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

  • Prince injured, wife dies after accident

    THE wife of former First Prime Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh, Ouk Phalla, 39, died while the prince was “severely” injured following a road accident in Preah Sihanouk province’s Prey Nub district on Sunday morning, officials said. Rananriddh, who is also the president of the Funcinpec

  • Bun Heang mocks US, threatens its citizens in scathing open letter

    After being hit with sanctions from the US Department of Treasury, Cambodian General Hing Bun Heang said he would retaliate against any US national who does not respect his country’s sovereignty, has ambitions to invade Cambodia or incites “traitors” in the Kingdom to do

  • Ranariddh 'seriously injured', his wife dies in accident in Preah Sihanouk

    THE wife of former first prime minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh has died. Ouk Phalla succumbed to injuries sustained in a traffic accident on National Road 4 in Preah Sihanouk’s Prey Nub district this morning. She and the prince were immediately rushed to the Preah Sihanouk

  • US slammed over BGU head as Foreign Ministry says sanctions violate international principles

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MFAIC) has condemned the US Department of Treasury for its sanctions, announced on Tuesday, against Cambodian General Hing Bun Heang for his alleged role in infringing human rights. In a statement, the ministry said it is disturbing