Laws in the Middle East Nations for Non-Muslims
Reciprocity is a debatable subject for Muslims and Islam. When people are divided as believers and non-believers there is little to argue or defend the status of equality. What is not reciprocated should not be demanded. The status of non-Muslims in majority Muslim nations comes with strict rules and regulations. Non-Muslims are guaranteed protection in the Muslim society as long as they pay a head tax and abide by the specific legislations mentioned in Islamic Law. The obligation of paying jizyah tax is also cancelled when non-Muslims participate with Muslims in defending the Islamic state against its enemies. When non-Muslims are not welcomed in Mecca by law or new non-Muslim religious structures are also taboo and a religious text declares that non-believers are to be fought and annihilated and very few people can question Islam inspite of its texts being written 200 years after and the Quran written 90 years after the death of Mohammad. There are contentions in Islam itself for which non-Muslims cannot be faulted. The discussion centres around the freedoms which non-Muslims have to strictly adhere to and the freedoms comparable with the demands in so-called secular nations unable and unwilling to maintain historical identity.
- The Basic Law, in accordance with tradition, declares that Islam is the state religion and that Sharia is the source of legislation.
- Non-Islamic religions are allowed so long as they do not disrupt Islam
- Majority of non-Muslims are non-citizens from South Asia
- Group worship in private homes is prohibited and monitored
- Oman also monitors sermons in mosques to ensure that imams do not preach political sermons.
- Syria is 74% Sunni Muslim, 16% Muslims of other denominations, and 10% Christian, with tiny communities of Jews in Damascus,
- Religious freedom is guaranteed by the Constitution, but the Head of State must be Muslim.
- Christians are only 0.2% of the population of Iran, a 99% Muslim, mostly Shiite (89%) country
- Iran is an Islamic republic —the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran mandates that the official religion of Iran is Shia Islam and the Twelver Ja’fari school, and also mandates that other Islamic schools are to be accorded full respect, and their followers are free to act in accordance with their own jurisprudence in performing their religious rites.
- Zoroastrian, Jewish, and Christian Iranians are the only recognized religious minorities, who, within the limits of the law, are free to perform their religious rites and ceremonies, and to act according to their own canon in matters of personal affairs and religious education.
- The formation of parties, societies, political or professional associations, as well as religious societies, whether Islamic or pertaining to one of the recognized religious minorities, is permitted provided they do not violate the principles of independence, freedom, national unity, the criteria of Islam, or the basis of the Islamic Republic.
- The country, founded as a modern state in 1943, has an area of 4,035 square miles (10,450 km2) and a population of 4 million
- Lebanon has one of the highest concentrations of Christians in a majority Muslim country. Christians make up 40% of the population, while the remaining 60% are Muslim and are divided among a variety of sects.
- The constitution and other laws and policies protect religious freedom. The constitution requires the state to respect all religious groups and denominations and declares respect for the personal status and religious interests of persons of every religious sect.
- The federal Constitution declares that Islam is the official religion of the country.
- 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
- The Constitution declares that Islam is the official religion of all seven of the constituent emirates of the federal union.
- In practice, the Government supports a moderate interpretation of Islam. As the state religion, Islam is favored over other religious groups and conversion to Islam is viewed favorably.
- The Government prohibits non-Muslims from proselytizing or distributing religious literature, under penalty of criminal prosecution, imprisonment, and deportation, as it constitutes engaging in behavior offensive to Islam.
- The country’s sole Internet service provider, Etisalat, sometimes blocked websites containing religious information. These sites included information on the Bahá’í faith, Judaism, negative critiques of Islam, and testimonies of former Muslims who converted to Christianity.
- Islamic studies are mandatory in public schools (schools supported by the federal government primarily for citizen children) and in private schools for Muslim children. Instruction of any religion other than Islam is not permitted in public schools; however, religious groups may conduct religious instruction for their members on their religious compounds. Private schools found teaching subjects that contravene Islam, defame any religion, or contravene the nation’s ethics and beliefs, may face penalties, including closure.
- Non-Muslim religious groups can own their own land and build houses of worship, where they can practice their religion.
- The PA does not have a constitution; however, the Basic Law provides for religious freedom. The Basic Law was approved in 2002 by the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) and signed by then-President Yasir Arafat. The Basic Law states that Islam is the official religion but also calls for respect and sanctity for other “heavenly” religions (such as Judaism and Christianity) and that the principles of Sharia (Islamic law) shall be the main source of legislation.
- The PA requires the teaching of religion in PA schools, with separate courses for Muslim and Christian students. A compulsory curriculum requires the study of Christianity for Christian students and Islam for Muslim students in grades one through six.
