Cambodian Cham Muslims have been phoning Cambodian Television Network to demand it change a series they say is disrespectful to Islam, according to Sos Kimri, president of the Supreme Muslim Leaders, a group that claims to speak for all Chams.
The series, called “Manpower and Destiny” began airing three times a week starting Jan 31 and depicts two tourists from Malaysia and China.
The controversy was generated by the portrayal of the Chinese character as hardworking, while the Malay Muslim is shown to be lazy and idiotic.
“This episode is causing chaos in Cham society,” Sos Kimri said by phone Thursday.
“We just want them to change the language. The way [a Cham character] dresses affects the prestige of the religion. The younger generation will make fun of us,” he said.
Secretary of State for the Ministry of Cult and Religion Jakya Adam accused the television show of ridiculing the sacred places of Islam.
“They make fun of sacred places like praying and respecting to the statue,” he said on Thursday. “This makes [Muslim] people to have reactions.”
“The character shakes his [bottom] when he prays. It is wrong,” said Ly Kriya, 26, a Cham Muslim. “The drama has the idea to look down on Islamic people.”
Poan Phoung Bopha, project director of the television drama, said Thursday that the Chinese character represents a hardworking person.
“He tries to earn a living since he was young,” she said, adding that she had no choice but to use Chinese and Malay nationals because she lacked cooperation from Cham Muslims.
“We take two nationals who are not Khmer [because] we don’t know whom to choose,” she said, adding “There are Chams and Chinese in our country.”
Poan Phoung Bopha said she cannot cancel the series because of the money that advertisers have already invested.
“We cannot stop showing this because it might hurt our sponsors,” she added.