Thailand had known the Islamic religion at the beginning of the 12th century from Muslim merchants who travelled to countries like China and India.
Although there are a lot of books on the history of Islam in the far-east, none of these books dwells on the history of Islam in Thailand. Most books about Islam in the far-east mention Thailand in passing, even as Muslims reached great positions in it.
There is in Thailand what is known as the Central Islamic Council. This is an independent agency that runs the mosques and works to spread the word about the Islamic religion. The head of the council usually gets the title of the “Sheikh of Islam”, the highest Islamic title in the country. The head of the council is appointed by the king of Thailand of Thailand after he is elected by the heads of the Islamic councils in the various provinces.
The number of Muslims in Thailand is on the increase, according to Deputy Head of the council, Sultan Buna Maller.
He said Muslims now make up 5 per cent of the population of Thailand.
Around 20 people convert to Islam every day in Thailand, Buna Maller said.
He said the Central Islamic Council organizes training programs to these converts to explain the Islamic religion to them.
The stress in the programs, he said, is always put on the fact that Islam calls for peaceful coexistence among religions and peoples.
Muslims are concentrated in nine Thai provinces, out of a total of 77 provinces in the Asian state. They are especially present in three southern provinces, including capital Bangkok.
Buna Maller said there is an Islamic school in every Thai city where there are Muslims.
Moderation as a method
Almost 95 per cent of Muslims in Thailand follow the al-Shafi’i Islamic school, according to Buna Maller.
He said his council works to spread moderate Islam in Thailand.
There is a limited presence, he said, for extremist groups in Thailand, some of which follow the Wahabi ideology.
He referred to the presence of some Shiites in Thailand as well.
“Nonetheless, these groups have not clashed against each other so far,” Buna Maller said.
He said the idea of accusing others of unbelief is still foreign to Thailand.
Muslims in Thailand, Buna Maller said, enjoy great freedoms to invite others to their faith.
He referred to the presence of a large number of Islamic schools and universities. Buna Maller said these schools and universities teach Islamic sciences in Arabia.
He said these educational institutions cooperate with major religious institutions around the world, including al-Azhar University and the Islamic University in Medina.
Buna Maller said he is not afraid for his country from Daesh returnees.
Most of the Muslims in Thailand, he said, are moderate ones.
He added that Thailand is resources-poor, which is why it cannot lure extremists who are always after resources.
He said the office of the Head of the Central Islamic Council always seeks solutions to terrorism as a problem in cooperation with al-Azhar.