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Author Topic: Legacy of Cham Muslims  (Read 603 times)
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timbuktu
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« on: Jan 13, 2009 07:06 PM »


peace be upon you

I think this is a heart-warming writeup on a Muslim community:

Legacy of Cham Muslims
 
IslamOnline.net & Newspapers
 
 
One major character of the Cham community in Santa Ana has always been their adherence to their Muslim faith. (Los Angeles Times photo)
 
CAIRO — California's Santa Ana city is home to some hundred Cham families, a community that first arrived 30 years ago after fleeing the Khmer Rouge's reign in Cambodia and is known for its adherence to Islam.

"Religion is the way of life," Ghazaly Salim, a telephone installer who spends his off time attending to the local mosque, told the Los Angeles Times on Monday, January 12.

The community is famous for sharing the moments of joy together in ease and also shouldering burdens together in hardships.

"[This] is what our grandfathers taught us," stressed Ghazaly, who helped establish the community 30 years ago.

Cham people are the ethnic remnants of the Kingdom of Champa, which existed along the coastline of what's now Vietnam as far back as the second century AD.

Between the rise of the Khmer Empire and Vietnam's territorial push to the south, the Champa kingdom began to diminish.

The first religion of Champa was a form of Hinduism, brought by sea from India.

But as Arab merchants stopped along the Vietnam coast en route to China, the majority of Cham people embraced Islam.

Today, Cham are a people without a homeland. Their communities, numbering a few hundred thousand, live as scattered refugees across Asia and the world.

Ethnic Cham, nevertheless, still form the core of Muslim communities in Cambodia and Vietnam.

They speak Cham language, which is similar to the language of ethnic Malays.

Back to Roots

The first order of business for the Cham families that settled in Santa Ana three decades back was to build a mosque.

For three years, they pooled their minimum-wage salaries and asked for help from local Arab Muslims until they finally raised enough to buy a single-story apartment and turn it into a mosque.

Over the years, the mosque has become the center of the community with most of its members moving into surrounding units or renting nearby.

Few members of the community, like Nasia Ahmanth, drifted as the rest put down roots.

He was just a baby when his father, El Ahmanth, led a village of Cham refugees to settle in Santa Ana.

At the age of 17, he was already a drug addict.

Two years ago, Nasia moved out of his neighborhood to distance himself from his longtime drug-using friends.

Last year, though, when his father died, he found himself looking homeward, wanting to rebuild ties with his homestead.

"I want my son to know what Cham is," Nasia, now 30, told the Los Angeles Times.

He knew that one basic step to find his place in the community was to re-embrace the religion he deserted long ago.

Nasia got his chance during an event marking the beginning of the holy fasting month of Ramadan.

"This is the day where parents become proud of their child."
 

Legacy of Cham Muslims
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