Masquerades as Intrafaith Conflict in Cambodian Village
In my community in Cambodia, there is an internal conflict between
people of the same religion but different sects; for although they are
all Muslims, those from the sect known as Takvas—the local Khmer word
for missionary—and those who identify themselves as being members of the
sect of Kouvet—the local Khmer word meaning non-missionary—hold
different religious beliefs.
The leaders of the two sects—Mamker of the Takvas sect and U-Koub of the
Kouvet sect—are each trying to mobilize their supporters in the village
to form radical religious groups to fight against the other sect. This
move toward religious radicalism causes a major problem for all people
in the village as they begin to dislike and even hate one another as
well as feeling the necessity to take sides and to live apart by
identifying themselves as members of either one sect or the other.
Moreover, people discriminate against those who are believers of the
other sect, and twice there have been minor fights among members of
these two Islamic sects.
What caused the conflict is that U-Koub of the Kouvet sect wanted to
give a lecture during Friday prayers at a mosque in my village of Phoum
Chvea, a request that was approved by the chief of the mosque, Sarfifey.
Mamker, the leader of the Takvas sect, was against this decision,
however, as he argued that the Kouvet sect is not one of the four
acceptable sects—Sofiey, Maliki, Habli and Hannafy—that Allah provided
to all Muslim people. Muslims outside of the Kouvet sect believe that
members of the Kouvet sect are not strict and good practitioners of the
faith because they do not follow the correct Islamic ritual principles.
As for the Takvas sect, it is known as a fundamentalist sect, and its
adherents are constantly seeking to persuade other Muslims to join it
and become their members. In my village of Phoum Chvea, some people who
believe in the four acceptable sects of Islam do not want to obey
members of the Takvas sect, and they dislike them as well.
Meanwhile, many people in the community are brainwashed and negatively
transformed by the Takvas and Kouvet sect leaders’ divisive religious
ideologies that create animosities toward members of the other sect;
they all believe in the same religion but a different sect.
This conflict scares many people in the community as the leader of the
Takvas sect wants to kill himself because of this issue. He wants to
show his followers that he would rather sacrifice himself than let the
Kouvet sect leader have a chance to give the lecture at Friday prayers.
The villagers are also very afraid of the Takvas sect because they can
be violent if the conflict is not resolved in a more rational manner.
However, I personally think that the root cause of the problem is that
these two sect leaders, who want the popularity of leading the people in
the village, have created misunderstanding and negative stereotypes
among the people in the community about followers of the other sect even
though they profess that they are followers of the same faith of Islam.
Frankly, if we try to analyze this problem deeply and critically, we
will find that this conflict is simply a struggle over power and the
popularity of leading the people in this village community. As far as I
am concerned, I think that the only real conflict is between these two
sect leaders, not the members of the sects, as these two leaders try to
escalate and intensify the problem to make the situation more chaotic
Unfortunately, at the moment, they are succeeding as people are starting
to mistrust and misunderstand each other. People in the community are
beginning to discriminate and fight one another without reflecting
critically on what is transpiring in the village. Consequently, there is
a major problem for everyone living in the community.
At the present time, the government is trying to help resolve the
problem, and one of the most well-known Islamic leaders in Cambodia is
working to resolve the dispute too.
To conclude, this issue is very sensitive, and the people who benefit
from this conflict are the two so-called religious leaders. Meanwhile,
the members of the two sects are being used as tools by these leaders to
create more violence and conflict between themselves. What is needed by
people from both sects is more clear information and reflection,
accurate analysis and a reminder that they are all Muslims and people of
* So Nasier took part in the 14-week School of Peace (SOP) conducted
by Interfaith Cooperation Forum (ICF) in Bangalore, India, as a Muslim
participant from Cambodia in 2008. He lives in the country’s Battambang