- Turkey is an almost entirely Muslim country (98-99%) with a small Christian population (some 500,000 out of almost 72 million) that borders Syria, Iraq and Iran, as well as Armenia, Georgia, Greece and Bulgaria.
- Turkey is a secular country per Article 24 of the Constitution of Turkey. Secularism in Turkey originates from Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s Six Arrows of republicanism, populism, laïcité, reformism, nationalism, and statism. The Turkish government imposes some restrictions on Muslim and other religious groups and on Muslim religious expression in government offices and state-run institutions, including universities.
- The government officially recognizes only three minority religious communities: Greek Orthodox Christians, Armenian Apostolic Christians, and Jews, although other non-Muslim communities exist
- In 2007, authorities continued to enforce a long-term ban on the wearing of headscarves by students at universities and by civil servants in public buildings. The Constitutional Court has interpreted secularism in a way that doesn’t allow for a person to wear religious symbols (e.g. a head scarf or a cross) in governmental and public institutions, and particularly while attending public schools and state universities.
- The constitution
- recognizes Islam as the official religion, mandates that Islam be considered a
- source of legislation, and states that no law may be enacted that contradicts the
- established provisions of Islam.
- Many Christians have fled the country and those staying have endured the destruction of churches and convents, torture, bombings, death threats, assassinations, kidnappings, murders, and extortion.
- A Church must have over 500 adherents.
- National identity cards denote the holder’s religion, but do not differentiate
- between Shia and Sunni Muslim.
- Islam is the state religion of Iraq, which has a Muslim majority of 97% (60-65% Shiite, 32-37% Sunni). While the rights of religious minorities are guaranteed by law, the government does, in fact, discriminate against Christians.
- The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is an Islamic theocratic monarchy in which Sunni Islam is the official state religion.
- Saudi Arabia is an almost entirely Sunni Muslim country, except for a tiny number of Christian immigrants.
- Islam is not merely the official religion, it is the only religion allowed.
- Islamic practice generally is limited to that of a school of the Sunni branch of Islam as interpreted by Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab, an 18th-century Arab religious reformer. Outside Saudi Arabia, this branch of Islam is often referred to as ” Wahhabi” a term the Saudis do not use. The teachings of Abd al Wahhab are more often referred to by adherents as “Salafi” or “Muwahhidun,” that is, following the earliest generations of Muslims (Salafi), or believers in the divine unity (Muwahhidun). Practices contrary to this interpretation, such as celebration of Muhammad’s birthday and visits to the tombs of renowned Muslims, are discouraged.
- The Ministry of Islamic Affairs supervises and finances the construction and maintenance of almost all mosques in the country, although over 30% of all mosques in Saudi Arabia are built and endowed by private persons. The Ministry pays the salaries of imams (prayer leaders) and others who work in the mosques
- Saudi law prohibits alcoholic beverages and pork products in the country as they are considered to be against Islam. Those violating the law are handed harsh punishments. Drug trafficking is always punished by death
- Saudi Arabia prohibits public non-Muslim religious activities. Non-Muslim worshipers risk arrest, imprisonment, lashing, deportation, and sometimes torture for engaging in overt religious activity that attracts official attention
- The Government does not permit non-Muslim clergy to enter the country for the purpose of conducting religious services, although some come under other auspices and perform religious functions in secret.
- The Government requires noncitizen residents to carry a Saudi residence permit (Iqama) for identification in place of their passports. Among other information, these contain a religious designation for “Muslim” or “non-Muslim.”
- Customs officials regularly open postal material and cargo to search for non-Muslim materials, such as Bibles and religious videotapes. Such materials are subject to confiscation.
- The entire territory of Saudi Arabia is considered to be a ‘grand mosque’ and all other religions are prohibited and cannot be practice publically or privately.
- Religious police make sure the practice of other religions is not visible. Christian immigrants (mainly from Pakistan and the Philippines) or secret converts to Christianity found practicing their religion can be subject to imprisonment, torture and execution, although authorities are more careful with visiting military personal and expatriates.
- Yemen has a population of just over 23 million which is 98% Muslim and 2% Jewish, Christian, and Hindus, even though Yemen reports that all its citizens are Muslim.
- The Constitution declares that Islam is the state religion, and that Sharia (Islamic law) is the source of all legislation. Muslims and followers of religious groups other than Islam are free to worship according to their beliefs, but the Government prohibits conversion from Islam and the proselytization of Muslims.
- Islam is the state religion and no Christian denominations are allowed, but the small numbers of Jews and Christians (many from India or Pakistan) are not persecuted and are allowed to practice their religions privately.
- There are reportedly 150 Baha’is in Yemen and fewer than 500 Jews remaining in the country. There are an estimated 3,000 Christians, many of whom are refugees or temporary residents from abroad.
