For Mohamad Ali Musa, the pilgrimage to Mecca this year comes at a time when the world has been greatly changed by the events of Sept 11.
Muslims in many parts of the world have had to condemn terrorism publicly just to avoid suspicion, he said.
Mohamad Ali Musa, chief of a mosque near Phnom Penh, said Chams do not blend religion and politics. For them, Osama bin Laden has been a distraction.
Of the 500,000 Cambodian Chams, only a few will go to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. Mecca is considered Islam’s holiest place.
Ten of this year’s travelers were sponsored by Eisa Bin Nassir, a businessman from the United Arab Emirates. They left Feb 5.
Seven more people left Feb 3 under the sponsorship of the Muslim World League, according to Vann Math, a Senator and secretary-general of the Cambodia Islamic Association. Twenty-nine more paid their own way to Mecca and left Feb 11, he said.
The cost prevents many more from making the annual pilgrimage, however. “How could I go to Mecca?” asked Suriang, 64, a dried prawn vendor who lives in a mosque near Calmette Hospital. “This is only for top people, not for us…. I pray five times each day to be able to go to Mecca.”