Thai Muslims enjoy complete acceptance in Thailand society

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Noted academician calls for dialogue between Buddhist, Muslim scholars of Thailand and Pakistan

Zubair Qureshi
Bangkok

Former Head of the Department of International Relations & Faculty of Political Science, Thammasat University of Bangkok Prof. Dr Jaran Maluleem has called for dialogue between the Buddhist and the Muslim scholars of Pakistan and Thailand to promote interfaith harmony.

During an exclusive interview with Pakistan Observer, Dr Jaran who is also Professor Emeritus and currently faculty member at Krirk University said both Islam and Buddhism gave a universal message of peace, harmony and brotherhood and those few individuals linking militancy or terrorism with Islam had in fact nothing to do with religion. They are the ones who have gone astray from the righteous path i.e. the path of universal brotherhood.

The interview was part of the efforts by Chief Monk of Thailand Most Venerable (MV) Arayawangso to promote inter-faith harmony between the followers of Islam and Buddhism.

“I have decades of experience in teaching and lecturing not only at the Thammasat University, but in other univer sities of Thailand also but never have I seen discrimination against the Muslims or any other religious minority in Thailand,” Dr Jaran Maluleem said.

In fact, the constitution and the law of Thailand both disallow any such singling out, he said adding the Thailand society has complete acceptance for the followers belonging to all the faiths, and the Muslims being the second largest population (around 5pc of the total population) after the Buddhists have been enjoying complete religious, political, social, cultural and economic freedom in Thailand society.

There is no compulsion or ban on member of any community, let alone tbe Muslims with regard to participating in politics.

We have had a Foreign Minister, a military commander, Members of the Parliament and top business executives who were all Muslims, he said. They contributed to the uplift of Thai society which is multi-cultural and multi-ethnic, said the learned professor. To a question, he said tolerance was the essence of Islam and Buddhism too preached respect for others’ faith. In this sense, both the religions have many things in common.

Majority of the Muslim population in Thailand are the Muslims, he said, adding however there were Shias also but they are living in complete peace and harmony.

We celebrate/observe all our religious festivals like Ramadan, Eid al-Fitri (Eidul Fitr), Eid al-Adha and the month of mourning Moharram al-Haram without any problem.

About the current phase of the revival of Buddhist tourism between Thailand and Pakistan, Prof Jaran said it was quite encouraging to see the Buddhists visiting the ancient sites in Taxila, Peshawar and the Khyber Pass which once used to be the centre of the Buddhist civilizations.

The credit for this revival of Buddhist tourism between the two countries goes to the untiring efforts of Most Venerable monk Arayawangso who through Dhamma Diplomacy has brought the two nations together, he said.

In fact MV Arayawangso is the pioneer of Dhamma Diplomacy, he said.

MV Arayawangso spent

three-month (mid-July to mid-October 2022) rain retreat in Taxila and also wrote a book “The Buddhist Civilization of Gandhara” during that period.

He has done a marvellous job and the book will serve to introduce the rich Buddhist heritage to the followers of Lord Buddha, the professor said.

MV Arayawangso while speaking on the occasion said he was happy to listen to Prof Jaran’s views and agreed that the Muslims in Bangkok were living in complete peace and harmony with the fellow Buddhists, Christians, Hindus or other communities.

We have Masjids in far and wide of Thailand and the Muslim brothers offer their prayers in their places of worship just like other communities, he said

About some insurgent elements in the southern part of the country, MV Arayawangso said they were doing no service to Islam by challenging the writ of the state.

He urged them to surrender all their weapons and return to the mainstream society just like the rest of their Muslim brothers and sisters in other parts of Thailand.

At the end, MV Arayawangso presented his book about Gandhara Civilization to Dr Jaran.