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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, Nepal and Bhutan. 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.

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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.

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[1]

Buddhist population by country

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

External links


  1. ^ U.S. Department of State. International Religious Freedom Report: Saudi Arabia. Accessed 20 Nov 2008.
  2. ^ "International Religious Freedom Report: United Arab Emirates".  
  3. ^ "Country Profiles".  
  4. ^ "International Religious Freedom Report: Qatar".  
  5. ^ "CIA World FactBook: Qatar".  
  6. ^ "International Religious Freedom Report: Kuwait".  
  7. ^ "International Religious Freedom Report: Saudi Arabia".  
  8. ^ "International Religious Freedom Report: Bahrain".  
  9. ^ "Religious Freedom Nation Profile: Oman".  
  10. ^ "Religious Freedom Nation Profile: Oman".  
  11. ^ "International Religious Freedom Report: Israel".  
  12. ^ "International Religious Freedom Report: Lebanon".  
  13. ^ "Religious Freedom Nation Profile: Turkey".  


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