Saba Riaz Awan
Associated Press Service
BANGKOK, Jan 26: Majority of the Muslim population in Thailand is the Sunni Muslims but there are Shia Muslims as well, living all in the environment of peace and tranquility. They observe all the religious festivals like Ramzan, Eid-ul-Fitr, Eid-ul-Azha and the month of mourning Moharram-ul-Haram without facing any hardships. Former Head of the Department of International Relations & Faculty of Political Science, Thammasat University of Bangkok Prof. Dr Jaran Maluleem said this during a media interaction with Pakistani journalists. He remarked there is no compulsion or ban on any member of any community including the Muslims with regard to participating in the politics. “We have had a foreign minister, a military commander, members of the Parliament and top business executives who were all Muslims,” he said and added they all contributed to the uplift of Thai society which is multicultural and multiethnic. To a question, he was of the view that tolerance was the essence of Islam and continued that Buddhism too preached respect for others’ faith. He added both the religions have many things in common and stressed upon holding a dialogue between the Buddhist and the Muslim scholars of Pakistan and Thailand to promote interfaith harmony.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 to 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 teaching experience not only at the Thammasat University, but in other universities 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.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 the revival of Buddhist tourism between the two countries goes to the untiring efforts of most venerable monk Arayawangso who through Dhamma Diplomacy brought the two nations together, he said. In fact MV Arayawangso is the pioneer of Dhamma Diplomacy, he said.MV Arayawangso spent three months (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 marvelous 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 mosques 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.