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Phuket Opinion: Muslim prayer rooms are part of local life



Phuket Opinion: Muslim prayer rooms are part of local life | Thaiger

PHUKET: News that Rawai Municipality is considering building a surau (Muslim prayer facility) at Laem Phromthep has ruffled some feathers among Gazette readers, though at this stage it is difficult to understand why.

Few details have been made available about the project because it is just in the conceptual stages. However, that fact hasn’t stopped readers from expressing concern that a large prayer hall or even a mosque may be built at the site. But more often than not a surau is just a small room.

Such prayer rooms are commonplace throughout Southern Thailand and many of those voicing concern are likely to have passed by them without even noticing their existence.

The concerns expressed surely can’t be over the general location of the proposed room as there are already four mosques in the area. These were all well-established long before the local population began to swell with migrants from other parts of Thailand as well as overseas.

It is also a fact that at least a third of Phuket’s native population practices Islam and that a significant percentage of visiting tourists do as well.

One reader called for a Gazette poll to gauge public opinion on whether the proposed structure would contribute to over-development of the area. But if the facility is to be built anywhere near the huge car park, rows of illegally-built souvenir stalls, or the new 3.8-million-baht toilets, it strikes us as a little late to begin that discussion.

One reader referred to the proposed structure as a mosque, which may shed some light on underlying thoughts fueling the debate.

Developments in other parts of the world sometimes pass by us here in Phuket with scant mention. In recent years the Swiss have held a referendum that led to the banning of the construction of minarets at mosques in that country, and the French debated whether to ban the burqa. And the Dutch politician Geert Wilders continues to spout his anti-Islamic rhetoric for personal political gain.

Across the Atlantic in New York, debate continues to rage over construction of a mosque near “Ground Zero”. This led to outrage over plans for a mass Qur’an burning in Florida, an event which has fortunately been averted.

There are fears among some Westerners over how Islam is “encroaching” on their way of life, and some of that sentiment may have been imported into Phuket. It needs to be remembered, however, that Phuket is not in the West.


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