- Muslims account for 85% of the population (of which 70% are Sunni and 30% are Shiite) while Christians, Hindus and Parsis make up the remaining 15%.
- Islam is the religion of the state and legislation is based on Sharia law. Religious freedom is guaranteed, but religious instruction for non-Muslim confessions forbidden, as is attempting to convert Muslims. Conversion from Islam is considered a crime punishable by death, and in 1993-94 a convert to Christianity was condemned to be executed and fled the country, while his wife was kidnapped, raped, and forced to divorce him.
- Under the provisions of Qatar’s sponsorship law, sponsors have the unilateral power to cancel workers’ residency permits, deny workers’ ability to change employers, report a worker as “absconded” to police authorities, and deny permission to leave the country
- Qatar retains the death penalty, primarily for espionage, or other threats against national security.
- Flogging is used in Qatar as a punishment for alcohol consumption or illicit sexual relations
- The government uses Sunni law as the basis of its criminal and civil regulations. However, some measure of religious toleration is granted. Foreign workers, and tourists, are free to affiliate with other faiths, i.e. Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Baha’is, as long as they are discreet and do not offend public order or morality.
- For example, in March 2008 the Roman Catholic church “Our Lady of the Rosary” was consecrated in Doha. However, in keeping with the need to be discreet, no missionaries are allowed and the church
- Constitution : Bahrain is an Islamic state / Islam is official state religion / Shariah law principle law of legislation
- Population : 99.8% Muslim
- Government prohibits anti-Islamic writings
- Non-Muslim places of worship include 4 sikh temples / several hindu kovils / the synagogue is over 60 years old / Christian congregations
- A Muslim woman may legally marry a non-Muslim man only if he first converts to Islam. In such marriages, the children automatically are considered Muslim
- Non-Muslims are permitted to follow their religions privately and permitted to maintain their own places of worship and display the symbols of their religion, such as crosses and statues of deities and saints.
- There is no forced religious conversion in Bahrain
- Non-Muslims can consume liquor in designated places. Muslims are banned from taking liquor.
- During Ramadan non-Muslims are expected to respect Muslim culture – non-Muslims cannot eat in public, should not eat in front of Muslim colleagues,
- Muslim Family laws are considered the general law in Egypt. Non-Muslims communities are not recognized officially but are governed by the family laws for Muslims
- all non-Muslim personal status laws currently forbid unilateral divorce.
- Coptic Christians are said to be the true descendants of ancient Eygptians but they are being driven out of Egypt. Christianity came to Egypt around 42 A.D. when the Apostle Mark founded a church in Alexandria, now officially known as the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria. By the fifth century, the majority of Egyptians were Christians. It wasn’t until several centuries after the Arab conquest of 641 that Islam became the country’s predominant religion. This is a perfect example of a Christian-majority nation transformed into an Islamic oppression,
- Muslims are 90% of the population in Egypt, in which Coptic Christians make up another 9% and other Christian denominations account for the last 1%.
- Islam is the state religion, and while in theory freedom of religion is guaranteed by the Constitution, in practice the rights of non-Muslims are not respected.
- Christians are discriminated against at administrative levels and in schools and conversions to Christianity can be met with punishment and imprisonment. Christians are denied equal access to jobs and education and rarely obtain government positions. Incidents of violence against Christians also occur.
- Christians in Jordan, where they are 4% of the population in a 96% Sunni Muslim country
- According to the Constitution the state religion is Islam and the King must be Muslim.
- The Government prohibits conversion from Islam and proselytization of Muslims.
- While Christianity is a recognized religion and non-Muslim citizens may profess and practice the Christian faith, churches must be accorded legal recognition through administrative procedures in order to own land and administer sacraments
- The Free Evangelicals, the Church of the Nazarene, the Assembly of God, and the Christian and Missionary Alliance, are registered with the Ministry of Interior as “societies” but not as churches
- The Government does not recognize Jehovah’s Witnesses, or the Church of Christ, but each is allowed to conduct religious services without interference.
- The Government traditionally reserves some positions in the upper levels of the military for Christians (4 percent); however, all senior command positions are held by Muslims.
- While Islam is the official religion of the state, Christians enjoy equal civic rights and Christian churches are allowed to develop their pastoral, education, and humanitarian activities.
Tied to the rigid laws in place we have scores of other indoctrinated followers of Islam following various ideologies calling for different jihads and demanding Muslims adhere to the strictest form of Islam. If there are more moderate thinking Muslims living amongst non-Muslims, the fierce propaganda and Muslim manipulations are ensuring that not only are these moderates silenced but they subtly have to change their attire and behavior as well.
Non-Muslim nations and their leaders should take a lesson from how Muslims protect Islam. There is little anyone can do to change that and nothing UN or its rapporteurs would go out to do either.
– by Shenali D Waduge
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