Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Khmer Muslims must protect themselves

Khmer Muslims must protect themselves

Khmer Muslims must protect themselves

Dear Editor,

When I was at primary school, I made a good friend with a classmate named Sophal. With a Khmer name, not many students and teachers at school knew that Sophal was a Cham Muslim.

(Almost no Khmer names, like my friend's, indicate any religious identity. But, many Muslim Khmers and Chinese Cambodians chose to use Khmer names instead to avoid social discrimination and political persecution during the Khmer Rouge period and the later communist regime.)

Some 20 years later, I met my friend again. But he was not Sophal anymore.

He had changed his name to Ibrahim in conformity with his Muslim faith. Like Ibrahim, the Muslim Khmer community has been integrated into the world of Islam as Cambodia was opened up in the early 1990s, following decades of self-imposed isolation.

While the Khmer Muslims have reached out to the rest of the world, it has come with both good opportunities and the fear of radical Islamic indoctrination by Islamic extremist groups.

As Muslims and Buddhists in Thailand and Sri Lanka have engaged in bloody conflicts, and the Islamic militants have attacked Mumbai and elsewhere, it has shone a spotlight on Cambodian Muslims and how they can protect themselves from radical Islam.

Fortunately, Cambodian Buddhists and Khmer Muslims seemed to have gotten along well with each other. Over the past centuries, both Khmers and Chams have rejoiced together and suffered together. This harmonious relationship can be attributed to the common history of both ethnicities.

However, the religious conflicts between Buddhists and Muslims in the region can also expand across the borders into Cambodia. As they were opened up to the world of Islam, extremist Islamic groups can spoil the harmonious and peaceful co-existence of Khmers and Chams.

Nevertheless, we believe that our Muslim brothers and sisters have only brought with them the good and progressive Islamic faiths from different Muslim communities throughout the world.

Like the case between me and my friend, Sophal or Ibrahim, we have remained good friends as a Buddhist and a Muslim.  

We hope that other Muslim Khmers will also continue to maintain their good friendship and solidarity with their Buddhist Khmer compatriots and protect themselves from Islamic extremism.

Moeun Chhean Nariddh

Phnom Penh

Send letters to: [email protected] or P.O. Box 146, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The Post reserves the right to edit letters to a shorter length.

MOST VIEWED

  • Angkor Wat named as the top landmark for the second year

    Travel website TripAdvisor has named Cambodia’s ancient wonder Angkor Wat as the top landmark in the world for the second year running in their Travelers’ Choice Award 2018, an achievement Cambodian tourism operators expect will attract more tourists to the Kingdom. The website uses traveller

  • Hun Sen detractors ‘will die’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday said those who curse or insult him would eventually die without a plot of land to bury their bodies after being killed by lightning, suffering the same fate as those who recently died in Thmar Baing district in Koh

  • Ministry’s plan for net sparks fears

    The government has ordered all domestic and international internet traffic in the Kingdom to pass through a Data Management Centre (DMC) that has been newly created by the state-owned Telecom Cambodia, in a move some have claimed is an attempt to censor government critics. Spokesman

  • Monks given ‘Samdech’ title for contributions

    Three senior monks on Thursday were given the highest-ranking title “samdech”, with Prime Minister Hun Sen saying that the promotions were due to their contributions to Buddhism. The three distinguished monks were promoted on Thursday morning at Botum Vatey pagoda in Phnom Penh, at a