Muscat: Muslims in Thailand enjoy more freedom than most other places in the world, according to the country’s leading Muslim advisor.
“Thai Muslims have more freedom than any other country in the world – even more than in a Muslim country,” Ass. Prof. Abdullah Numsuk said, during a visit to the office of Sheikul Islam in Bangkok.
“We are enjoying full freedom and our country is open to all religions,” he added, addressing a visiting media pack from the Sultanate of Oman.
Sheikul Islam is the official representative of Muslims in Thailand. It is a government position and his decisions are accepted by Muslims and government alike.
Sheikhul Islam is selected by the 39 provincial committees in Thailand.
“As per our constitution, the monarchy has to support every religion,” Numsuk said.
“Our leader has an important role in supporting Islam; he has supported the translation of the holy Quran,” he added.
“All Thai Muslims are very proud to be known as a citizen of Thailand because we have the liberty and right to do whatever things we like,” Numsuk said.
“Government has never used the term or considered the Thai Muslim as a minority and we are free to join any parties,” he added.
According to unofficial statistics, nine per cent, 7 to 8 million of the total population of Thailand, are Muslims.
“The Thai government is not willing to classify its people in terms of religion so we don’t have an exact stat of Muslim population in the Kingdom,” the advisor said.
There is no discrimination between the Islamic sects which sets Thailand apart from other countries, according to the advisor.
Thailand has over 40,00 mosques and most of them are situated in the southern part of the country where the Muslim populations are large in number.
Around 70 per cent of the population in the south is Muslim and most of them have Malaysian origin, according to Numsuk.
“Imams are selected by the members of the mosque and these Imams select the provincial committees,” the advisor said.
Imams are free to give sermons and it is not monitored by the government or by any security forces of Thailand.
“So far we don’t have any reports that an Imam was taken by security forces for questioning because of his sermons,” Numsuk said.
More than 300 Islamic schools, which follow the government syllabus and Islamic curriculum, offer education to around 2,200 Muslim students all around the country, he added.