The 700,000 Cham Muslims in Cambodia follow a form of Islam that mixes in elements of Buddhism and other religions. As they are doing in other countries the Saudis are providing funding to spread a more purist and fundamentalist form of Islam among the Cham with predictable results.
Acting on intelligence gleaned from joint operations with the United States, Cambodian police swooped on a Saudi-funded Om al-Qura school near the capital to arrest three foreigners with suspected links to militant Islam, possibly even Osama bin Laden.
An Egyptian, two Thais and a Cambodian are in a Phnom Penh jail, accused of being members of Jemaah Islamiah, the Southeast Asian militant group believed to be behind the bombings in the Indonesian resort island of Bali. More than 200 people, most of them young Western tourists, died in October's blasts.
Nearly 50 people, including teachers at the 500-pupil school and their families, left the country as part of the crackdown.
The government has ''used us in their game as a political issue, to please America and Australia, so they can get aid,'' said Ahmad Yahya, a leader of the Cham community and a secretary of state and deputy minister in the government. ''If these people are terrorists, we are very pleased for the government to arrest and jail them. But they have no proof.''
According to the Thai Foreign Ministry, at least 5,000 Thai Muslims have finished their university education in Muslim countries, the largest number in Egypt followed by Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Libya.
Since the arrests of two Thai religious teachers in Cambodia in May and another three Thai suspects in South Thailand, all accused of links with Jemaah Islamiyah, Thai authorities have come down in full force, saying that the regional terrorist organisation has a strong foothold inside the country.
Falling costs of communications and transportation are causing Muslim communities of Southeast Asia that previously were fairly isolated to have a lot more contact with Middle Eastern Muslims. That contact plus the missionary efforts funded with oil money are causing the local forms of Islam that mix in beliefs from other religions to be gradually displaced by purer and politically more potent varieties of Islam. It is not surprising that this should make Southeast Asian Muslim communities more fertile ground for recruiting terrorists.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2003 July 23 10:49 AM Civilizations Clash Of|