In Buddhist and Hindu countries, there are 5 the most interesting Muslim communities you should know

In Buddhist and Hindu countries, there are 5 the most interesting Muslim communities you should know
Ronan O'Connel/The National News

Although Myanmar, Thailand, India, Cambodia, and Singapore are predominantly Buddhist or Hindu, each has lovely Muslim communities with a fascinating history.

An Islamic emperor sleeps in the basement of an ancient mosque in Yangon, Myanmar.

A new train route in Bangkok, Thailand, shows the city's oldest Muslim community.

The ruins of a vast Islamic monarchy loom above the city of Hyderabad, India.

A Muslim community has grown up around a massive mosque provided by the UAE's Alserkal family in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

The city's oldest neighborhood in Baghdad, which has streets named after Baghdad and Kandahar.

Here Ronan O’Connell from The National News tells the full backstories for each of them.

Yangon, Myanmar 

Keterangan Gambar (© Pemilik Gambar)
Zi Wa Ka Street mosque in Yangon (© Ronan O'Connell)

The last Muslim monarch of India was Bahadur Shah Zafar II. Like many of his fellow Indian kings, this mighty man played a significant role in a pivotal moment in the country's history, but his remains do not rest in an imposing tomb in Delhi or Kolkata. 

Instead, his grave is buried beneath a modest mosque in Yangon, Myanmar's capital.

The Zi Wa Ka Street mosque is located 700 meters south of Yangon's greatest tourist attraction, the gilded Shwedagon Pagoda. This gorgeous green-and-gold structure is the beating heart of a small Muslim community in a country where Buddhism predominates.

Because of its famous occupant, Zafar II, that mosque is becoming an eccentric tourist attraction. He was the leader of the Islamic Mughal Dynasty in the mid-1800s, which ruled over significant areas of India from the early 1500s until 1857, when it fell apart after nearly 20 years under the leadership of Zafar II.

Zafar II fled after the British conquered his fortress, Delhi. But he was apprehended, charged with treason, and sent to the British colony at Yangon. In 1862, he died in prison there. 

The great Zafar II now rests in a small mausoleum in Yangon, a city where few people are aware of his past.

Bangkok, Thailand 

Keterangan Gambar (© Pemilik Gambar)
Ton Son is the oldest mosque in Bangkok (© Ronan O'Connell)

Bangkok's subway and skytrain systems have grown significantly in the last three years. They've also revealed little-known corners of the city in the process. 

Because the city's blocked traffic made them inaccessible from the central region, Bangkok's tranquil suburbs on the western bank of the Chao Phraya River saw almost no tourists previously.

However, travelers may now easily reach Bangkok's oldest Muslim community by stopping at Itsaraphap station on the MRT's new Blue Line. 

Bangkok Yai is the name of this historic district. Malay Muslims gathered here in the mid-1600s, more than a century before Bangkok became the Thai capital, near to one of the city's biggest canals.

The wealth from spice and textile trading allowed this town to grow over the next few decades. Then, in 1682, it was transformed into the Ton Son Mosque, Bangkok's oldest mosque. 

Tourists visiting Bangkok Yai can admire the building's green domes, pray at the neighboring Bang Luang mosque, or simply stroll through the friendly neighborhood's back lanes, sampling Thai-Malay halal cuisine.

Hyderabad, India 

Keterangan Gambar (© Pemilik Gambar)
An Islamic tomb in the outskirts of Hyderabad (© Ronan O'Connell)

Hyderabad is one of Asia's most underappreciated tourism destinations. Its underrated allure is partly due to two outstanding historic Islamic sites. 

The ruins of a powerful kingdom, as well as a massive necropolis housing the tombs of an Islamic dynasty that ruled this region in the 16th and 17th centuries, are clustered in a Muslim district in the city's west.

The Kingdom of Golconda was ruled by the Qutb Shahis family. Their headquarters were in Golconda Fort for more than 70 years, until it was abandoned in 1591 due to a plague, resulting in the founding of Hyderabad.

Fortunately, this fort is in good shape and has become a popular tourist destination. Hundreds of timeworn structures, ranging from palaces to halls, mosques, porticos, pavilions, and homes, are strewn across a hill. 

The neighboring necropolis, a collection of 75 large tombs and structures that recently completed an amazing 10-year renovation, may be seen from the fort's crest.


Keterangan Gambar (© Pemilik Gambar)
Kampong Glam has long been a central part of Singapore's Muslim community (© Ronan O'Connell)

With sizable Buddhist, Christian, Taoist, Hindu, and Muslim communities, Singapore is one of Asia's most religiously diverse countries. Singapore was ruled by Islamic leaders of Malay and Indonesian origin for many centuries before it was invaded by Britain in 1819.

That explains why Kampong Glam, a Muslim enclave, is the city-oldest state's surviving suburb. With street names like Arab, Muscat, Baghdad, Kandahar, and Sultan, you'll know you've arrived in this lovely neighborhood.

The magnificent Sultan Masjid and the enormous Malay Heritage Centre, both situated inside what was formerly an Islamic dynasty's palace, are the focal points of this community. The cultural center educates visitors about Singapore's Malay and Islamic cultures.

In the meantime, the Sultan Masjid is enchanting with its gilded domes and beautiful Indo-Saracenic architecture. 

One of Singapore's most beautiful walking streets is directly behind it. This pedestrian strip alone is worth a visit to Kampong Glam, as it is lined with halal eateries, cafes, gift shops, and art galleries.

Phnom Penh, Cambodia 

Keterangan Gambar (© Pemilik Gambar)
Alserkal mosque in Phnom Penh was donated by a family from the UAE (© Ronan O'Connell)

In contrast to Singapore, Cambodia is controlled by a single faith, with Buddhists accounting for nearly all of the population. Meanwhile, Muslims make up around 1% of the population. The main Islamic community in Phnom Penh is concentrated around the massive Alserkal mosque.

This magnificent mosque, with its high minarets, massive domes, whitewashed walls, and mesmerizing Arabesque patterns, was built as a gift from the UAE in 2014. It replaced a smaller mosque built by the UAE's Alserkal family in the 1960s.

This mosque serves as the primary gathering place for Cham Muslims in the city. These are descendants of the Champa, an Indochinese Islamic dynasty that ruled in what is now southern Vietnam from the 2nd to the 17th centuries AD. 

Alserkal mosque is located in the northern section of Phnom Penh's downtown area, close to important tourist sites like Wat Phnom temple and Central Market.


Source: Ronan O'Connel from The National News 

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