The country has an area of 500 square miles, distributed across 1,200 coral atolls and islands, and a population of 380,000.
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 675,000 tourists who visit annually (predominantly Europeans and Japanese) and 70,000 foreign workers (mainly Pakistanis, Sri Lankans, Indians, and Bangladeshis), in general are allowed to practice their religious beliefs only in private. Most Muslim tourists and Muslim foreign workers choose to practice Islam in private or at mosques located at the resorts where they work and live.