religion of Qatar. According to the 2004 census, 77.5% of the population are Muslim, 8.5% are Christian and 14% are "Other". About 5% of the Muslims living in Qatar are Shi'a. Qatar is the only other Wahhabi state in the Arabian Peninsula. The other one is Saudi Arabia.

The constitution provides for freedom of worship. However, there are still some restrictions on public worship in accordance with laws governing public behaviour. Proselytising by non-Muslims is prohibited and apostasy by Muslims is a criminal offence. The Minister of Islamic affairs oversees all aspects of faith within the nation. While legal status has been granted to Catholics, Anglicans, Orthodox Christians, Copts, and some Asian Christian denominations, the government limits the building of houses of worship for these groups. Muslim holidays are recognised as national holidays.

The majority of non-citizens are from South and Southeast Asian and Arab countries working on temporary employment contracts, accompanied by family members in some cases. Non-citizens can be Sunni or Shi'a Muslims, Protestant or Catholic Christians, Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, Sikhs or Baháís. Religion is not a criterion for citizenship, according to the Nationality Law.

The Christian population consists nearly completely of foreigners. Active churches are Mar Thoma Church from Southern India, Arab Evangelicals from Syria and Palestine, and Anglicans, about 50,000 Catholics and Copts from Egypt. Since 2008, Christians have been allowed to build churches on ground donated by the government.





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