Cham Muslims Celebrate End of Ramadan Fasting Month

For 31-year-old Saffir Prak, one of Cambodia’s ethnic Cham Muslims, on Sunday marked the end of one month of training in patience and gratefulness.

“When we’re hungry we know how the poor feel, so we have to thank God for our happiness,” Mr. Prak said outside Al-Serkal Mosque in Phnom Penh’s Boeng Kak neighborhood on Sunday, on Eid al-Fitr, the last day of Islam’s holiest month and the beginning of celebrations to mark the end of Ramadan.

Men pray inside the Al-Serkal Mosque in Phnom Penh’s Boeng Kak neighborhood to mark the end of Ramadan on Sunday. (Hannah Hawkins/The Cambodia Daily)

Every day during Ramadan, Muslims fast between sunrise and sunset, when they break their fast with a meal called an iftar.

Not even water is allowed to be consumed while the sun is up.

That meant braving a daily commute without nourishment, Mr. Prak said. “I still rode my bicycle to university even while I was fasting.”

On Sunday, with Ramadan officially over, Cham families celebrated by visiting each others’ homes and breaking bread.

Mz Faradis, 22, said she was full with food after a day of eating at the houses of friends and family around Phnom Penh.

“In your village, you visit whoever you want—especially the poorer people, so you can give them a little bit of food or money.”

In 2014, Prime Minister Hun Sen pledged government funds for an annual Ramadan feast.

Government spokes­man Phay Siphan said on Sunday that he had “no idea” if the premier had followed through on his promise, though Mr. Hun Sen hosted an iftar event on Phnom Penh’s Koh Pich during the month.

A post on Mr. Hun Sen’s Facebook page on Sunday congratulated everyone who completed the 29 days.

“As prime minister of the Royal Government of Cambodia, I and my wife would like to congratulate and wish all Cambodian Islamic people, as well as Cambodian Muslims overseas [who] completed the Ramadan on June 25, 2017…to have happiness, prosperity, good business and receive the mercy and forgiveness from Allah in peace without intermission,” it said.

The CPP has in the past enjoyed widespread support from Cambodia’s minority Muslim population, which is estimated to number about 400,000. But some members told reporters in March that the support was waning.

CNRP President Kem Sokha last week promised Cham Muslim supporters that a win by his party in next year’s national election would end political harassment from the community’s pro-CPP leaders.

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