PHNOM PENH , Sept. 12 KYODO
The Cambodian government this week issued a directive allowing Muslim students to wear their traditional headscarves in school. The directive signed Wednesday by Prime Minister Hun Sen advised all public and private schools to allow Muslim students to wear headscarves if they wish to do so. The premier said in the directive that allowing Muslim students to wear the hijab, or headscarf, was in conformity with the country's Constitution, which states that all Cambodians have the same rights under the law, regardless of their ethnicity, religion, belief, or language. The Cham ethnic group, Cambodia 's Muslim minority, represents some 4 percent of the Buddhist country's 13.4 million people.
Unlike as in neighboring Thailand , there are no religious tensions in Cambodia . Zakariya Adam, secretary of state of the Cults and Religion Ministry, said the move was warmly welcomed by the Cham community. He said some Muslims, especially females, have dropped out of school because the school uniforms go against their beliefs.
The government's move comes as Cambodia is having closer ties with Muslim countries, especially those in the Middle East . Since the start of this year, leaders of oil-rich nations Qatar and Kuwait have paid visits to the country, and Hun Sen is planned to pay official visits to the two countries early next year. But Zakariya Adam said the directive was made as a response to Cambodian Muslim community's request.
KyodoSeptember 12, 2008