Cambodia a ‘beacon for Muslim coexistence,’ says OIC chief

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OIC Secretary-General Dr. Yousef bin Ahmed Al-Othaimeen described Cambodia as an example for other countries to emulate. (Photos/OIC)
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OIC Secretary-General Dr. Yousef bin Ahmed Al-Othaimeen described Cambodia as an example for other countries to emulate. (Photos/OIC)
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OIC Secretary-General Dr. Yousef bin Ahmed Al-Othaimeen described Cambodia as an example for other countries to emulate. (Photos/OIC)
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OIC Secretary-General Dr. Yousef bin Ahmed Al-Othaimeen described Cambodia as an example for other countries to emulate. (Photos/OIC)
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OIC Secretary-General Dr. Yousef bin Ahmed Al-Othaimeen described Cambodia as an example for other countries to emulate. (Photos/OIC)
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OIC Secretary-General Dr. Yousef bin Ahmed Al-Othaimeen described Cambodia as an example for other countries to emulate. (Photos/OIC)
Updated 14 June 2018
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Cambodia a ‘beacon for Muslim coexistence,’ says OIC chief

  • Cambodia’s promotion of peaceful coexistence has won praise from OIC Secretary-General Dr. Yousef bin Ahmed Al-Othaimeen, who cited the country as an example for other countries to emulate.
  • The OIC leader’s message was delivered to a recent government-sponsored iftar celebration in Phnom Penh — a symbol of Cambodia’s inclusive approach to its religious groups.

JEDDAH: While some Southeast Asian countries struggle to get to grips with anti-Muslim sentiment, Cambodia’s positive approach to integration is yielding dividends, with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) chief describing the country as “a beacon of peace and tolerance.”

Cambodia’s promotion of peaceful coexistence has won praise from OIC Secretary-General Dr. Yousef bin Ahmed Al-Othaimeen, who cited the country as an example for other countries to emulate.

The OIC leader’s message was delivered to a recent government-sponsored iftar celebration in Phnom Penh — a symbol of Cambodia’s inclusive approach to its religious groups.

Al-Othaimeen said the celebration highlighted “Cambodia’s longstanding respect for diversity, multiculturalism and tolerance and the high regard the government grants to the Muslim community.”

Since coming to office, Al-Othaimeen has made interfaith dialogue among nations a cornerstone of his stewardship, focusing on problems facing Muslim minorities in non-Muslim majority nations.

Anti-Muslim sentiment is widespread in some Southeast Asian Buddhist communities, with a rise in violence against Muslims driven partly by militant Buddhist monks.

Myanmar stands out as a country that is most unwelcoming for the indigenous Muslim Rohingya population who have been forced to abandon their homes in the face of brutal military operations and attacks by militias, especially in Rakhine state. More than a million Muslim-minority Rohingyas have fled the country.

By way of contrast, in Cambodia — where Buddhism is the state religion and Muslims make up less than 5 percent of the population — there is a longstanding respect for diversity, multiculturalism, tolerance and a high regard for its indigenous Muslim community. Islam is also an officially recognized religion in the country.

Muslims in Cambodia enjoy government support in educating their children from primary to university level. They are allowed to wear their religious symbols, such as beards and caps for men and headscarves for women, at state institutions, schools and on government identification documents. There are Muslim prayer rooms at airports and the country has a designated minister for Islamic affairs as well as a grand mufti of Cambodia.

The government also hosts annual iftar gatherings in the country. This is the fifth year the Cambodian government has organized a Ramadan iftar, which was attended by about 5,000 international and local Muslim leaders, including members of government and diplomatic envoys.

The OIC leader sent a delegation led by Mehla Talebna, director-general of the organization’s cultural and social affairs department, who delivered a message of commendation to Cambodia’s leaders, including the Prime Minister Hun Sen, for ensuring peaceful coexistence among cultures and religions in the country.

Cambodia’s prime minister praised the improving relations between the OIC and Cambodia and stressed his country’s desire to pursue observer membership status in the OIC.

The OIC delegation visited Al-Serkal Mosque, Cambodia’s largest mosque, in Phnom Penh and toured Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, which details a grim period in Cambodia’s past when the brutal Khmer Rouge regime under Pol Pot controlled the country between 1975 and 1979.

Hundreds of thousands of Muslims were among millions of Cambodians slaughtered during the horror of the Khmer Rouge period. Muslims were prohibited from practicing their religion and their mosques were destroyed during the reign of terror.

Today, in Cambodia, Muslims are able to practice their religion freely, and enjoy democratic rights to vote and be elected as MPs like any other citizen.


Anti-India strike shuts Kashmir amid anger over deaths

Updated 12 min 8 sec ago
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Anti-India strike shuts Kashmir amid anger over deaths

  • India and Pakistan each administer part of Kashmir, but both claim it in its entirety
  • Most Kashmiris support rebel demands that the territory be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country

SRINAGAR, India: Armed soldiers and police fanned out across much of Indian-controlled Kashmir on Monday as separatists challenging Indian rule called for a general strike to mourn the deaths of civilians and armed rebels during confrontation with government forces.
The death toll of civilians in an explosion after a gunbattle between government forces and militants the previous day climbed to seven as another injured young man died at a hospital on early Monday.
Government forces Monday patrolled streets in Kashmir's main city of Srinagar and enforced a security lockdown in the downtown neighborhoods in anticipation of anti-India protests. Businesses, schools and shops remained shut and public transport stayed off the roads.
Eight combatants, including five militants and three Indian soldiers, were killed in a pair of gunbattles on Sunday, officials said, triggering massive anti-India protests and clashes during one of the fighting in which nearly three dozen people were injured. The seven civilians were killed in an explosion at the site in southern Kulgam after the fighting ended, police and residents said.
Protesting villagers in Kulgam made several attempts to reach the site where the rebels were trapped, barraging troops with stones and abuse. They were trying to distract the soldiers who apart from guns and grenades also used explosives to blast the house where the rebels were cornered, residents and police said.
Authorities offered condolences to the families of slain and reiterated that gunbattle sites should not be visited by civilians until they're cleaned from any leftover explosives.
Some residents blamed Indian troops for excessive use of explosives in populated areas and deliberately leaving explosives at the site.
"It's routine with them (Indian army) to blast homes with explosives for killing holed up militants. High over their victory of killing Kashmiris, they leave the area without clearing it from unexploded explosives," said Farooq Ahmed, a resident in southern Kulgam area where Sunday's incident occurred. "It's so sinisterly planned, and it has happened so many times."
Anger spiraled in the region after the deaths, sparking protests and clashes at many places. Separatist leaders called for Monday's strike to protest what it described "Indian occupation forces crossing all limits of repression to break Kashmir's freedom struggle."
India and Pakistan each administer part of Kashmir, but both claim it in its entirety.
Most Kashmiris support rebel demands that the territory be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country, while also participating in civilian street protests against Indian control. In recent years, mainly young Kashmiris have displayed open solidarity with the rebels and sought to protect them by engaging troops in street clashes during military operations.
Rebels have been fighting Indian control since 1989. India accuses Pakistan of arming and training the rebels, a charge Pakistan denies.
Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.