Religious Diversities in Thailand
Sometimes our mental imagery of Thailand is primarily that of modern Bangkok, with all the tall buildings next to the Buddhist temples and monks walking along the streets. However, there are various Muslim groups living in Thailand. Situated in the South and Central regions are the ethnic Thai or Malay Muslims, while the Chinese Muslims can be mostly found in the Central and Northern parts of the country.
Other Muslim groups such as the Rohingya, Cham Muslims at the Thai-Cambodian border, Javanese, Bangladeshi and Pakistani Muslims are also found all over Thailand. But the majority of the Muslims in the country are the ethnic Malay.
Islam came to Thailand when the Muslim traders settled in Melaka way back in the 13th Century. The ethnic Malay princes then mass converted to Islam while the Siamese tribe near Azutthaza and Bangkok did not. Presently, the people in Southern Thailand are of ethnic Malay heritage, and most of them have also converted to Islam. Mosques and Suraus are found in every single village district. Krabi is one of the examples of a place where there is peace found between different religions.
The far South provinces of Thailand have been the center of Islamic marriages recently, drawing an increasing amount of Malaysian men to the country. Men from neighbouring countries like Malaysia cross over every year to marry Thai women, mostly Muslims from the Southern border region. The Central Mosque in Songkhla is the main spot for such ceremonies; as many as 30 couples get married here each day according to local Islamic authorities. Polygamous marriages are also done in this area, where Imams are compelled to do such marriages because Muslim law allows them to. In Islam, a man can be married to as much as 4 women as long as he is capable in providing for the maintenance of each of the families equally.
The traditional weddings in Thailand, after the Buddhist wedding rituals in the temple or Muslim marriage in the Mosque for Muslims, the Thai people do not usually have their marriage status registered because the religious wedding is far more important for them. But recently, many Thai people are registering their marriages after the religious wedding. For the Muslims, the Thong Mun or Dowry in Thailand usually follows that of the Thai tradition. Although slightly different, the wedding rituals of the Muslim are celebrated in the mosque. The groom, the father of the bride and groom and the male families of the bride and groom, sit together with the Imam and well-known persons in the society in one circle. The bride, together with all the other female guests of both parties will sit in a different place with the males. The females do not directly participate in the Islamic Wedding rituals in Thailand.