Written by Mega Ai
Several times ago, I involved in a warm conversation between my mother and my younger sister. Yeah, we were talking about Muslim Champa. My mother said that one of our Nine Ulama (in Indonesia it is called as ‘wali songo’) named Maulana Malik Ibrahim has a wife from the Kingdom of Champa. After the conversation end up, I searched some information from the internet about this. And it makes me more curious about Muslim Champa. I got the information that Muslim Champa is living and spreading in some districts in Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, and Cambodia. That’s why I want to fly there to meet the Muslim minority there. I am curious about the real life of Muslim in other countries where the religion majority is non-Islam. Therefore, I decided to go to Cambodia. On October 2009, I had a chance to fly to Phnom Penh where there are some Muslim communities’ lives.
Why Cambodia? It’s a personal reason actually. I finally decided to go Phnom Penh because I have good friends there. Good friends that I’ve known from an international conference that I joined couple months ago. They are very nice Cambodian. They told me many things about their country. They helped me a lot. Thanks to them. I think this is one of the advantages of joining an international event. I got friends from many different countries.
Well, arrived in the airport of Phnom Penh in the first day, it’s quite surprising to see Muslims there. Moreover I cannot say that only a few Muslims that I saw in the airport. It’s quite many actually, whereas we know that Muslim is minority in Cambodia.
I spent four days in Phnom Penh. I spent most of my time with my friends. But, there is one day where I was touring alone. Using motor taxi (in Indonesia, it is called ‘ojek’); I went around several Muslim villages. Luckily, the motor taxi driver could speak Malay. I talked a lot with the taxi driver about the Muslim villages. In a day, there are four Muslim villages that I’ve visited; three of the villages are located near along Mekong River (a historical river there). And the other one village is located in Phnom Penh km 8. There is always a masjid (mosque) in every Muslim village.
In my last day in Phnom Penh, I came back to one of the villages near Mekong River; the name of the village is Ekrangsey Darussalam. I went there with my friends. I met the leader of the village and had a conversation with him. The name of the leader is Mr. H. Lebsaleh. We talked a lot about the society’s occupation, children’s education and so on. Most of old generation in Cambodia could speak Malay instead of Khmer language (Cambodia language). From the conversation with Mr Lebsaleh, I understand that most of people in the village are living below the poverty line. The fact is there is only 2 % of the family who are able to send their children to study in university. There are around 400 families in that village; means there is only around 20 families who are able to send their children to study in university, while the other is not. Well, even not a few families who are not able to send their children to continue their study in senior high school. Many of the men in that village have occupation as the taxi driver or fisherman, while many of the women work as a labor in the convection factory. That condition is not really different with the other Muslim villages. I am sure that the government of Cambodia has done many efforts to develop their country. But, I understand it is not an easy job. Knowing the history of Red Khmer and genocide there makes me understand.
After having such a nice conversation with Mr Lebsaleh, I visited one of the madrasah (religion school) there. At that time, the students were studying about how to read Al-Qur’an. There is only one Ustdaz (unfortunately I forget the name of the ustadz) teaches them where there are around 50 or 60 students in that small class. The students there are still in the primary school. The Ustadz said that in the morning the students went to madrasah and in the afternoon they went to the government primary school. For the junior high student, they went to the government junior high school in the morning and they went to madrasah in the afternoon. Even though, not a few students who do not go to the government school because of economic problem.
That’s the fact happens there. Knowing the fact of Muslim life there, I do really hope people are willing to support and help them. I do really hope are willing to help the Muslim youth there. Giving a scholarship for studying to them could be a good way to help the Muslim youth for their development.
Well, there are still many things inside my head but I think I’ll end up my story here. Perhaps I will continue to share my experience in Cambodia with you in the next article. However, let’s together we find out the way to help other Muslim to get better life.
This article was published in http://www.voa-islam.com