An overview of Islam in Thailand
The expected oneness of Thai culture all over Thailand’s society has been challenged in different aspects today. There have been multiple insights regarding the socio-economic division within the Thai society, and also their political point of views. However, very few opinions have been heard about the increasing influence of Thailand’s Muslim population upon society.
Majority of the population along the East and West coasts of the southern peninsula of Thailand has intermarried with ancestors of Arab and Pakistani past traders. While in other provinces in the North of Thailand, descendants of immigrants from Myanmar, Cambodia, China, Pakistan and Indians from Southeast Asia can be found. Muslim groups from Persia and Arabia involved in trade and commerce have migrated to the old Ayutthaya Empire, where they became united with the virtue of Thai society until present time. The rest of the Muslim population in Thailand are composed of converts from those who have worked abroad and even some locals as well.
Repression has been inflicted by the Military rule towards the Muslims in the South for many years, and Thai authorities may have attributed Muslims for causing trouble in the area. However, Royal patronage caused by insurgency has given Islam the much more needed exposure. The image of a Muslim has drastically changed in Thailand, and presently there has been lesser discrimination on Muslims in terms of employment. An increasing number of Muslims are sitting in some positions in the government, police and the military in Thailand today.
Islamic affairs are organized by the Central Islamic Council of Thailand, and the organization has been appointed. The organization links the Thai Government with the Islamic communities where education, construction of mosques and pilgrimage to Mecca are being assisted.
Signs of further growth of Islam have been visible all over Thailand, as seen in shopping centers where more women are seen wearing Islamic dress, to the prospects of towns and cities where you can find many mosques and Islamic schools rise up. More Muslim households display Arabic verses of the Quran outside their homes. Places like Chiang Mai have very old Muslim influence, however, other places have been showing the increasing Muslim presence with some Muslim restaurants catering new Muslim settlers in many areas. In terms of the Business sector, Thailand has been very innovative through the development of Halal tourism, Halal hotels and resorts, Islamic banking, Halal housing projects and in food and beverage products as well.
The growth of Islam of Thailand is now undergoing a major demographic change. Muslim parents are having more children than the non-Muslim parents, thus shifting the population balance improving the percentage of Muslims. This trend has been very particular in the much rural areas of the deep South of Thailand. The growth of Islam in Thailand illustrates a challenge as the higher class and the lower class dividing Thailand, making it an intense political influence over the last decades. Drastic changes in the society are very unavoidable in the future due to the growth of Islam of Thailand.