A Change of Guard

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Thursday, 5 May 2016

Proposed Road Through Grand Mosque Sparks Lawsuit

School of Vice

As the Naga Casino-Buddha Institute saga will testify, nothing is sacred, religious or inviolable enough to be allowed to stand in the way of this wave of Great Leap forward in 'Economic Development', or even be factored into its consideration and planning. When Hanoi ousted the Pol Pot regime and replaced it with another faction of that regime, one of its pretensions and declarations was to reinstate and respect the right to religious worship and faith as a fundamental pillar of a pluralist and open society. At least, that was the image it sought to project to the world community. 

Since then ordinary people are allowed to practise and engage in their respective religious activities of sorts. However, the state, claiming to be 'secular' but respectful of this right of the citizens has treated the religious institutions as one would a resented spouse in a forced marriage! In the case of the national religion ['Nation, Religion, King'] of Buddhism, the ruling party has long all but disowned and disenfranchised that spouse, treating her with a mixture of contempt and often violent abuse, while ensuring its preferred partners and mistresses [the likes of Tep Vong and other Ho Chi Monks] are pampered with luxury and material contentments befitting of a well-kept lover!

Physical space, seclusion and quiet are all integral facets of people's religious pursuit and spiritual well-being. The spiritual peace that people carry and nurture in their hearts will add to the strengthening of peace and stability in the community and the wider world, as well as contributing to an harmonious, healthy and balanced mainstream social life.


Proposed Road Through Grand Mosque Sparks Lawsuit
Khmer Times/Taing Vida
Wednesday, 04 May 2016

A photo of the plans for the proposed road that will cut through the land designated for the mosque. Supplied.

The construction of a new road in the Boeung Kak lake area slated to pass through land around the Alserkal Grand Mosque, the largest mosque in the Kingdom, has led to a defamation lawsuit between two prominent Muslim leaders.

The pilot project, initiated in 2012, plans to pave a road from Toul Kork to Monivong Boulevard, with City Hall stating that the plan has been approved by landholders Osman Hassan, secretary of state at the Ministry of Labor, and Van Matt, president of the Cambodian Association of Muslims.

City Hall Director of Administration Meas Chan Yada said the road would help ease traffic congestion and be “beneficial to the public.” He added that construction will begin shortly. Last week, Phnom Penh Governor Pa Socheatvong said City Hall will review the plan and push for it to be agreed upon by the Muslim community.

But Ahmad Yahya, a member of the Cambodia Muslim Development Fund who works at the Ministry of Social Affairs and is an adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen, said last week that he opposed the development, as the current plans would swap the land belonging to the mosque at its entrance with the land behind it. He added that Mr. Hassan would personally benefit from the proposal because he plans to build a condominium in the area.

“Osman Hassan said he wanted to build condominiums there. There is definitely a solution if we talk but he did not. He insists on doing that. I would only tell the truth,” Mr. Yahya said.

In response to the comments, Mr. Hassan filed a complaint to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court last Thursday, with the court’s prosecutor yesterday summoning Mr. Yahya for a May 10 court appearance.

“He mistreats the information. He never remembers what he said afterward. He accused me without evidence. I do not want to say this, but he used to sleep at my house, used my car and ate at my house. He did not even remember that,” Mr. Hassan said.
Mr. Yahya said he will obey the summons “without fear to provide the truth.”

An open letter from a Khmer-Muslim student group said local Muslims did not support the plan, as the mosque was designed to be a place of worship and solitude. The noise and pollution from the road, the letter said, would disrupt their services at the mosque and ruin the peacefulness of the area.

The letter urged Muslims leaders to discuss the issue openly because the mosque and surrounding land, under Islamic law, are considered joint property and do not belong to any one person.

Mr. Hassan disputed their claim and said the project has received more support than objections, adding that the road itself would be 40 meters away from the mosque’s front wall, and would not disturb the place of worship.  

According to Mr. Hassan, the road will be 93 meters long, and take up a total of 1,857 square meters, with the affected land to be paid for by City Hall.

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