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Buddhism in the Middle East

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Title: Buddhism in the Middle East  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Buddhism in Iran, Index of Buddhism-related articles, Outline of Buddhism, Dagpo Kagyu, Religion in the Middle East
Collection: Buddhism by Country, Religion in the Middle East
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Buddhism in the Middle East

It is estimated that in the Middle East around 900,000 people, perhaps more, profess Buddhism as their religion. Buddhist adherents make up just over 0.3% of the total population of the Middle East. Many of these Buddhists are workers who have migrated from Asia to the Middle East in the last 20 years, many from countries that have large Buddhist populations, such as China, Vietnam, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Nepal. A small number of engineers, company directors, and managers from Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, and South Korea have also moved to the Middle East.


  • Demographics 1
  • Buddhism in Saudi Arabia 2
  • Buddhist population by country 3
  • External links 4
  • References 5


Theravada Buddhism is the predominant religion of workers from Thailand and Sri Lanka. Mahayana Buddhism is the predominant religion of workers from East Asia and Vietnam, although Taoism, Confucianism, and Shinto are also represented among these people. In Dubai (the United Arab Emirates)[1] and Qatar,[2] the workers from Sri Lanka were allowed to celebrate Vesak (the most important holiday in Buddhism) in those Islamic countries.

Buddhism in Saudi Arabia

The U.S. State Department's International Religious Freedom Report 2007 estimates that more than 8 million foreigners are living and working in Saudi Arabia, including Muslims and non-Muslims.

In addition to 400,000 Sri Lankans, there are a few thousand Buddhist workers from East Asia, the majority of whom are Chinese, Vietnamese, and Thai. A number of Tibetan-Nepalese immigrants may also be among the foreign population of Saudi Arabia.

Thus approximately 1.5% of Saudi Arabia's population – or around 400,000 people – are Buddhist, likely giving Saudi Arabia the largest Buddhist community in either the Middle East or the Arab World[3]

Buddhist population by country

Buddhist percentages in the Middle East

   Saudi Arabia (45.8%)
   United Arab Emirates (24.6%)
   Kuwait (11.7%)
   Qatar (5%)
  Other countries (12.9%)
Buddhism by country in the Middle East
Country Population (2007E) % of Buddhists Buddhist total
 United Arab Emirates 4,444,011 5%[4][5] 222,201
 Qatar 907,229 5%[6][7] 45,361
 Kuwait 2,505,559 4%[8] 100,222
 Saudi Arabia 27,601,038 1.5%[9] 414,016
 Bahrain 753,000 1%[10] 7,530
 Oman 3,204,897 1%[11][12] 32,049
 Israel 6,426,679 0.1%[13] 6,426
 Lebanon 3,925,502 0.1%[14] 3,926
 Turkey 71,158,647 0.1%[15] 71,159
Total 285,194,911 0.32% 902,890

External links

  • Buddhist pagodas or temples in Middle East


  1. ^ "Lankans in Dubai to celebrate ‘Vesak’", Emirates 24/7, 2011-05-05, retrieved 2013-07-22 
  2. ^ "Sri Lankans celebrate Vesak in Qatar", THE PENINSULA, 2009-05-09, retrieved 2013-07-22 
  3. ^ U.S. Department of State. International Religious Freedom Report: Saudi Arabia. Accessed 20 Nov 2008.
  4. ^ "International Religious Freedom Report: United Arab Emirates". 
  5. ^ "Country Profiles". 
  6. ^ "International Religious Freedom Report: Qatar". 
  7. ^ "CIA World FactBook: Qatar". 
  8. ^ "International Religious Freedom Report: Kuwait". 
  9. ^ "International Religious Freedom Report: Saudi Arabia". 
  10. ^ "International Religious Freedom Report: Bahrain". 
  11. ^ "Religious Freedom Nation Profile: Oman". 
  12. ^ "Religious Freedom Nation Profile: Oman". 
  13. ^ "International Religious Freedom Report: Israel". 
  14. ^ "International Religious Freedom Report: Lebanon". 
  15. ^ "Religious Freedom Nation Profile: Turkey". 
  • The U.S. State Department's International Religious Freedom Report 2006
  • CIA FactBook
  • Religious Freedom page
  • Religious Intelligence

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