The Intermarriage between Muslim and Buddhist in Cambodia seen increased
BY SLES NAZY, Cambodian Muslim Media Center
Cambodian Muslims make up only 4 per cent of Cambodia’s population around 15 million. They have been living peacefully with the Cambodian People in general. Throughout history, Cambodian Muslim has harmonious relationship with Cambodian who majority practice Buddhism. Both Muslim and Buddhist treat each other with fairness and equality, however there is also a number of Buddhists are still prejudiced against of Muslim since they do not understand well about the way of Muslim practice.
Through the good relation , It is found that both Muslim and Buddhist has established families through the interfaith marriage – some Muslim men married to Buddhist women and some Muslim women married to Buddhist men and it is believed that the number of Muslim converts increased through this marriage even if there is no record on the conversion.
After marriage, some families are to face some discrimination from both side, Muslim families and Buddhist Families or even friends because of the cultures and religious belief.
Dy Leakhena or Rohany Abdullah in Islamic name, 23 year old young woman from Kandal province, a newly convert and married to Muslim man told our reporter ´ It was not hard for me to practice and married the Muslim man, I did it voluntarily and satisfactory but I was a bit hard to facilitate with my Buddhist parents and friends as they feel uncomfortable with the way of practice. Some of my non-Muslim friends seem discriminate with my Hijab wearing and the way of eating, some time they even do not want to talk with me after realizing that I had convert to Muslim, she explained.
Kob Safy , 45 from Prey Veng Province and now residing in Phnom Penh , a Muslim a man married to the converted Muslim girl also challenged the same Rahany Abdullah as his wife was discriminated by his step parents. I decided to get married with her from outside religious community because of love and she promised to follow me. I had tried hard to consolidate her and teach her with tolerance until now we live our families happily, my wife can speak Cham and practice very good Islam and now I found many other married to converted woman like me in my village.
Even if there is some discrimination from both Buddhist and Muslim communities but intermarriage is acceptable by the teaching of Islam and Buddhism. Islam Allow such marriage in the condition that the non-Muslim spouse shall have to convert while Buddhism has no such condition. The Muslim Community worry that the convert do not practice good Islam because of their knowledge of Islam and the ignorance from their spouse. Most Muslim people said that they would rather allow their daughters or sons to marry the girls or men from the same faith. But if they love each other and agree to convert, they would not deny the marriage.
Even though, the number of converts because of marriage seen increased but there is no any convert centers where they can learn Islam or issue the certificate of the converts. Those who want to married Muslim male or female, they just learn from one another in the village or learn from their spouse. Cambodian Muslim Media center is now being regarded as useful center in which it is offering some printed materials for new Muslims and provides online Khmer-language materials for those who want to learn more about Islam.
Recently there has been a remarkable village In Kampong Speu Province called Kwan village or known as Muallaf Village since most of the villagers here are new couple of new converted Muslim. More than 50 families are established through the intermarriage between the former Buddhists and Muslims, they moved from different provinces. Ms. Math Sarah , an Islamic Teacher who is helping teaching Islam to the new Muslim in this village told our reporter that , I am very proud that with the struggling of myself and my husband ,now most of the new Muslim have learned and practiced Islam well , some of them now can Azan (Calling People for Praying ) and recite Quran . Sarah added that firstly she was very difficult teaching them about Islam.
When talking about the relationship between the converts and their Buddhist families, they are still in good relation means that they do not cut of the relation tie. A Buddhist Father from Kandla Province answered our question in condition of anonymous whose son converted to Islam and married to Muslim girl told that It doesn’t matter my son married the girl of another belief, Islam and Buddhism are not very different bother religion teaching us to do good deeds , we live in the same country and have almost the same customary. I still consider him as my son even though he is away from me and practice Islam, he some time bring his wife and kids to visit me and I some time visit them, I understand that some religious practice he stopped it as he now believe in Islam, so I don’t mind him , he added.
A research done by Ysa Osman, a Cham Muslim researcher, published in 2010 found that the Intermarriage with the Cambodia’s Cham community has slowly increased in the past 36 years: from 0.45 percent (62 of 13651 couples) in 1970 to 3.50 percent (526 of 15045 Couples) in 2006, and the reasons for increased intermarriage are the integration of the Muslim and Buddhist Communities, school enrollment ,increased travel , opportunities for entertainment ,introduction of new technology and some other culture change of wearing costumes. The research also indicated that 88 percent of the intermarried couples practice Islam, 10.3 percent practice Buddhist and 1.7 percent practice their respective religion.
H.E Sos Mousine, Secretary of state at the Ministry of Cults and Religion and the head of the Cambodian Muslim Students Association, told a local newspaper recently that the number of Muslims in the Kingdom is growing village by village, and conceded that sometimes conversion through marriage is a factor.
Look back at the history, the intermarriage not only happened in Cambodia these days but also happened centuries ago and happened not only in the ordinary people even in the royal families. The history told that there were three Khmer King who married Cham Muslim women.