Cambodian-Muslims pray at a mosque in Phnom Penh. -- PHOTO: AFP
CAMBODIA - ZAKARIA Bin Ahmad cannot forget the years of horror under the brutal Khmer Rouge when even praying was to risk death for Cambodia's persecuted minority Muslims.
Many others in his community did not survive the late 1970s reign of terror by the hardline communist regime, which executed Islamic scholars, destroyed mosques, forced Muslims to eat pork and forbade headscarves.
'People tried all kinds of ways to pray. Sometimes while they were driving an ox cart... sometimes in the jungle when we asked to use the toilet, and sometimes while we were washing,' the 61-year-old recalled.
But mostly, he remembers people disappearing, never to be seen again.
'Many were killed,' he said quietly in his modest home in the shadow of a modern blue-domed mosque, a source of pride for the town of Chraing Chamres, whose earlier place of worship was destroyed by the Khmer Rouge.
Cambodian Muslims, known as Cham, hope finally to see justice as the most senior surviving Khmer Rouge leaders stand trial for genocide at Cambodia's UN-backed court over the treatment of the ethnic and religious minority. -- AFP