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Threatened Tribe of Islam in cambodia

A more cynical account relates that the Khmer royal family, at a time when its power was dwindling, found a ready and willing ally in the Muslim leader.On the occasion of Imam San's birthday each October, the sect that emerged from his early followers gathers in the former royal city of Udong, about 30 kilometers outside of the present capitalof Phnom Penh, to honor his memory through prayer and offerings. The colorful mawlut ceremony reaffirms the sect's privileged heritage and its continued isolation from the rest of the country's Islamic community, which is dominated by a group known as the Cham.The Imam San followers are the only group to remain outside the domain of the Mufti, the government-sanctioned leader of Islam in Cambodia - a status that was renewed by the government in 1988. Successive Imam San leaders, or Ong Khnuur, have held the prestigious title of Okhna, originally bestowed by the palace. Cambodia's estimated 37,000 Imam San followers live in only a few dozen villages spread throughout the country. Geography has reinforced the sect's isolation, and the mawlut has become an increasingly important opportunity to forge friendships and - more essential to the survival of the community - marriages.At the annual ceremony, parents search for eligible suitors for their children, who otherwise would not come in contact with teenagers and young adults from other Imam San communities. The day's use for matchmaking may have new importance as the sect's long-standing isolation is challenged by pressures from Cambodia's larger Islamic community as well as from abroad.Many Imam San followers see their sect's relationship with other Muslims as the biggest threat to their way of life, as their most vehement critics come from within their faith. For Ek Bourt, an elder member of the Imam San community, it is discrimination from other Muslims that he fears most.

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