Members of Cambodia’s Cham community expressed grief over Palestinian President Yasser Arafat’s death Thursday, remembering the controversial leader as a hero to the Muslim world.
“I regret losing such a great hero as Yasser Arafat,” said former Funcinpec parliamentarian Nan Sy. “His heroism is a model to other world leaders to struggle for independence,” he said.
Many Chams in Cambodia are expected to gather at mosques today in mourning, Nan Sy added.
Arafat, championed by supporters as the father of Palestinian nationalism and loathed by critics as a hindrance to peace in the Middle East, died Thursday in France. He was 75. For more than 30 years, he has led the Palestinians in their struggle for independence from Israel.
For many, Arafat symbolized the hope that Muslims all over the world would be able to one day visit a peaceful Jerusalem, said opposition parliamentarian Ahmad Yahya.
“Arafat wanted to bring peace and stability to the Palestinian people to allow them to live side by side with Israel,” he said. “We consider him a very revolutionary man, a very brave man.”
He said that Muslims in Cambodia are affected by unrest in the Middle East.
“If they don’t solve the problem in the Middle East, especially for Palestine, the world is not safe…. Extremists can become terrorists and attack here or there,” he said.“I hope the second term of [US President] George W Bush can find peace [in the Middle East], because there is no excuse anymore because Arafat is gone.”
Farina So, a Cham Muslim and program coordinator for the Documentation Center of Cambodia, questioned who would replace Arafat.
“I am worried about the leader after him,” she said. “I think [Arafat] was a good leader.”