Freedom of religion in Oman

The Basic Law, in accordance with tradition, declares that Islam is the state religion and that Shari'a is the source of legislation. It also prohibits discrimination based on religion and provides for the freedom to practice religious rites as long as doing so does not disrupt public order. The Government generally respected this right, but within defined parameters that placed limitations on the right in practice. While the Government continued to protect the free practice of religion in general, it formalized previously unwritten prohibitions on religious gatherings in locations other than government-approved houses of worship, and on non-Islamic institutions issuing publications within their communities, without prior approval from the Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs (MERA). There were no reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious belief or practice.

Religious demography

The country has an area of 310,000 square kilometres (120,000 sq mi) and a population of 2.5 million, of whom 1.9 million are citizens. The government does not keep official statistics on religious affiliation, but three quarters of Omanis adhere to the Ibadi sect of Islam, while the remaining 25% are either Sunni or Shia Muslims. There are small communities of 5% ethnically Indian Hindus and Christians that have been naturalized. Ibadism historically has been Oman's dominant religious sect, and the Sultan is a member of the Ibadi community. The Government, however, does not give official preference to any particular religious group.

Non-Ibadi and non-Sunni religious communities individually constitute less than 5 percent of the population and include, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, and Christians. Christian communities are centered in the major urban areas of Muscat, Sohar, and Salalah and are represented by Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and various Protestant congregations. These groups tend to organize along linguistic and ethnic lines. More than 50 different Christian groups, fellowships, and assemblies are active in the Muscat metropolitan area. Shi'a Muslims are a small but well-integrated minority, concentrated in the capital area and along the northern coast. The majority of non-Muslims, however, are noncitizen immigrant workers from South Asia. There are also communities of ethnic Indian Hindus. Muscat has two Hindu temples. One of them is over a hundred years old. There is also a significant Sikh community in Oman. Though there are no permanent gurudwaras, many smaller gurudwaras in makeshift camps exist and are recognised by the government. The Government of India had signed an accord in 2008 with the Omani government to build a permanent gurudwara but little progress has been made on the matter.[1]