The country has an area of 500 square miles (1,300 km2) distributed across 1,200 coral atolls and islands, with a population of around 450,000.
The population is a distinct ethnic group with historical roots in South Indian, Sinhalese, and Arab communities . The vast majority of the Muslim population practices Sunni Islam. Non-Muslim foreigners, including more than 500,000 tourists who visit annually (predominantly Europeans and Japanese) and approximately 54,000 foreign workers (mainly Pakistanis, Sri Lankans, Indians, and Bangladeshis), are in general allowed to practice their religions only in private. Although Muslim tourists and Muslim foreign workers are allowed to attend local mosque services, most practice Islam in private or at mosques located at the resorts where they work and live.