Muslims From Malaysia End Four-Day Visit

Delegates from the Malaysian state of Melaka on Sunday concluded four days of “goodwill meetings” with government officials and Muslim community mem­bers, in talks meant to im­prove opportunities for Cam­bo­dian Muslims, Muslim community officials said.

At the Malay and Islamic World Meeting in Cambodia on Friday, Minister of Education Tol Lah appealed to Melaka’s Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Mohd Rusta to help bridge disparities within the country’s religious education system. The two leaders expressed particular concern for Cambodian Muslims who are not receiving adequate basic education.

“A major challenge is to achieve an effective balance between encouraging religious studies while guaranteeing the quality of mainstream education in religious schools,” Tol Lah said. “This balance is critical in securing a sense of both national religious identity and values.”

Few Muslim students reach higher education because the religious schools they attend do not equip them with the basic education tools needed to succeed, said Ahmad Yahya, a Cham Mus­lim adviser to Norton Uni­versity’s Cham students and secretary of state at the Ministry of Public Works and Transport.

“Religious schools have no curriculum. They just read the Ko­ran. It’s a waste of children’s time,” Ahmad Yahya said.

To improve the poor conditions of Cambodian Muslims, who make up about 6 percent of the population, Mela­ka’s chief minister gave two $5,000 grants for the development of mosques in Kandal and Kom­pong Cham provinces, purchased a building to house fe­male Cham students in Phnom Penh, and established scholarship funds for 20 students, Ahmad Yahya said.

The Khmer Rouge killed hundreds of thousands of Muslims and destroyed all but 20 of the community’s 122 mosques, ac­cording to the Malaysian Institute of Historical and Patriotism Stud­ies. Now there are 260 mosques in Cambodia.

This is the first time that the Cambodian and Malaysian communities have met face-to-face to discuss the welfare of Cambodian Muslims, said Ismael Osman, chairman of the Cambodian Organizing Committee.



Related Stories

Latest News