Thursday 17 October 2019

Islam and Life of Muslims in Non Muslim Countries: Thailand

Thailand, one of the most attractive touristic destinations in the South East Asia, is generally a Buddhist dominated country, with Islam as second largest religion. According to the 2015 census, Thailand has 2,892,311 Muslims, or 4.29% of the total population, with the largest concentrations being in Bangkok and throughout the southern region. In the southern region, According to the National Statistics Office, in 2005, Muslims in Southern Thailand made up 30.4 percent of the general population above the age 15. However, unofficial figures quote a 5-6% Muslim population in the country. Most Thai Muslims belong to the branch of Sunni Islam.

Thailand's Muslim population is diverse, for they have migrated to this part of the world from China, Pakistan, India, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Indonesia, beside including ethnic Thais, while about two-thirds of Muslims in Thailand are Thai Malays. Many Thai Muslims are ethnically and linguistically Thai, who are either hereditary Muslims, Muslims by intermarriage, or recent converts to the faith. Ethnic Thai Muslims live mainly in the central and southern provinces.

A sizable number of Rohingya refugees who managed to escape the atrocities committed by the Myanmar army  are scattered throughout Thailand's refugee camps, rural fishing villages, as well as in many small towns and cities close to the Myanmar border.

The National Council for Muslims, consisting of at least five persons (all Muslims) and appointed by royal proclamation, advises the ministries of education and interior on Islamic matters. Chularatchamontri is the title of Shaykh al-Islām in Thailand, who is appointed by the king upon advice of the prime minister. He has the authority to administer all Islamic affairs in the nation and to provide advice on Islamic affairs to governmental agencies. Chularatchamontri vacates his office upon death, resignation and removal by the king upon the advice of the prime minister.

Unlike many other non Muslim countries, where mosques for Muslims are not very sufficient viz a viz their percentage of the population, there are are a large number of mosques in Thailand. Of the , 3,494 mosques, most are located in Southern Thailand, with up to 170 with Bangkok itself.
Darun Aman Mosque or Ban Haw Mosque, is the biggest mosque in Chiang Rai Province. The mosque was one of the mosques in northern Thailand built by Hui people, known as Chin Haw in Thai. [Photo:  Wikimedia Commons

Thailand also maintains several hundred Islamic schools at the primary and secondary levels, as well as Islamic banks, including the Islamic Bank of Thailand, shops and other institutions. Much of Thailand's packaged food is tested and labelled halal if applicable.
Muslim school girls [Photo: Tarik Abdel-Monem / Flickr ]

Muslims in Thailand enjoy support from King. Each year the King or his representative presides over celebrations commemorating the Prophet Muhammad's birthday. The King has also provided funds for translating the Koran into Thai.According to the Thai government: “All in all, Muslim Thais enjoy full state support and are free to teach and practice their religion.

Despite government patronage, Muslims are said to be relatively poor, ill-educated and under represented in the government and live mostly in the south, which has lower incomes and higher crime rates compared to the rest of the country. Muslims usually have lower incomes A significant number of Muslim Thais, mostly from southern Thailand, work in the Middle East as laborers and servants the same way some Indonesians, Bangladeshis and Muslim Indians.

Thai Muslims leave after Eid al-Fitr prayers at a mosque in Pattani Province. [Photo: AP ]

There are signs of a deeper Islamization all over Thailand, from the shopping centres where you see many more women wearing Islamic dress, to the landscapes of towns and cities where many new mosques and Islamic schools can be seen springing up. Many Muslim households display Arabic verses of the Al Quran outside their homes. 

From the business perspective, Thailand has become very innovative within the commerce sector through the development of ‘Halal’ tourism, ‘Halal’ hotels and resorts, Islamic banking, Islamic micro-finance, ‘Halal’ housing and condominium projects, as well as food and beverage products. There is a general awareness developing among Muslim entrepreneurs about ethical business opportunities, utilizing the ‘Tawhid’ as an ethical business model.

The growing percentage of Muslim population within Thailand will have a number of effects upon Thai society over the coming years. Just as the South was Thai-ized in the period 1902-1944, now Thailand is being Islamized in a way never seen before. And according to some, represents just as much of a challenge as the rich and poor divide of Thailand, which has had such a profound influence on the political scene over the last decade. 

Muslims in Thailand enjoy and celebrate their religious as well as social festivals and events just like other Muslims anywhere in the world. Herein under watch a colourful video of a wedding of a Muslim couple in Thailand:
Author's Note: The data for this post has been collected from the references as given below. If any one differs with the material contained in this post, one may consult the references and their authors.  If someone has more material about the subject, he/she is most welcome to share in the comments box to make the post all encompassing.

To know more about life of Muslims in other non Muslim countries, please visit our page: Islam and Life of Muslims in Non Muslim Countries

Photo | References: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 |
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