Malaysian Defense Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi is to arrive in Cambodia today for a three-day visit, during which he is scheduled to meet with his Cambodian counterpart, Tea Banh. He will also visit a Cham Muslim community while bearing gifts, an official at the Malaysian Embassy in Phnom Penh said yesterday.
“The [Malaysian] Minister of Defense is coming for a working visit,” Raja Saifful Ridzuwan, deputy chief of mission at the embassy, said yesterday, adding that it would be Mr Hamidi’s first official visit to Cambodia.
Mr Ridzuwan said there was “no particular issue” set for discussion but noted that the minister would be bringing about 10,000 Qurans with him to be donated to Cambodian Muslims ahead of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which officially begins at dusk on Monday.
“This is a kind of donation from Malaysians to Muslim Cham in Cambodia,” Mr Ridzuwan said. “It’s become a kind of ritual” for Malaysians to give charitable donations before Ramadan, he added.
Some of the Qurans are written in the Cham language, Mr Ridzuwan said, adding that the books were donated by the Restu Foundation, a Malaysian nonprofit organization that “aims to spread the message of Islam throughout the world,” according to its website.
There are two ways of writing Cham. One system resembles Arabic, while the other is more similar to Khmer. According to anthropologist Alberto Perez, there has been an “increasing Khmerization of Islamic texts” recently, while Arabic language education in Cambodia is likewise improving.
Othsman Hassan, President of the Cambodian Muslim Development Foundation, said it is common for Cambodian Muslims to receive charitable donations ahead of Ramadan and that Saudi Arabia and other countries sometimes donate large amounts of food.
On Monday, the United Arab Emirates’ official news agency reported that a charitable foundation in the UAE had shipped tens of thousands of tons of dates to dozens of “sisterly and friendly” countries, including Cambodia, before the advent of Ramadan.