by Geoffrey Cain
Competition for influence in Cambodia, recently seen as a two-country race
between the United States and China, has now seen another deep-pocketed
suitor emerge: petrodollar-rich Gulf states.
While Washington has required counter-terrorism cooperation for its
assistance, and Beijing has sought greater access to markets, Middle Eastern
countries seem keen to build religious ties with Cambodia's Muslim Cham
minority. . . .
The minority Cham, the antecessors of the region's once-dominant Champa
kingdom, have long been open to foreign influences. They are also no
stranger to official oppression and prosecution, both in Cambodia and
Vietnam. Ben Kiernan, who heads the Cambodian genocide project at Yale
University, estimates that 90,000 of a total 250,000 Cham population were
killed during the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime which ruled between 1975 and
Only 21 of a total 113 imams, or Islamic teachers, survived the radical
Maoist regime, along with only 15% of Cham-built mosques, says Kiernan. That
tragic history, academics and analysts say, have made the Cham more
susceptible to outside religious influences. Islamic charities from Gulf
states first entered Cambodia in 1991, when a ceasefire was declared among
warring militias, according to academic Agnes De Feo, author of the upcoming
book, Muslims of Cambodia and Vietnam.
Foreign identity Faith-based charitable organizations, which Cham often
refer to generically as "Kuwait", came mainly from the United Arab Emirates
(UAE), Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, and gained significant clout over the ethnic
minority's traditional Malay Muslim culture. Indian and Pakistani Islamic
organizations, mostly promoters of the Tablighi Jamaat, or dawah, an
apolitical movement aimed at revitalizing Muslim communities considered to
be in danger of losing their Muslim identities, arrived later in the 1990s.
The result was a schism in the Cham community between the Tabligh Jamaat and
Wahhabists, . . .
John Pilger, "Propaganda
Disguised as Journalism," johnpilger.com, June 16, 2007