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People, Language & Religion


Ethnic Kuwaitis are mostly descendants of the tribes of Najd (central Arabia) but some descend from Iraqi Arabs. Still others are of Iranian origin. The number of non-Kuwaitis are divided roughly in half between Arabs and non-Arabs such as Iranians, Indians, Pakistanis and Filipinos. According to the latest estimates, about 45% of the population are Kuwaiti, 35% are other Arab, 9% South Asian, 4% Iranian and 7% other. It has also been estimated that over 100,000 people are considered to be Bidoon residents, that is Arabs who have long-standing residency in the nation but no documented proof of nationality.


Arabic is the official language. The Arabic spoken in Kuwait is closer to classical Arabic than to the colloquial Arabic spoken in many other parts of the Middle East. English is generally used by businesspeople, employees of oil companies, foreign residents and students, and it is the second language taught in the schools.


Islam is the state religion. According 2004 figures, Muslims represented about 64% of the total population, with a majority believed to be Sunni Muslim. About 30-35% of Muslim citizens were of the Shia branch. The Christian population includes between 250,000 and 500,000 people. Catholic groups include Roman Catholic, Maronite, Coptic, Armenian, Greek, Malabar and Malankara congregations. Orthodox groups include the Greek, Armenian, Coptic, and the Indian Orthodox Syrian Church. the National Evangelical Church (Protestant) has about 20,000 members. Other Protestant groups include the Anglicans, Seventh-Day Adventists, Mormons and Marthoma. Other religious groups include Hindus, Baha'is, Sikhs and Buddhists.

The constitution provides for freedom of religion, but this right is limited in some cases by the government, in that religious practices are not permitted to conflict with public policy or morals. Blasphemy, apostasy (of Muslims), and proselytising are illegal, with the exception of the Islam Presentation Committee, which encourages the conversion on non-Muslims to Islam. Family law is administered through the Islamic court system. Religious affairs are overseen by the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs. Only four non-Muslim groups have the full legal recognition in the government: the Roman Catholic Church, the Coptic Orthodox Church, the Anglican Church, and the National Evangelical Church. While these groups are offered a certain amount of freedom, there are quotas in place that limit the number of clergy and staff each group can have. Other groups are generally allowed to worship freely in private homes. Certain Muslim holidays are celebrated as national holidays.





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