Islam in Vietnam
Islam in Vietnam is primarily the religion of the Cham people, a minority ethnic group related to Malays; however, roughly one-third of the Muslims in Vietnam are of other ethnic groups. There is also a community describing themselves of mixed ethnic origins (Cham, Khmer, Malay, Minang, Viet, Chinese and Arab), who practice Islam and are also known as Cham, or Cham Muslims, around the region of Châu Đốc in the Southwest. Like other Cham people, those in Vietnam are rustic Sunni Muslims.
Uthman ibn Affan, the third Caliph of Islam, the legends have it, sent the first official Muslim envoy to Vietnam and Tang Dynasty China in 650. Seafaring Muslim traders are known to have made stops at ports in the Champa Kingdom en route to China very early in the history of Islam; however, the earliest material evidence of the transmission of Islam consists of Song Dynasty-era documents from China which record that the Cham familiarised themselves with Islam in the late 10th and early 11th centuries. The number of followers began to increase as contacts with Sultanate of Malacca broadened in the wake of the 1471 collapse of the Champa Kingdom, but Islam would not become widespread among the Cham until the mid-17th century. In the mid-19th century, many Muslim Chams emigrated from Cambodia and settled in the Mekong Delta region, further bolstering the presence of Islam in Vietnam. Malayan Islam began to have an increasing influence on the Chams in the early 20th century; religions publications were imported from Malaya, Malay clerics gave khutba (sermons) in mosques in the Malay language, and some Cham people went to Malayan madrasah to further their studies of Islam.
Cham Muslims and Hindus formed the Cham Liberation Front (Front de Liberation du Champa, FLC) led by the Muslim Lieutenant-Colonel Les Kosem to fight against both North and South Vietnam during the Vietnam War in order to obtain Cham independence. The Cham Liberation from joined with the Montagnards and Khmer Krom to form the United Front for the Liberation of Oppressed Races (Front Uni de Lutte des Races Opprimées, FULRO) to fight the Vietnamese.
After the 1976 establishment of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, some of the 55,000 Muslim Chams emigrated to Malaysia. 1,750 were also accepted as immigrants by Yemen; most settled in Ta'izz. Those who remained did not suffer violent persecution, although some writers claim that their mosques were closed by the government. In 1981, foreign visitors to Vietnam were still permitted to speak to indigenous Muslims and pray alongside them, and a 1985 account described Ho Chi Minh City's Muslim community as being especially ethnically diverse: aside from Cham people, there were also Indonesians, Malays, Pakistanis, Yemenis, Omanis, and North Africans; their total numbers were roughly 10,000 at the time. However, Vietnam's Muslims remained relatively isolated from the mainstream of world Islam, and their isolation, combined with the lack of religious schools, caused the practice of Islam in Vietnam to become increasingly syncretic. Command of Arabic is not widespread even among religious leaders, and some Muslims are reported to pray to Ali and refer to him as the "Son of God".
The Cham in Vietnam are only recognized as a minority, and not as an indigenous people by the Vietnamese government despite being indigenous to the region. Both Hindu and Muslim Chams have experienced religious and ethnic persecution and restrictions on their faith under the current Vietnamese government, with the Vietnamese state confisticating Cham property and forbidding Cham from observing their religious beliefs. Hindu temples were turned into tourist sites against the wishes of the Cham Hindus. In 2010 and 2013 several incidents occurred in Thành Tín and Phươc Nhơn villages where Cham were murdered by Vietnamese. In 2012, Vietnamese police in Chau Giang village stormed into a Cham Mosque, stole the electric generator, and also raped Cham girls. Cham Muslims in the Mekong Delta have also been economically marginalized and pushed into poverty by Vietnamese policies, with ethnic Vietnamese Kinh settling on majority Cham land with state support, and religious practices of minorities have been targeted for elimination by the Vietnamese government.
The Vietnamese government fears that evidence of Champa's influence over the disputed area in the South China Sea would bring attention to human rights violations and killings of ethnic minorities in Vietnam such as in the 2001 and 2004 uprisings, and lead to the issue of Cham autonomy being brought into the dispute, since the Vietnamese conquered the Hindu and Muslim Cham people in a war in 1832, and the Vietnamese continue to destroy evidence of Cham culture and artifacts left behind, plundering or building on top of Cham temples, building farms over them, banning Cham religious practices, and omitting references to the destroyed Cham capital of Song Luy in the 1832 invasion in history books and tourist guides. The situation of Cham compared to ethnic Vietnamese is substandard, lacking water and electricity and living in houses made out of mud.
Vietnam's April 1999 census showed 63,146 Muslims. Over 77% lived in the Southeast Region, with 34% in Ninh Thuận Province, 24% in Bình Thuận Province, and 9% in Ho Chi Minh City; another 22% lived in the Mekong Delta region, primarily in An Giang Province. Only 1% of Muslims lived in other regions of the country. The number of believers is gender-balanced to within 2% in every area of major concentration except An Giang, where the population of Muslim women is 7.5% larger than the population of Muslim men. This distribution is somewhat changed from that observed in earlier reports. Prior to 1975, almost half of the Muslims in the country lived in the Mekong Delta, and as late as 1985, the Muslim community in Ho Chi Minh was reported to consist of nearly 10,000 individuals. Of the 54,775 members of the Muslim population over age 5, 13,516, or 25%, were currently attending school, 26,134, or 48%, had attended school in the past, and the remaining 15,121, or 27%, had never attended school, compared to 10% of the general population. This gives Muslims the second-highest rate of school non-attendance out of all religious groups in Vietnam (the highest rate being that for Protestants, at 34%). The school non-attendance rate was 22% for males and 32% for females. Muslims also had one of the lowest rate of university attendance, with less than 1% having attended any institution of higher learning, compared to just under 3% of the general population.
The Ho Chi Minh City Muslim Representative Committee was founded in 1991 with seven members; a similar body was formed in An Giang Province in 2004.
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