1-What is the History of Muslim in Cambodia?
Muslim in Cambodia is called “Cham” or Khmer Islam. The word Cham is not much polish word when they use to call Khmer Islam for long time ago. Lucky for Islam in Cambodia as hot news because of our Prime Ministry has joined Ramadan Jamuvan 2014 at Koh Pich and He has said in the public that, from this day, the Cham should be changed to Khmer Islam. The meaning of Khmer Islam is an original Khmer people but they believe in Islamic religion. So, they are Cambodian citizen altogether.
In the history of Khmer Islam as the biggest majority community in Cambodia long time before Angkor Emperor. We have passed many country revolutions. For example, we just finished from civil war almost 30 years from 1970-1998. Most people were uneducated and poor, thus they did not have opportunity to get education. We also known that by this war was impacted our today economic and development especially human resources. Our young generations still need more level of education and training course for livelihood. Concerning Islamic education in Cambodia, children are enrolled half day in religious taking, a half day in secular school. For purely religious students they attend classes for the whole day and also at night times. The Holy Qurán is taught to children at Islamic school and at home. Most them can take only from grade 1 to 6 in primary school.
Both religious and secular knowledge such skills, Muslim women students can get very little knowledge at school. Through the classic culture, they forced to abandon school when they hardly finish primary school because their parents think that they don’t want to let their female children to be far from home or far a lone. So besides housekeeping, Muslim women can do nothing including the small business due to lacking of skills. Just as presently, some Muslim communities give up their old culture or style and existed their culture, by sent their daughters to public school for the purpose of grasping skills like the sons, so up to now, only few hundreds of Muslim women can get higher degree in various fields and other skills from technical school, This sum of the Muslim students are increasing in university if we compare to 10 years ago that have less than 10 students. Unluckily, we have difficulty for them are weakness of English language, Commuter and skill in their fields because they never to learn them before while they were studying at second and high school. By my 6 years working in NGOs, We have to promote our Islamic University students extra classes for personal skill, languages, Administrative and social communication.
Therefore, Cambodian Muslim Tour (CAMTOUR) would like to work as protocol between visitors and our Muslim community here by direct supporting. As an example, CAMTOUR just work in tour agency and guide visitors and donors to beneficiary or we just recommend visitors where to visit, where the needy people location are and they want to support or not are depend on themselves.
How many Islamic people (Khmer Islam) in Cambodia?
This is not easy question to answer because number of Khmer Islam here is increased and decrease according to political situation. Then, We just pick up only the data in present time. Khmer Islam has about 4% of 14 to 15 million populations. It is around 500,000 to 600,000 people. Khmer people is 95% and other 1% is small minorities group who mostly live in Rattanakiri and Mondolkiri provinces, The border of Cambodia and Vietnam.
Why Muslim Community here is slow in developing?
Most of Cambodia’s Muslims do not seem to be aware of the importance of modern education and its role in economic development. Instead, imams, Hakim and Tuan (community religious leaders), who have a powerful influence on their communities, stress religious education almost exclusively. To make matters worse, scholars seem to have neglected the role of general education and its importance for the Cambodian Muslim community. When other Islamic countries have studied education here, they, too, are largely concerned with religious education.
In Cambodia, the percentage of uneducated Muslim people is high, and even most hakim and tuan are illiterate. They don’t have general knowledge and cannot write in Khmer, which is Cambodia’s official language.
Because these leaders lack modern education, they address disputes in the traditional way. For example, when a conflict arises between villagers, the imam, hakim and tuan usually resolve it based on their personal experience. But their solutions don’t always employ logic or strategy, and as a result the conflicting parties often do not reconcile effectively. Finding solutions that work requires a wide range of knowledge and experience that include both religious and modern ways.
Further, few of the tuan in rural areas who teach Muslim children about the holy Qur-An and Islamic law have an adequate standard of living because they do not have a modern education. If they had more than religious knowledge, they could use their skills to help improve their community’s standard of living, as well as enhance their own lives.
Last year, I began working on a project that is recording the oral histories of the Chams during the Khmer Rouge regime. As part of my work, I asked religious leaders and lay people to complete questionnaires on their experiences and views relating to this period of history. I have observed that most villagers, hakim and tuan cannot write well or don’t know how to write. When I asked them why, most complained that they are illiterate and some said that they lack education.
Many young Cambodian Muslims recognize that a modern education is vital to their future, but have little to no opportunity to get one beyond high school. So instead, they study Islam and acquire mostly religious knowledge. In answering my questions about studying abroad, they said they had no alternative but to pursue the study of religious subjects
How to do with this situation?
The impact of failing to understand modern education, social needs, the advances of technology, and in particular, the role of women in development, will be to weaken the community deeply in terms of rising violence, illiteracy and poverty. How can Chams find jobs if they have only religious training? How can they develop their community if they have little knowledge of the modern world? And why has the Cambodian Muslim community lagged so far behind its neighbors in Southeast Asia in terms of education, health, and economic infrastructure? Addressing these problems will depend on Muslim themselves, and on advocacy and technical assistance from the national and international communities. The recognition and acceptance of Muslim women’s roles in development and empowering them in the education, economics, social, health and political spheres is the best solution for the Cambodian Muslim community.
To develop the country and raise literacy, Cambodia must keep up with global changes by obtaining modern education in addition to religious knowledge. Hakim, imam and tuan should, for example, be educated in management and administration in order to resolve community problems. All Chams should also be encouraged to pursue higher education. And last, Allah said that human beings should have both modern and religious knowledge (Ilmu Dunia and Ilmu Akhirat) in order to live in prosperity. This includes women, who will not be able to advance in society without proper knowledge and education.