The government has granted the Highest Council for Islamic Religious Affairs permission to reopen a religious school that was home to 600 Cham boys before being shuttered last year, Muslim leaders said Monday.
Authorities arrested three foreign Muslim teachers at Kandal province’s Om-Alqura Institute on suspicion of terrorist involvement and ordered the school’s closure on May 28.
The students, most of them from poor families who could not afford tuition, were sent home.
Some Muslim leaders worried aloud in the days following that more of their children’s schools would be shut down, because, like Om-Alqura, most of them were funded by Islamic NGOs based in the Middle East or Malaysia.
But, according to Othsman Hassan, a former CPP lawmaker and president of the Cambodia Islamic Development Foundation, the government is making good on its promise to see the school reopened—without the assistance of its old Saudi Arabian sponsor.
He said the new school, to be known as the Cambodia Islamic Center, will offer a ninth- through 12th-grade education, according
to the Ministry of Education’s secular curriculum, in the morning and Islamic studies in the afternoon.
In addition, the school will offer some vocational training and instruction in foreign languages, such as English, Othsman Hassan said.
“We will help teach Muslims to assist with the development of the country,” he said.
Othsman Hassan said he and Sos Kamri, chief of the Highest Council and the nation’s supreme Muslim cleric, or mufti, are working to raise funds for the new school.
They hope to secure enough financing from the Cham community and select foreign donors to reopen the school within three months, he said.
However, they anticipate being able to cover only half of the students’ tuition and boarding ex-penses.
“Step by step, when we have enough funds, we will allow the students to study for free,” Othsman Hassan said.
He also said that the faculty will consist mainly of Cham teachers, with a few teachers recruited from Thailand and Malaysia.
“I am not afraid that the school will be accused of involvement in terrorism because we will allow the authorities to check on the school,” Othsman Hassan said.
Ismail Osman, a Cham Muslim and undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Cult and Religions, worried Monday that any tuition, no matter how inexpensive, could be a deterrent to potential students.
“If the school requires the students to pay, I don’t think the students will go to school,” he said.
According to Ismail Osman, the Om-Alqura Institute fed, housed, clothed and taught its students for free, giving Chams from all over Cambodia access to education.