TANG CHHIN SOTHY/ AFP
A young girl learns to read Arabic at her home in Phnom Penh.
P rime Minster Hun Sen has directed that all Khmer Muslim students be allowed to wear Islamic attire in class.
“It is the tradition of Islamic people to wear these clothes,” Hun Sen said on May 15 at the opening of the Norunaem mosque on National Highway 5 in Chraing Chamras commune of Phnom Penh’s Russei Keo district.
The Prime Minister said that government and private educational institutions must allow Islamic students, especially females, to wear Muslim attire.
“This will enable more Islamic people to have access to education,” he said.
Educational regulations require male students to wear blue pants and a white shirt and females to wear a blue skirt and white shirt, Hun Sen said.
“I now give all Khmer Muslim students the right to dress according to their religious obligations,” he said, adding that in some countries there were bans on wearing Islamic attire in class.
The move was also hailed by Kek Galabru, the president of human rights group, Licadho.
“This is a good idea,” she said
She added that the order showed respect for human rights and for Islamic traditions, customs and culture, while Secretary of State for the Ministry of Cults and Religion Sith Ybrahim said he supported Hun Sen’s move “100 percent.”
The decision reflected respect for the beliefs of those other than the Buddhist majority, said Ybrahim, a Muslim.
I now give all Khmer Muslim students
the right to dress
according to their
religious obligations. ... This will enable more Islamic people to have access to education.
– Hun Sen, PM
However, the premier’s initiative was dismissed as electioneering ahead of July 27 national elections by a Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Son Chhay, who added that while he supported the right of Muslim students to wear their traditional dress, the quality of the education provided to students was more important than their uniform.
“This is a way to encourage Islamic people to vote for him in the upcoming election,” said Chhay.
According to Ybrahim, there were about 500,000 Khmer Muslims, or Chams, most of whom live in Kampong Cham, Kampong Chhnang and Kampot provinces.