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