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Ethnicity, Language, & Religion of Qatar

Ethnicity

Less than half of Qatar's population consists of citizens, but the citizen population is homogenous as nearly every citizen is an ethnic Arab. Arabs are from the Arabian Peninsula, from which Qatar extends. However, over half of Qatar's population today consists of non-citizen immigrants, most of who are from South Asia, including the Indians, Pakistanis, and Bangladeshis. There is also a significant number of Persians as well as small, but noticeable European and North American populations in Qatar; however most of these foreigners are only workers who stay for a couple years before returning to their home countries.

Language

Arabic is the only official language in Qatar. The written form of the language is called Modern Standard Arabic (written in the Arabic script), which gives the language consistency across countries from a written perspective. The spoken dialects of Arabic are so drastic from location to location that Arabic speakers in Qatar may not even understand Arabic speakers from a country further away, like Morocco. Obviously the dialect of Arabic in Qatar is most closely related to the dialects spoken in nearby countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Arabic is a Semitic language; other closely related Semitic languages include Amharic (Ethiopia) and Hebrew. More distantly related are languages like Berber (North Africa) as well as historic languages including Phoenician and ancient Egyptian.

English is the most commonly taught second language in the country and nearly everyone speaks at least a minimal amount of English if they are not completely fluent. Among the immigrant groups dozens of additional languages are spoken, including Persian, Hindi, and Urdu, but again many of these people speak either English or Arabic as a means to communicate across linguistic groups.

Religion

Nearly 80% of Qatar's citizens are Muslim, although less than half the population is citizens. Christians make up about 10% of the citizen population and the rest of the citizens adhere to numerous other faiths. Among the non-citizens, most are Muslim, Christian or Hindi.

Islam (the name of the religion, whose followers are called Muslims) is a monotheistic religion, whose holy book is called the Qur'an. The Qur'an is believed to be the word of God spoken through the prophet Muhammad from 609-632 CE (Common Era is preferred over AD (Anno Domini or "year of the Lord") since the Islamic world doesn't believe Jesus was the messiah). Islam believes Muhammad was the last prophet sent to earth by God, the last in a long line of prophets, which includes Moses, Abraham, and Jesus among others.

Muslims follow five pillars of their faith: testimony, prayer, alms-giving, fasting, and pilgrimage. These pillars, and other tenants of their faith, can give great structure to their lives as some foods, like pork, are forbidden and every Muslim is expected to pray five times a day. However, the level of participation in each of these pillars and to what degree Islam influences an individual's life varies from person to person and community to community. Generally speaking, Qatar is fairly liberal in how they practice Islam.

This page was last updated: May, 2014