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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Cham Muslims accept US stand

Cham Muslims accept US stand

cham.jpg
cham.jpg

The Kingdom's Muslim community has remained calm since the US-led attacks on terrorist targets in Afghanistan. Chams pray at Phnom Penh's Jami Ammar Bin Yasir Mosque at Kilometer 9.

W

hile Muslims in several southeast Asian nations have protested US-led military action,

the country's Cham Muslim minority said it supports the Cambodian government line

that the international "war against terrorism" is necessary.

"I think that Khmer Muslims would rather be peaceful than create problems, because

they are poor and education is still at too low a level for understanding world issues,"

said Okhna Sos Kamry, leader of the Highest Council for Islamic Religious Affairs.

Okhna Sos Kamry was speaking after the first wave of airstrikes against targets in

Afghanistan by US and UK military forces. He added that Cham Muslims, who constitute

around 4 percent of the Cambodian population, were not surprised at the protests

of Muslims in other countries, but he supported the Cambodian government's position

on the matter.

Prime Minister Hun Sen, told reporters after delivering his opening remarks at a

seminar on national health on October 8, that his government supported the US-led

response.

"It was clear [after the September 11 attacks] that this war would happen and

be supported by the international community," said Hun Sen. "However, I

hope that this war will not kill civilians and destroy their property."

He added that Cambodia was ready to fight against terrorism because the issue affects

the world.

"The war is not meant to destroy Afghanistan but to liberate the Afghan people

from poverty."

Fears for the innocent

Ahmad Yahya, an ethnic Cham who is secretary of state for the Ministry of Public

Works and Transport, is worried that the strikes might affect innocent people. "Our

god teaches us that good deeds help you, but bad deeds work against you. We want

the US to provide justice for the innocent people [killed in the September 11 attacks],

but if the US delivers injustice, the world will not be at peace," said Yahya.

He added that no religion supports the killing of the victims of last month's attacks.

A senior US embassy official said that staff had met with leaders of the Cham Muslim

minority before the airstrikes to explain the US position that the war against terrorism

was not a war against Islam.

In a related issue, a circular issued October 2 by the Ministry of Cults and Religious

Affairs that prevented Cham Muslims from meeting to discuss the issue, was struck

down three days later by Prime Minister Hun Sen, who said its restrictions were contrary

to government policy. Cham Muslims said the original edict was reminiscent of their

time under the Khmer Rouge regime.

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